When a stalemate occurs in chess, the players shake hands and the game ends. But the process is different in a political stalemate. There, when neither side is prepared to compromise on the other side’s positions and proposals, the game does not end. The gist of the conflict remains on the table, the conflict remains active, and the two sides have no choice but to live with the situation.
Indeed, such is the reality of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict at this time; a reality that much of the world refuses to accept.
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict currently faces a multilayered stalemate that does not allow for any progress. We recently saw an attempt to revive face-to-face negotiations in Jordan, but this effort died in childbirth. Recently released documents from these talks indicate the Palestinians are demanding 98.1% of the West Bank. To satisfy this demand, a large group of Jewish settlers would have to be uprooted from their homes. Israel cannot accede to this demand, which constitutes a big part of the stalemate.
The Palestinians are also refusing to recognize Israel as the Jewish state. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently repeated this blanket refusal, c that recognition of the Jewish state will endanger the return of Palestinian refugees. Yet in any case, Israel cannot and will not allow the return of millions of Palestinian refugees to homes that no longer exist. On this issue too, the sides face a stalemate.
The incitement continues
The Fatah-Hamas unity agreement signed recently in Doha is perhaps the biggest reason for the stalemate. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already stated that Abbas can have peace with Israel or with Hamas, but not with both. Should Hamas and Fatah indeed find the way to reconcile, Israel would be unable to negotiate with the Palestinians at all.
Another factor contributed to the stalemate is the Palestinian Authority's refusal to put an end to media incitement against Israel. Among other things, broadcasts aired by the PA routinely refer to Israeli cities like Haifa and Tel Aviv as parts of occupied Palestine. In one case, the Palestinian Grand Mufti claimed on TV that killing Jews is an Islamic duty. Meanwhile, killed or jailed terrorists are routinely extolled as heroes and martyrs. The PA refuses to stop this incitement, yet the world for the most part turns a blind eye.
Given the above state of affairs, international efforts to revive any semblance of a peace process are futile, aimless and detached from reality. Unless one of the sides decides to fundamentally shift its positions – an unlikely prospect at this time – this is one conflict that cannot be genuine resolved.
Yet sadly, this isn’t a game of chess. The stalemate does not stop the game. It just prolongs the agony.