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By Joseph Unger

At the beginning of the Middle-East Peace Process, Shimon Peres made a simplistic statement that gained widespread but unworthy acclaim. “You make peace not with your friends but with your enemies.”

Through repetition, this inane utterance grew into a perverse justification for persistent Arab violence. After all, the formula was open-ended. The enemy was not really compelled to change. In fact, it was precisely “the enemy” that demanded attention and, indeed, deference. Furthermore, if an act of terrorism precipitates a conference and a concession for the perpetrator, this was often interpreted as another step towards peace.

Such an approach eventually converted the whole notion of striving for peace from reality to the cleverness of words. Hence, any terrorist atrocity became a function of “the enemies of peace.” And any Israeli victim was “a martyr for peace.” In effect, any act of war could be viewed through a halo of peace.

Most amazing was the uncritical universal acceptance of this mind-set, even among Jews. Some, regarded as paranoid, or “opponents of peace,” expressed strong reservations. Most observers, however, remained complacent and optimistic. “It is a complex situation. We cannot expect major changes overnight.”

Well, current events indicate that Israel has not made peace with its enemies. The situation may now be little short of a full-scale war. Apparently. The Arabs prefer to remain enemies, and their concept of peace includes the destruction of Israel. Words alone have become meaningless.

Perhaps, with proper leadership on all sides, real peace will one day materialize. But it will not result from deliberations with confirmed enemies devoted to destruction and bloodshed. They are the party that must make peace. If this was not self-evident in 1993, it certainly is now.

The Arabs must stop promoting hatred of Jews. They must cease the invective in their mosques and in their publications, in their rallies, and most of all, in their schools.

What could be worse than textbooks laden with slander and lies about another people? What type of mentality concentrates on poisoning the minds of children?

Friendship, true friendship, may take many years, but the promulgation of hatred can cease immediately. The energy conserved can then be redirected toward constructive goals beneficial for all. Who knows how much creativity and goodness becomes consumed by hatred?

The Jews of Israel are ready to make peace at any time. Some of our leaders, through wishful thinking and international pressures had become convinced that the Arabs were likewise inclined. They were wrong. When the sentiments truly change we will know it. Then will come the time to justify aphorisms. Here is a good starting point:

“We make peace not with friends, but with former enemies who display the will, effort, and actions to become friends.”

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