Just getting ready for day 2 of my Israeli trip. First, a couple of overall observations and then some thoughts on what is already becoming a rather depressing theme, as the title indicates.
It was quite fascinating to see East Jerusalem first hand, particularly from a vantage point that captured various disputed regions, including the imposing wall. We spent considerable time in Old Jerusalem, visited all four quarters, a truly amazing experience. It's hard to articulate just how "heavy" the vibe, because in the span of a few hours, we visited the holiest site for Christianity, the holiest site for the Jews, as well as one of the holiest sites for Islam. Religious or not, seeing all the pilgrims, the insanely rich sites, it was hard to not be moved. An experience I'll never forget.
During the evening, we had dinner with Yossi Klein Halevi, a leading Israeli thinker, who among other things writes for the New Republic. A very candid assessment of the "mess", useful beyond one man's opinion because Yossi provided wider facts about Israeli society that provided a taste of the mood. I should add, we have the most incredible and gracious "guide" Lior Zagury, who is also quite articulate and knowlegable in his own right. I mention this, because it contributes to the general sense I'm getting- mainly that the Israeli left now bears no resemblence to it's pre 2000 failed peace talk self. I am sensing a certain defeatism in the tone. Apparently 70% of Israelis endorse a two state solution, but 70% also don't think it possible, given the current state of affairs. Yossi characterized it as such- after the second intifada and the wave of terrorist attacks, the Israeli left was transformed and many people abandoned the "hope". To put this in context, while Yossi considers himself centrist at the moment, he voted Likud in the last election because "I want my son of a bitch, dealing with their son of a bitch", a reference to Hamas and the perceived failure of the Palestinian leadership. I won't comment on the opinion, this is merely to give some sense of the mentality at the moment.
There seems to be a rigidity here, that leaves a small gap for eventual peace, but expects nothing. Today we meet with a member of the Dr. Einat Wolf, at the Knesset, from the Labor Party, and I plan to ask about the moving "left" in Israel. We will also meet with Khaled Abu Aker who runs Amin blogs, and perhaps he can offer some counter perspective.