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It’s time to figure out a new diplomatic strategy to deal with the Israelis and Palestinians.
It’s clear that most Israelis and most Palestinians are living in denial — a kind of confusion, because it takes the illusion of current calm for a sustainable and welcome period of peace.
Israelis know the settlements can’t go alongside a two-state solution, but they don’t choose one or the other.
Palestinians know that the way to stop the settlements eating up the hilltops around their towns is to strike a deal now and rule their own state, but they won’t do it so long as life is relatively good and the international pressure is all on Israel. Leaders of Fatah and Hamas have called for a “third intifada” several times in the last four months — not for renewed talks, only for renewed violence. But a mere handful of kids came out to throw rocks and Molotov cocktails.
With no sense of urgency on either side, Western diplomats shake their heads and try to nudge the two nations to the negotiating table. It’s time to realize that neither side wants talks.
While most Israelis live in denial, a sizeable minority pushes for more building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They’re not building so that they can later give up that land and see all the money they’ve pumped into their real estate wasted. The purpose is to make the West Bank inseparable from Israel. To kill the two-state solution.
In that scenario, either the Palestinians agree to be second-class inhabitants of the area, or they leave.
On the Palestinian side, negotiations seem unlikely to lead to the satisfaction of every single demand. So the one-state solution starts to look good to them, too. However, second-class citizenship isn’t an option, and neither is leaving.
That’s the collision course Western diplomats refuse to countenance. When envoys talk about getting the “peace process on track,” it sounds good. But that process has been trucking along since the early 1990s. Peace has been getting further away. The “process” allows for a sense of activity, while all the time events — settlement construction, terror attacks — make it harder to draw lines on a map and make the populations secure.
It’s time to figure out a new diplomatic strategy to deal with the Israelis and Palestinians. One that’s based on the assumption that, in the longterm, they’re expecting war.