The Iron Wall
In this op-ed from the bitterlemons-api.org website (June 1, 2011), IDI Senior Fellow Prof. Tamar Hermann contends that Israelis have been turning a blind eye to the Arab Peace Initiative (API) due to a cognitive "iron wall" that stands between them and the rest of the Middle East. Supporting her argument with data from the Peace Index polls, Prof. Hermann asserts that this barrier is penetrated only by threatening and negative signals from the other side—a type of selective hearing that is rooted in the estrangement of the Israeli public from life on the Arab side. These findings highlight the fact that a large majority of Israeli Jews would far prefer to integrate politically, culturally, and economically into the West rather than the Middle East. As Prof. Hermann sees it, due to this alienation, it is only if the Arab Initiative is repackaged and presented to Israel as someone else’s initiative that it will have a chance of being heard.
"Since the Saudi peace initiative (later rebranded the Arab Peace Initiative) was put on the table in 2002, it is repeatedly referred to by Palestinian and Arab speakers, by international leaders and commentators and by Israeli activists and experts (mostly of the political left) as unequivocal and convincing evidence of the fundamental flaw in the Israeli mainstream's current narrative of "no partner, no chance for peace" and as a major shift in Arab regional strategy. Paradoxically, however, the API has not become a major topic in the Israeli public discourse. In fact it has turned into a phantom in the internal debate over the future of Israeli-Palestinian and Israel-Arab relations.
It is not that the Israeli Jewish public is unaware of the API; in a March 2007 Peace Index Poll (PIP) following the initiative's reaffirmation in Riyadh, 62 percent of Israeli Jewish interviewees said that they had heard about it. In this survey, the public was divided over the API, with a large minority considering it promising: 45 percent of the respondents saw it as a possible basis for an agreed solution while 47 percent were of the opposite opinion...."
Tamar Hermann is a Senior Fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute and the Dean of Academic Studies at the Open University of Israel.