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Second intifada (archives) Photo: Reuters
Second intifada (archives) Photo: Reuters
 
 

Time to face reality

Op-ed: State of Israel must come to terms with the fact that conflict with Arabs may be irresolvable

Shaul Rosenfeld
Published: 06.26.13, 10:27 / Israel Opinion

Even if Bennett's "shrapnel in the rear end" analogy was a bit below the belt, the spirit of his words was right, and it's a shame that the option of a non-solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has never really been placed on the table of public discussion.

 

When the risk involved in the establishment of a Palestinian state is significantly greater than the chance for true peace, and when the price Israel would have to pay is unbearable - particularly when the Palestinian partner has never proven it is really wiling to accept a Jewish state even within the 1967 borders - it is safe to say that what Bennett meant was that the conflict, in its current state, is irresolvable.

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At the heart of the majority of the public's political viewpoint lies the belief that the Israeli-Arab conflict can be resolved, and even if untying this Gordian knot is difficult and complex, it is not impossible. Bennett is the only key political figure – from the Left or Right – to ever raise the possibility of not resolving the conflict as a viable option.

 

There is nothing wrong with wishing for something, so long as these hopes do not become an alternative for understanding the reality. Those who say "there is a solution to every problem, you just have to really want to find it" and "we cannot live by the sword forever" are putting their wishes ahead of a proper examination of the reality and all the options it offers.

 

The world has given us many problems – in physics, math, philosophy and biology – which cannot be solved. And what is true for science is just as true for political conflicts. Some conflicts lasted hundreds of years, others ended when one or both of the sides disappeared; there were empires which collapsed, just as there were countries and nations that are mere footnotes in the pages of history. It is safe to assume that most of those who were involved in these conflicts believed wholeheartedly that there was a solution to their problems and suffering.

 

As far as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is concerned, most of the concessions we are willing to make are far less than the minimum the other side would be willing to accept, even as part of an interim agreement (as is stated in the "doctrine of phases" from 1974). The Arab world still views Israel as a foreign element, a thorn (or piece of shrapnel) in the rear end of the region, which they consider to be Arab-Islamic or Palestinian in essence ("All of Palestine, from the river to the sea, is occupied" – Jibril Rajoub).

 

The Arab world's relative and temporary acceptance of Israel stems from its doubts regarding the possibility of getting rid of Israel, as well as from the Jewish state's close relations with Washington and the monetary benefits some Arab countries receive from the US. But most of the historic, cultural, religious and ethnic material that feeds the Arab ethos with regards to Israel does not indicate a true acceptance of the Jewish in state in the region. The opposite is true.

 

All we can do is manage the conflict rationally and refrain from falling into traps such as the Oslo Accords and the Arab peace initiative. We must carefully try to solve that which is solvable and accept that which is unsolvable while seeking creative interim solutions. Just as people live with chronic diseases for their entire lives, there is no reason we should not be able to exist for many years with the chronic Mideast conflict, although statements such as those made by Olmert ("If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, the State of Israel is finished") and Lapid ("The Palestinians must have their own country") do not help the cause.

 

 

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