Monday, September 09, 2013

Two-state solution unlikely anytime soon

I'm very interested in the Israel-Palestine conflict, but it is such a mess that I rarely hazard an opinion about it. So I was very interested to see an article this morning in Al Jazeera America, Analysis: Israelis Not Ready for Two-State Solution. It is by an Israeli journalist, Dimi Reider, and it is calm—and sad.

His analysis is that the Israeli people are not ready for a two state solution to the conflict. They claim to be for one, but this is mostly just theoretical well wishing. When asked about things like land swaps, which would be necessary for any deal, they disagree. What's more, public opinion goes down the more an actual plan comes into focus. So it really comes down to the fact that the Israeli people would like peace, but they really aren't willing sacrifice anything to get it.

Even worse, Palestinian attacks on Israelis end up hurting the poor almost exclusively, "those who would use public transport and shop in outdoor markets." Thus, the power elite have no reason to want a settlement to the crisis and the poor are angry about the bombings and so become more nationalistic.

The situation on the Palestinian side is far worse. They have largely learned that violence only makes their lives harder. So Palestinian nonviolent protest—never a minor form of political involvement (not that you would know it fromwestern press coverage)—has greatly expanded in recent years. But this puts them in a Catch-22 situation. If they engage in violence, it will make things worse and will not lead to a negotiated settlement. But if they do not engage in violence, there will be no pressure on the Israeli government to do anything and so it will not lead to a negotiated settlement.

The status quo is generally all right with the Israeli people. And so the Israeli government can stand by and allow more and more illegal settlements in Palestinian land—each one of which only makes a final settlement harder. Historically, conflicts like that between Israel and Palestine would have been resolved with a genocide. But with the eyes of the world watching, Israel can't do that. (I'm not suggesting that Israel is especially bad here; they are the more powerful group; I don't think the Palestinians would be any different if theywere the more powerful group.) But it is hard to see the constant trickle of illegal settlements as anything but a slow motion genocide.

Given all the problems, I think a solution to this situation will take outside help. This is one of the great tragedies of the Bush Jr administration. We gave up a great opportunity to push for an end to this conflict. Instead, we invaded Iraq. So in addition to all of the bad consequences of that war, the opportunity costs were probably even worse. I see the Israel-Palestine conflict as a local infection that poisons the politics of the rest of the region. It seemed like Kerry was interested in addressing the problem. But he's shown far more gusto for bombing Syria. I have very little hope for the future when it comes to the whole region, and this Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)


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