Editorial: The Last Slice

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both claim to be working toward peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestinian problem.

Let’s take them at face value for a moment, that they both care about reaching an agreement. This is of course fairly debatable, but why waste time trying to assess the intentions floating about in their minds?

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So if they both want to work toward a lasting peace, do they have the means to do so? No, not even close on either side. Netanyahu has forged a commanding majority in Knesset, and that group has shown no political will to take action in furtherance of any remotely possible agreement. The most recent evidence of this is not only the building of new settlement housing for Ulpana to replace that which was deemed by the Israeli Supreme Court to be built on private Palestinian soil, but the lack of political will of the Knesset majority to assert any practical control over the settlement issue.

On his end, Abbas in on record as saying that there won’t be movement from his side until settlement activity ceases. He knows full well that this position provides effective political cover, since the world is beating Israel up repeatedly on the issue. Moreover, Abbas has nothing at all to lose taking this stance, since Hamas has not surrendered its historic charter position of eliminating Israel as a Zionist state from the map, and without Hamas, Abbas cannot bring all Palestinian political voices to the table.

So it’s a pretty much stalemated position. It doesn’t matter which point on the political spectrum you occupy, because these are the facts on the ground and there’s no evidence of effective change in the offing.

That being the case, is it important to keep talking peace? It absolutely is.

Rhetoric in favor of a solution is not only important, it’s necessary. Necessary to keep the only potential realities from being war or an unworkable one-state solution.

War is easy to envision. In fact, many have stated that the pressure from the hateful and militantly fueled Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, coupled with continued spats (flotillas, rockets fired into Israel from Gaza, settler attacks on neighboring Palestinian neighborhoods) and the parties’ intransigence on negotiation, makes it only a matter of time before a third intifada uprising occurs. This would once again supercharge the tensions in not only Israel but the Middle East, would spill over into the issues surrounding Syria and Iran, and would be the essence of a big, hot mess.

The alternative is that tensions simmer and percolate but don’t boil over, and as time passes and the demographic trends of population growth in the territories, not to mention in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities of Jerusalem and beyond, cause the respective sides to feel their oats, there becomes not even a glimmer that two states is a pragmatic and sustainable course.

So we’re left with what might, for the time being, comprise rhetorical promise with no hope of political deliverance. That sounds awful, right? In some ways, it feels wholly disingenuous.

But it’s not. It’s a theater of the necessary, as it were, where the parties play their parts to keep the lid on whatever violence could contribute to an all-out explosion.

Hardcore ideologists don’t like such approaches, of course. They like to choose intractable positions, insist on the wrongheadedness of the other side (whatever it happens to be), and rattle sabres. They think that because their side is morally right, any discussion of peace along lines they would personally disagree with is a waste of good time and money.

We say they’re wrong. If we resign ourselves to our respective corners, then we will fail to communicate. If we fail to communicate we will know both our enemy and our neighbor less well, and over time, will be unable to dig out from the hole of self-justification and hatred.

If this sounds frothy, we agree with you, it is. But continued dialogue even in the absence of hope is the only thing that we think leads to the restoration of hope. If all that is left is what’s remaining after stripping out the potential for peace, that can only mean one thing, and it isn’t good.

We continue to support any efforts, even if they currently appear weak, to dialogue in favor of peace. The future of no such dialogue is sadly no future at all.