Historian William R. Keylor of the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University recently returned from Israel where he was for a week-long academic visit conducted by the Israel Studies Institute.
While in Israel, Prof. Keylor, along with a small group US international relations scholars, held a number of meetings with official, intellectuals and civil society leaders related to political issues and affairs in Israel today. The group met with former government officials, scholars, think tank members, a Kibbutzim leader, and a representative of Ethiopian Jews, among many others. They also interviewed the co-founder of the Peace Now group, a staunch opponent of the current Israeli government that has actively pressed for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel; and representatives of the Geneva Initiative and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.
Reflecting on the visit and the violence that has erupted in the region sine then, Prof. Keylor says that he is sad that “the faint glimmer of hope for peace in the Holy Land” he had seen during the visit is being “extinguished so abruptly.”
In the midst of our visit the newspapers on June 13 carried enormous headlines screaming “three of our boys missing, presumed kidnapped.” Our group left the country before the bodies of the three yeshiva students were found. The result of these three tragic deaths—which the Netanyahu government blames on Hamas–has been a renewal of the vicious cycle of violence that has plagued Israel and the Palestinians for so long: the revenge killing of a Palestinian youth by Israelis; a continual barrage of rockets fired from Gaza that have reached the major population centers of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for the first time; and Israeli air strikes against Hamas positions in Gaza that have left more than 200 Palestinians dead; and the prospect of another Israeli land invasion of the enclave.
Despite the failure of Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent bid to broker a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, the meetings that our group had with representatives of a wide range of opinion left me with a sliver of optimism about the prospects of a settlement, if good-hearted people on both sides could prevail over the extremists and hard liners. [But looking at it now, one wonders that] if the rockets of Hamas continue to fall on Israeli territory, Israeli air strikes continue to rain down on Gaza, and efforts (such as Egypt’s) to arrange for a cease fire fail, the hopes for an end to the killing are nil. All in all, a sad denouement for the fleeting encounter of a small group of American academic visitors with present-day life in Israel, who saw the faint glimmer of hope for peace in the Holy Land extinguished so abruptly.