By Dominique Moisi
After the stones of the first Palestinian intifada, or uprising, came the human bombs of the second one. Now Palestinians have turned to knives. On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the last man to have embodied a real hope for peace, is a third intifada erupting?
To be sure, the recent knife attacks that have taken place across Israel and the West Bank, have apparently been carried out by “lone wolves.” But they echo a new wave of resistance by Palestinians that goes beyond physical assaults – reflected, for example, in the recent arson attack on a Jewish shrine in Nablus. With Hamas now calling explicitly for a third intifada, there is no denying the seriousness of the situation.
In fact, a new Palestinian uprising should come as no surprise. It is not as if anything has happened to break the Israeli-Palestinian cycle of fragile truces and violent explosions. The situation is not even frozen; it is deteriorating, owing to increasing political and religious radicalization on both sides. And yet, judging by the attitude of the international community, no one would know it.
A few days ago, I attended a small conference in Paris focused on the new challenges and changing balance of power in the Middle East. None of the main speakers made even a passing reference to the rising wave of violence in Israel. They were too busy discussing the crisis in Syria – which now poses a real threat of international escalation – as well as the diplomatic, strategic, and economic consequences of the nuclear agreement with Iran.
The reality is that world leaders have little energy left to dedicate to the seemingly interminable conflict between Israel and Palestine – a conflict that they have tried and failed to resolve innumerable times. And, indeed, there are serious doubts as to whether there is a viable alternative to today’s frail and sometimes violent status quo.
If Israel refused to leave the occupied territories in the past, how can it be expected to do so now, when the Islamic State is creeping toward the border? Doing so would raise massive new risks, in stark contrast to the brief spasms of violence that now punctuate Israel’s otherwise stable security situation.
And who on the Palestinian side would be willing, much less able, to engage in serious negotiations with Israel’s increasingly right-wing government? There are too many rifts and weaknesses on one side, and too powerful an illusion of strength on the other, for talks to yield anything of value.
In any case, even if they did resume talks, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators would not come to an agreement by themselves; and the international community is too divided, fatigued, and indifferent to impose a deal on them. If a consensus exists today, it is a negative one. With all parties resigned to the current situation, the dream of a “two-state solution” – based on the sound idea of exchanging territory for peace – is effectively dead.
Of course, the status quo is far less desirable for the Palestinians than for the Israelis. But they may have to do no more than bide their time, as their demographic advantage grows. Without a viable state of their own, Palestinians will progressively become the majority in the current “Jewish state.” The political, social, and religious implications of such a transformation would be far-reaching – and unacceptable to the Israelis.
The Israel-Palestine conflict has been so intractable because it is a clash between nationalisms. If it becomes a clash between religions as well, compromise will become nearly impossible, even without further radicalization.
With the two-state solution off the table, and the establishment of a peaceful binational state unviable, some voices, mostly coming from the Israeli left, are now toying with a third idea: a confederation of Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians. Palestinians share a strong kinship with Jordanians, more than half of whom are of Palestinian origin. At the same time, Jordan is Israel’s closest partner in the region. These factors make Jordan seem to many like an ideal bridge between Israel and Palestine.
Of course, there remains serious mistrust among the parties. Nonetheless, advocates argue that the clear economic advantages of such a confederation – which would include a free-trade zone and joint economic ventures – could prove tempting enough to all sides to put the idea on more solid footing.
But the proposal, though certainly appealing, is not consistent with the realities of the Middle East today. Unlike European countries, which emerged from World War II so exhausted by conflict that they agreed to pool their sovereignty for the sake of peace, the countries of the Middle East are experiencing an ever-intensifying climate of nationalism, intolerance, and hatred.
By causing a continuous shift to the political right, Israel’s occupation policy has undermined the state’s political and ethical foundations, while turning Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu into a hostage of forces even more extreme than he is. Small minorities of Israeli extremists no longer hesitate to use violence to defend, if not impose, their views on others. And the radicalization that the occupation has helped to fuel on the Palestinian side is well documented. But amid the rise of the Islamic State and the end of Iran’s international isolation, not to mention the Palestinian knife attacks, who can convince the Israelis that the biggest long-term threat they face is their own policy?
One cannot say with certainty that if Rabin had lived, peace between Israelis and Palestinians would have become a reality. But, as the region increasingly becomes trapped in a race to the abyss, the rare combination of courage, modesty, and lucidity that he embodied is badly needed.
Dominique Moisi, a professor at L’Institut d’études politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), is Senior Adviser at the French Institute for International Affairs (IFRI) and a visiting professor at King’s College London. He is the author of The Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope are Reshaping the World. (c Project Syndicate)
The writer unfolds his truths in an interesting way. It’s hard to skim and stop reading (a good thing for me — easily bored usually). Thanks for this and the link to the other writings of Moisi.
Your article is historically inaccurate. Israel gave Gaza back to the Palestinians in 2005 (after withdrawing from Southern Lebanon in 2000.) There was a “land for peace deal” between the Egyptians and Israel in 1979. When the Palestinians got the Gaza as part of teh brokered peace in 2005, they did not hold up their end of the bargain. They actually increased their rocket fire and their terror attacks. So much for responsible journalism. As for the two-state solution being off the table, polls recently conducted indicate that a majority of Palestinians do not, and would not, ever support the idea. This, despite their also claiming that they magically want the violence to end, even as their own elected governments call for “intifadas” and “days of rage” and spread open lies about Israel planning to take their insistent domination of the Temple Mount away from them–an area that is holy to many different religions but which they continually chase Jews and others away from–even on the one day a week that others are supposed to be allowed to be there (but not pray.) I believe that Abbas’s words to that effect was that Palestinians should rise up and not allow Jews to defile their holy place with their “dirty filthy feet.” The fact is, various variations on a two-state solution and partition plans have been repeatedly proposed over the years and they have been refused out of hand by Palestinians every single time. Just as they, and other Arab nations have refused to agree to recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish nation in that region while they insist upon their rights to exist as a Muslim Palestinian one, at the cost of Israel’s existence. Let’s stop pretending that there is anything fair or even-handed, or even rational, about what the majority of Palestinians (and all assorted Anti-Semites across the globe) demand.
A must-watch documentary of the wonderful things that Israel does.
You owe it to yourselves to watch it.
Excellent article from an experienced, professional, credible source!
I would really appreciate those commenting to the contrary cite the legitimate/factual sources for their claims, or give us a CV or resume on their own professional background. . . anything at all that would add to the credibility of what currently looks to be unverified “opinion” only.
And I suggest the author read President Clinton’s account of the peace talks in 2000 which failed because Palestinians would not agree to any brokered two-state solution that would allow for Israel’s continued existence on any level. He is very clear in his writing about Palestinian intransigence on this issue being the cause for the ultimate failure of the talks.
Sorry to burst your bubble, Geezer. According to various sources that came out in 2013, Anna Baltzer, who refers to herself as “a Jewish American Columbia graduate, for mer Fulbright scholar (and) the granddaughter of Holocaust refugees” is not all that she claims. Ms. Baltzer claimed to have become enlightened about “the Palestinian occupation” while on a Birthright Tour of Israel in 2000. The fact is, there is no record of any Anna Baltzer having attended a Birthright Tour in 2000, or any other year. She may have traveled there, but not under the auspices that she claimed. That was to hype up her “jewishness” for her chosen cause…as was her description of her grandparents, Ida and Maurice Pillar, as being concentration camp survivors. They were never in the camps. They did flee Europe but there is contradictory information even about the circumstances surrounding that. There is no record of her being a Fulbright scholar although she did teach English classes in Turkey once, as a teaching assistant hired by the Fulbright program. But she is not on the official scholars list, either on the Fulbright or Columbia lists. She has had at least three aliases–Baltzer (under which she conducts her fund-raising, speech-giving and propaganda spreading), Piller and another, Carole Corsuy. She has hobnobbed with terrorists and has publicly stated that terrorist acts committed by Palestinians are “necessary” to their noble cause. She is a leading figure in the BDS movement and, as far as one can see from the information above, is not to be believed as being in the least bit credible, either personally or professionally. She certainly does not represent the majority sentiment of Jews. That is just the vehicle she uses to exploit fellow Jews in service to her own twisted cause.
The link at the end leads to an even more interesting article
It is not a simple situation, not in the Middle East or anywhere, then and now. Looking to the future, there are so many forces, economies, nationalism, religion churning up the waters — I can’t say I agree with everything but eye-opening nonetheless. Also, really depressing if you think about how elusive real peace is.
…As for the most recent wave of Israeli/Palestinian violence over the made-up Palestinian claim that Israel intends to change the status-quo of Muslim domination at the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa Mosque, Israel has stated that it is in agreement with the Jordanian proposal to have 24 hour security camera surveillance at the site. It is an idea that has also been supported by John Kerry, who is trying to broker a peace. The Palestinian side appears to not just be dragging their feet on the idea. They have completely refused to consider even the possibility of such a proposal–even before any details of such a plan could be negotiated– calling it “an Israeli trap.” How not surprising. Although I agree that BOTH sides could, predictably, have understandable concerns as to who or what entity would control which aspects of the surveillance, it appears that it is the Palestinians that are dismissing even the notion of it out of hand. Which makes sense, considering that they are they ones who regularly riot and stock weapons at that so-called holy place, as well as denying any other religious groups (not just Jews, but especially Jews) the ability visit there (but not actually pray), even on the extremely limited basis they are supposed to allow for now.. God Forbid anybody but THEY should get their supposedly God-given way.. And at the mere suspicion of anything else bring the case– or any mere rumor promoted by their Jew-hating governments regarding such matters–they are justified in going about indiscriminately stabbing, shooting, rioting, stoning, promoting “days of rage” and intifadas to their hearts’ contents, forever, however and towards whomever they wish. Because that expectation is only fair and just–right? And we should all ignore (or even approve) of how they see fit to send their own children out into the streets to enforce those expectations, wily-nily and at risk to anyone who might have the misfortune of risking their wrath. Oh, but maybe if it’s only Israelis/Jews who get targeted, that’s somehow OK. THEY should take the impossibly high road and be more amenable to be attacked by anyone who hates and targets them–and be endlessly criticized and condemned if they do not, for their, ahem, “lack of restraint.” Puh-leeze!
I suggest everyone take a look at these maps which very clearly show the massive expansion of the land that Israel has essentially taken from the Palestinians. Sometimes a picture does tell a thousand words:
Stan Squires says
I am from Vancouver,Canada and I supports the Palestinian Intifada.There can be no peace with Israeli apartheid.The majority of people in the world supports the Palestinian People in their fight against the barbaric Israeli gov’t and the uncivilized Israeli settlers.
Dominique Moisi is reactionary and he is probably a Zionist when he says that there have been atrocities committed on both sides.There have been war crimes and genocide committed by one side and that is Israel. it is an insult to all Palestinians to say that atrocities have been committed on both sides.Dominique Moisi should be condemned for slandering the Palestinian People.
From the River to the Sea,Palestine will be Free.This Intifada will continue until there is Liberty and Justice for Palestinians.John Kerry should be ignored by the Palestinian People because the reactionary U.S. Gov’t supports and recognizes Israel.Israel should not be recognized by any gov’t in the world.