Israel v. Palestine: how much longer?

22 November 2012

Israel v. Palestine: how much longer?

Jan Marijnissen

The conflict in the Middle East has dominated the news throughout my life. I felt a strong urge to return to it one more time. I even wanted to discuss it with people – not with the powerful, but rather with critical voices on both sides, and with journalists. For a long time I’ve been inclined to think schematically about attitudes amongst these people, but after returning to the issue I wrote that “good and bad have become almost unusable concepts. The conflict has now lasted so long and mutual hatred sits so deep as a result of violent deeds committed time and again, that a solution seems far away.”

That was in January 1998. Now, many thousands of deaths throughout the region later, the situation is still just as hopeless. Millions of Palestinians live in appalling conditions, often with no prospect of improvement. I still know what I thought then, walking through Hebron: it’s all a massive misunderstanding. All of these people, Jews and Muslims, want the same thing – the best for their families and friends. How can it be that politicians aren’t able to give them what they have a right to?

Once, people with lots of ideals went to the new state known as Israel. The new country would be modern and social. But the original ideals were watered down and can now hardly be found with a magnifying glass. The geopolitical interests of the great powers, in particular the United States, have usurped those of the country and the region. The Middle East became one of the flashpoints of the Cold War, of strategic interest because it forms the portal to the richest oil fields in the world.

Now it’s once again going further than ever. Gaza is again being bombarded and a military invasion on the ground appears to be on the cards. Meanwhile hundreds of rockets rain daily on the settlements around Gaza, and at the same time a few even on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I notice that everyone who has an opinion on this conflict invariably has their own view on its starting point, so that each can point to the other party and say ‘’They started it!’

That’s no good to anyone. The international community can no longer look away and must force a solution which does justice to the reasonable demands of all those involved. Many, including amongst those who stand unconditionally behind Israel, agree that there is no military solution to this conflict. Only via a diplomatic and political path can a two-state solution be pursued which would make a lasting peace possible. That means recognition of the state of Israel, withdrawal of Israel from the 1967 occupied areas and the formation of an independent and viable Palestinian state.

This column first appeared in Dutch on 21st November 2012 in the national newspaper NRC.

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