TEL-AVIV – “I have all the money I need for the rest of my life—as long as I die tonight!” exclaimed the 25-year-old Israeli man, the humor of the “joke” lost on this American columnist.
Morbid death-related jokes have long been common in Israel, and many Israelis believe that the number being told at any given time can serve as a rough barometer for the mood of the Israeli people. If true, the Israeli people have finally ditched the attitudes that made possible the Oslo Accords a decade ago.
Talking to Israelis in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem—places as different culturally and politically as California and Alabama—these past two weeks, one theme is increasingly clear: “we will not give in to terrorism.” Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon may be attempting to follow the “roadmap,” but his constituents seem fiercely unwilling to make the concessions they readily offered in the past.
Contrary to reports about a “cease fire” (which has since been called off), Palestinian terrorists have hardly relented: Hizbollah killed a 16-year-old boy walking near the Lebanese border three weeks ago, Hamas murdered 23 and wounded more than 100 in a Jerusalem bus bombing two weeks ago, and less than a week ago, Yasser Arafat’s “mainstream” Fatah pumped 25 bullets into the car of a young man and his seven-month-pregnant wife. (The mother and child miraculously survived).
If anything, the continued bloodshed has strengthened the resolve of the Israeli people to reject so-called “peace initiatives.” The feeling is certainly stronger than three months ago, when the general sentiment was one of ambivalence mixed with pessimism.
But it’s not as if Israelis are antagonistic to the plight of the Palestinian people. One cab driver, a man likely in his mid-30’s, asked, “What about the Palestinians? Don’t they deserve a state of their own?” This from someone who, moments earlier, was expressing fierce opposition to any negotiations with terrorist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad—and, as he saw it, the Palestinian Authority. Talking with him seemed to verify a semi-sarcastic comment made to me by an Israeli academic last week: “All the smartest people are driving cabs.”
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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