Israel & Palestine: Can They Start Over?
Israel & Palestine: Can They Start Over?

Israel & Palestine: Can They Start Over?

The idea of Israeli–Palestinian partition, of a two-state solution, has a singular pedigree. It has been proposed for at least eight decades. Jews first accepted it as Palestinians recoiled; by the time Palestinians warmed to the notion in the late 1980s, Israelis had turned their backs. Still, its proponents manage to portray it as fresh, new, and capable of leading to peace. International consensus on a two-state agreement is, today, stronger than ever. Meanwhile, interest among the two parties most directly concerned wanes and prospects for achieving it diminish.

This inability to turn the idea into practice has prompted reactions that roughly divide into two types. The most common is to blame transient conditions or faulty execution. The implication is that there is no need to revisit fundamental assumptions about the goal itself: an essentially territorial deal that would split historic Palestine into two states along the 1967 borders; divide Jerusalem according to demographic criteria; find a solution to the refugee issue through compensation and resettlement outside of Israel; end the historic conflict; and terminate all claims. What are needed are more optimal conditions, smarter implementation, and some luck.

The history of the peace process has been plagued, according to this account, by unfortunate circumstances: leaders too weak to strike a deal when they wished to or too obdurate to sign one when they could; one side ready for compromise when the other was not; divisions on the Palestinian side or dysfunctional governments on the Israeli one. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's historic mission was ended by an assassin's bullet; Ariel Sharon's gradual acceptance of a viable Palestinian state was interrupted by a stroke; his successor's attempt to end the conflict was cut short by scandal.

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