Since their government has not, Shoshi Anbal and a posse of her fellow Tel Aviv housewives are preparing to engage in diplomacy with Syria. On May 18, they assembled along the Israeli-Syrian frontier to applaud what at the time was Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s latest iteration of his call for negotiations to end the 40-year standoff over the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel in 1967, and indeed the legal state of war prevailing between the two states since 1948. “Asad! Israel wants to talk,” the women chanted. And, less reverently, “Let’s visit Damascus — by car, not by tank.”
Motivating the Israelis who took to the Golan in the name of the Israel-Syria Peace Society is not wanderlust, but fear for their sons, who fought a war on Israel’s northern front in the summer of 2006 that has been fiercely criticized by an Israeli commission of inquiry and the Israeli public at large. In preliminary findings released in early May, the Winograd commission charged Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with having “made up his mind hastily” to wage war in Lebanon and with dithering in “energetically pursuing paths to stable and long-term agreements” with Israel’s foes. The red-haired Anbal, who helped spearhead the Golan rally, demands that the priorities be rapidly reversed, before her sons find themselves back on the battlefield.
Among the other Israeli campaigners are Sami Michael, an Iraqi-born writer still hoping for Syria to return the remains of his brother-in-law, the spy Eli Cohen, who was executed in Damascus, and the prominent novelist David Grossman, whose son was killed in the 2006 Lebanon war. “If President Asad says that Syria wants peace…don’t wait a single day longer,” Grossman advised Olmert at another Israeli protest against the Lebanon war. “When you set out on the last [Lebanon] war, you didn’t wait for even an hour. You charged in with all our might, with all our power to destroy. Why, when there is some sort of flicker of peace, do you immediately reject it?”