Forty years after the peace treaty with Egypt, and 26 years after the peace treaty with Jordan, Israel signed another peace treaty with an Arab country: the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Unlike the former two treaties, this treaty seems poised to create a warm relationship with a country that is ready and willing to conduct full and warm diplomatic and trade relationships, with embassies, investments in technology, and tourism. And in the absence of territorial and refugee related disputes, the road to successful implementation of the agreement seems smoothly paved.
But for all the merits of a peace treaty, there is a big difference between peace and a peace treaty. A peace treaty will last just as long as the parties have an interest in keeping it. It relies on narrow calculations, enough of which have piled up between countries to sign an agreement that will benefit those interests. But when the interests no longer hold, nothing will maintain the peace.
The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom, from the word shlemut (wholeness). This is interesting because wholeness does not imply lack of hate, but rather inclusion of hate under the governance of love. We can think of it this way: We cannot even want to unite with someone before we feel the pain of separation from that person. Likewise, in order to build love with someone, we need to want it, and we cannot come to want it unless we first feel that we hate that person and want to get rid of the hatred and turn it into love.
When a positive feeling first awakens toward someone, it is still not love; it is enchantment. By nature, enchantment is intense yet momentary. If we want to keep feeling love after the enchantment is gone, we have to work on it and rise above the disenchantment and other negative feelings that surface in us toward the previously admired person. If we succeed, this will be the beginning of love. From here on, the evolution or devolution of the love will depend on our willingness to transcend recurrent spells of hatred and rejection by building love that is stronger than the manifested hatred.
It turns out that the intensity of the love depends on the intensity of the hatred that precedes it. When you have reached a state where the hatred between you has exposed itself to the fullest and you still managed to cover it with love, then you have achieved a state of shlemut, namely wholeness, peace. You felt the most intense hatred yet you chose love over it. From here on, nothing can divide between the loved ones; they have attained shalom, peace.
And what is true for people is equally true for nations. The peace treaty with the UAE has no reason to fail. As said earlier, we have common economic interests and no reasons for disagreements. But to achieve true, solid, and lasting peace in the Middle East, the neighboring nations will have to rise above tremendous amounts of hatred.
I know that in the end, peace will win. All of creation is moving toward increasing unity, so eventually all nations will have to transcend their belligerence and choose peace. The only question is how many innocent people will have to suffer until that happens.
People think that making peace requires making concessions. I don’t think so. If you make concessions, you will forever wait your turn to take over everything. But peace, as we just said, means wholeness, and wholeness means that each person must feel fully satisfied. This is possible only if all the people feel that they are sharing a common goal that is greater than either their individual ambitions: the goal of unity.
While each person remains in his or her religion or faith, people will want to unite above these differences. And just as greater hatred forms the basis of greater love between people, greater division forms the basis for greater unity among nations. When nations make wholeness their utmost goal, they learn to value both their individual perspectives and the ability to unite with other perspectives to create a common whole. Then, and only then there will be peace. And when that happens, the strongest connection will be with those who are currently the worst enemy.