Yesterday, Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery died. His commitment to finding a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian question was admirable, and his contribution to the brief years of hope in the 1990s should not be ignored. However he, like so many others, failed to find a real answer, and the two states are now just as hostile as ever. Can anything be done?
Well no, not really. Watching the Israeli-Palestine conflict feels rather like being a mother viewing her two squabbling children and saying ‘I don’t care who started it, both of you stop’. The reasons for the conflict are now over 70 years old, and at this point they appear to just be excuses to continue fighting rather than real, achievable goals. Neither side is willing to approach the negotiating table, and both are fully prepared to commit reprehensible acts while using the equally horrific decisions of their opposition as justification. News coming out of the region reads like some ridiculous Viking blood feud where each side must avenge the previous vengeance. HAMAS launches a missile attack, so Israel bombs a military base that just happens to be full of civilians. In response, HAMAS sends in insurgents, so Israel cracks down on Palestinian settlements. And so it goes on and on and on.
The reality is that neither side can truly ‘win’. Israel is entrenched in the region now, and the Jewish people are never going to just up and leave their new homeland. Attempts to remove them by force have been repeatedly attempted, and have always failed. But equally, Palestine will not just collapse. Israel relies on Western support, and so they cannot be too aggressive and alienate their allies. As such, anything like a full scale invasion of Palestinian territory or a forcible emigration of the Palestinian people simply will not happen. The demands of both are unachievable even in the best of circumstances. This conflict is therefore not only long and bloody, but also functionally pointless. However, the two sides now act like two gamblers too committed to a hand in poker. They are both all-in. To pull back now, to plead negotiation, would be akin to giving up, and neither can afford to do that. If left up to the two participants, peace will not come for another century.
What must happen is another global intervention. The Oslo Peace Talks of the 1990s came genuinely close to a permanent solution, because it was led by the rest of the world. Neither side capitulated; instead they were both separately approached and sweet-talked. It remains to this day the only time this situation looked like being resolved, and its failure does not mean we should not try again. Until we do, more blood will be spilled, and more tears shed. And all in vain.