The realizations that politicians have been unable to bring peace and that the involvement of the international community has only sharpened the division between Arab and Jew has prompted the creation of Eretz-Shalom (LandPeace) — a group seeking peace from the bottom up.
The Israeli left has made numerous attempts to make peace between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. The Geneva document drafted by MK Yossi Beilin and PLO spokesperson Yasser Abed Rabbo in October 2003 failed, as did the previous attempt, the Ayalon-Nusseibeh peace plan of July 2002. Both were supported and funded by the EU and Western (mostly European) NGOs. These two failures represented the views and expectations of the secular leftist European worldview, to the exclusion of the traditional values of the people physically and emotionally tied to the land.
The people who live there, who have personally experienced the price of war and its cost in blood, are in the end the best possible peacemakers.
In “settler” communities such as Kedumim, in Samaria, the people are determined to live in peace with their Arab neighbors. There is no fence around Kedumim — the residents travel to Arab villages and Arab villagers come to be served at the settlement’s gas station. This is true for other communities as well. Says Raphaella Segal of Kedumim:
We are open and ready to settle our differences with our Arab neighbors on the basis of live and let live with mutual respect for one another.
Although Raphella is not yet an active member of Eretz-Shalom, she supports the idea behind the movement.
The LandPeace movement began with meetings between local Palestinians and Jewish settlers in the Etzion Bloc, then moved south to the Mt. Hebron region and north towards Samaria. In an interview with the Israeli Hebrew daily Makor Rishon, Nachum Petznick — one of the founders of LandPeace — explained:
LandPeace grew from the bottom by regular people, both Palestinian Arabs and Jewish settlers, who understood that there is no time to wait while politicians try time and again to present unsuccessful peace plans. Reality is more complex, and while the politicians discuss peace agreements something entirely different is occurring on the ground. Our aim is to impact reality while understanding that both the Palestinians and we, the Jewish settlers, are here to stay.
We are now several hundred strong.
The mere fact that we are meeting with scores of Palestinian Arabs who are interested, and that we are getting to know each other, is of immense importance.
Petznick added that the conversation among the political left is about “recognizing” the Palestinians, while at LandPeace they “get to know” real Palestinians as individual people. To recognize something is an amorphous state, but to know somebody is real, according to Petznick, and the people associated with LandPeace want to live side by side in peace with their neighbors, but he says the word “peace” has been exploited and beaten up from all directions:
I prefer to talk about good neighborly relations and mutual respect rather than use the word “peace.”