Unrealized Security: The Shortcomings
Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process
Khalil M. Marrar
Illinois State University
the post Intifada era, Palestinians continually struggle with the elusive
prospect of future government, Islamic revivalism, entrenched and increasing
Israeli settlements and militarism, and the hollow promises of an on going peace
The very nature and subsequent stagnation of the peace process resulted
in the political polarization of Palestinians into two camps: Islamist and
secularist. In addition,
Palestinians now find themselves in an uncertain political condition, whereby,
on the one hand future prospects of democratic governance still remain, albeit
vaguely, while on the other hand, security remains threatened by an intransigent
Israeli occupation through “redeployment” and by a PLO leadership
vacillating between democratic rule and an authoritarian nightmare.
In this essay will assess the political dangers involved in the status
quo, zero sum construction of security on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. In addition, I will
examine whether the notion of exclusive statehood is even conceivable given the
present circumstances of mutual interdependence between the two camps and the
uncertain future of Palestinian self-determination.
In addition, I will analyze the threats to peace and stability from two
sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the Israeli occupation and
general foreign policy toward the Occupied Territories and a Palestinian
administration torn between elected government and a leadership concerned with
maintaining political power throughout an uncertain peace process.
I will frame the case of the current security dilemma between by drawing
upon the works devised by Barry Buzan et. al.
By reframing Palestinian and Israeli demands for security into a context
of conflict resolution with an emphasis on universal security, instead of
prevention, we may begin to examine how genuine security continues to elude the
efforts of the current peace process and rethink alternatives.
Palestinians find themselves in a highly complex and precarious situation and
the focus of the global community as they struggle with statelessness, political
turmoil, economic decay, national identity, and social upheaval.
Only years earlier, Palestinians of the Occupied Territories coalesced to
form a common struggle in order to “shake off” the Israeli occupation
through the Intifada, which lasted from 1987 until the Oslo peace accords of
At the first Oslo negotiations, Israel recognized the Palestine
Liberation Organization (PLO) as the administrative body of Palestinians living
in Gaza and the West Bank and in return, the PLO officially recognized
Israel’s “right to exist.” Moreover, under provisions of the initial peace accords,
Israeli forces partially withdrew from Gaza and the West Bank town of Jericho
and into “security zones” around Palestinian territories. Subsequently, the PLO as “Chief Authority” gained limited
administrative authority over Jericho and Gaza in May 1994.
During the January 1996 elections, Palestinians elected eighty-eight
members to the Majlis (legislature) and Yassir Arafat as Ra’es (leader) of the
Palestinian Authority (PA). Currently,
the Majlis and Ra’es form a collective leadership and represent Palestinians
residing in the West Bank and Gaza. One
year before the Palestinian elections, the PA and Israeli government reached a
second Oslo agreement, whereby Israel forfeited to the PA most administrative
duties of all West Bank towns.
PLO and Israeli officials met to hammer out the second agreement in 1995, the
first agreement intrinsically possessed so many ambiguities that full
realization was nearly impossible. Thus,
Israel and the PLO recognized one another, but the form of recognition was
closer to an armistice and Palestinian capitulation than a formula for peace.
The status quo power relationship replicated at Oslo allowed Palestinians
the right to beg from Israelis a mere redeployment from lands illegally occupied
by the Israel during the 1967 war. In
tangible terms, the PA received a simple role as administrator of the West Bank
and Gaza while real power remains in the hands of Israel.
Consequently, the PLO, for example, oversees sanitation, civil policing,
health, education, and postal services while Israel maintains sovereignty, troop
deployment, water resources, and control over substantial portions of the West
Bank and Gaza under through schemes of super highways and entrenched Jewish
Israeli redeployment was never completed, while a final withdrawal seems
unlikely until final status negotiations. The
hanging specter of final status negotiations allowed and legitimized many
breaches by Israel, first because of the intentional ambiguities of the Oslo
accords and second because of the asymmetrical power relationship between two
supposed partners. In reality,
however, the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians is not a
partnership, but instead a relationship similar to the one between slave and
master. Hence, if the peace process
is compared to a game of poker, Israel possesses nearly all of the political and
territorial cards while Palestinians must continually fold.
the current relationship between Israelis and Palestinians within the context of
the peace process also includes many warning signs for future conflict.
Technologically, Israel possesses one of the most advanced societies in
the world, while most Palestinians serve only as low skilled labor in the
Israeli economy or in a shattered Palestinian economy as a result of years of
occupation and general stagnation. Buzan’s definition of economic security depends on economic
mobility and wellbeing not based on a particular nationality but instead on
equality for all economic participants.
Leatherman’s definition of economic security adheres to the model laid
out by Buzan and adds a center-periphery relationship.
Applying both Buzan’s and Leatherman’s definition of economic
security yields a very grim and dangerous scenario for both Palestinians and
Israelis. The Israeli economy
remains, and will remain for the foreseeable future, at the center of regional
economic growth. In comparison,
Palestinians will remain subservient to the unfettered needs of the powerful
Israeli economy. Benefits and
entitlements accrued to Israelis will not be matched by Palestinians in the
current framework since all peace protocols require severance territorially, but
not economically. Even if
Palestinians attempt to sever from Israel’s economy, the benefits will pale in
comparison to the economic catastrophe wrought about by the severance of
inexorably bound economies. The
current approach to peace does not account for the ingrained Palestinian
servitude or Israeli economic hegemony, in the West Bank and Gaza and throughout
a condition between Israelis and Palestinians would likely produce a ripe
scenario for escalated conflict. This
would occur because of rising expectations from the peace process for increased
economic security. When those
expectations are not met, or in reality are reversed because of ill-fated
policies by both the PA and the Israeli government, there exists a perceived
need to gain, forcefully, the promised entitlements.
At that point, the status quo mechanisms for negotiating such
entitlements, mainly the PA, prove ineffective and many turn to alternative
methods to realize the incentives guaranteed by the peace process.
Transforming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires the satisfaction
of socio-economic and political aspirations of both sides.
An absence of the basic requirements to peace produces the chaos
predicted by Buzan’s model of security.
Thus, Palestinian and Israeli demands for an expanded vision of security
often conflict specifically because of the narrow approach espoused by
“hawks” and polemics on both sides. In
the short term, promises of final status negotiations may serve to tame the
prospects for conflict. If,
however, the peace process remains on the same familiar tract whereby
Palestinians negotiate away their aspirations for security, positive perceptions
of the peace process will diminish to be replaced by preparations for resuming
an armed struggle as before the peace process.
One only has to look at the Intifada to recognize the magnitude of
dissatisfaction among the Palestinian masses.
In current terms, the incentives to peace have been monopolized by on
communal group at the expense of another.
the agreements signed in 1995, known as Oslo II, added to the
politico-geographical fragmentation of the West Bank and Gaza along principle
Palestinian cities, peripheral Palestinian villages, Israeli settlements,
Israeli government land, and Israeli military areas.
In addition, the agreements made no mention of the 1948 and 1967
refugees, many of which remain in squalid camps around the region.
As was the case with Oslo I, what the Oslo II agreement did grant to the
Arafat led PA is more administrative control over the Palestinian people and not
over any substantial Palestinian territory.
The secret diplomacy that brought about such a deal for the Palestinians
is reminiscent of nineteenth century negotiations between autocratic monarchs
and foreign ministers. By not
consulting with any Palestinian outside of a very small and elite circle in the
PLO, Arafat effectively placed himself at the center of a controversy that
threatens to destroy the political unity of Palestinians for the first time
Such political fragmentation would tear the peace process apart and may
lead to violent chaos in Arab-Israeli relations.
Domestically, by undertaking the agreement without any public debate or
approval of any democratic Palestinian institution, Arafat commenced on a path
the has lead to numerous catastrophes, including the consolidation of all
political power in the hands of one leader serving as a perceived Israeli
puppet. This grim perspective also raises the possibility of a
Palestinian civil war resulting in Israeli intervention and the deaths of
thousands of Palestinians and Israelis.
within Israel turned the 1993 and 1995 agreements into a one sided structure
that excludes any benefits to Palestinians who remain in more dire conditions
than ever before.
Thus, while Israelis gained wider international recognition, higher
living and production levels (as a result of expanded international trade, for
example), and increased security, Palestinians in the Occupied Territories only
gained quasi-autonomy, since the West Bank and Gaza remain under Israeli control
through checkpoints, military presence on the outskirts of all Palestinian
cities and ultimate Israeli sovereignty.
All the while, Israel remains the Levant’s only nuclear weapons power
and disposes of high technology arms through sales on the global market.
Aside from the realist preoccupation with the likelihood of a nuclear
“first strike” and lack of deterrence surrounding this inequality of weapons
among Arabs and Israelis, such a disparity also serves to demonstrate the
powerful negotiating position of the Israelis.
Moreover, Israeli intransigence before and during the Intifada sent a
signal to Palestinians that any dealings with Israel must not underestimate the
relative power arrangement.
superiority, while not the final determinant of the relationship between
Palestinians and Israelis, is a very important centerpiece of Israeli
negotiating policy. Israeli
leaders, for example, consistently threaten that if Arafat declares a state by
September 13, 2000, Israel will annex, by force, large portions of the West Bank
and Gaza in order to further strengthen Israel’s position of negotiating vis-à-vis
the militarily inferior Palestinians. Under
such threats to use force, the PA and Palestinians in general would think twice
about declaring a state because of the outweighing costs of forced annexations
and loss of human life. In
addition, by using military threats, Israel forces Palestinians back to the
“peace” table in order to further legitimize a status quo of domination and
oppression. Even if such threats at
military annexations seem idle, they do provide Israel with a relative edge
through coercive diplomacy, which is not available to Palestinians.
Israeli threats at military action also secure a foothold in peace
negotiations where an option, unavailable to Palestinians, still exists if the
Israeli version of the peace process is not implemented or upheld by the PA.
Palestinians do not posses the reciprocal luxury of fending off Israeli
military action, however. Instead,
they only posses the role of subservience, whereby all Israeli demands must be
fulfilled by the PA or else Palestinians would have to shoulder the burden of a
derailed peace process in the form of renewed and intensified occupation, loss
of territory and human life.
should not underestimate the political power of many Israelis opposed to
occupation and organized into groups such as Haleh Hakibbush, Dai Lakibbush, Or
Adom, and Hafarperet. While such
groups abhor the occupation of Palestinian lands, those groups and others like
them may prove ineffective in the face of a perceived general Palestinian threat
constructed by the Israeli political elite.
Even if Arafat does not, once again, declare a state, the tone
of future negotiations, just as is the case in current negotiations, will be
shaped by the dominant power structure. The
growing Palestinian frustration over Israeli stubbornness and the PLO’s
impotence remains only checked by short term Israeli concessions such as the
permission granted to Palestinian that allows them to fly the Palestinian flag
on top of Palestinian buildings, in public squares and residential dwellings.
Palestinian and Israeli hopes in the peace process continue to diminish
as leaders threaten one another and tensions continue to brew on the ground
because of such occurrences as the demolition of homes, closure policies, and an
increasingly authoritarian PA led by Yassir Arafat.
Under the current state of affairs, many Palestinians continue to
question whether the meager incentives to peace—even remotely—outweigh the
costs of all of the negative conditions attached to the peace process.
addition, Palestinian acquiescence in the peace process after the Arafat-Rabin
handshake remains very fragile and transient.
Public perception of numerous Palestinian submissions to Israeli
stubbornness renders the likelihood of a long lasting peace untenable.
Israel’s former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, not only stalled
the provisions of the peace accords, but he also mitigated trust between
Palestinians and Israelis and set an inescapable precedence for his successor
Ehud Barak. Hence, “The
Palestinian public’s trust in the Oslo peace accords vanished months ago, once
Israel’s new prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, had made clear how he chose
to interpret them.”
Since the Oslo accords, Palestinians continually suffer due to Israeli
policies of military closure and encirclement of civilian areas.
Students from Gaza for example, cannot attend their universities in the
West Bank. Residents of Rammallah
can only leave the city through imperious Israeli checkpoints, while
Palestinians living only a few yards from and working in municipalities across
the “Green Line” requiring Israeli work permits are, if arrested without a
permit, fined the excessive amount of two months’ salary.
Hence, for Palestinians, “going to work or attending school are
Not only do the closure policies destroy the Palestinian sense of
economic security, as outlined by Buzan, et. al., but they also impair the
perception of realistic gains in the peace process.
Security as Zero Sum
practices as part of a general occupational policy have taken a toll on the
Palestinian populous. Indeed,
despair runs rampant throughout Palestinian cities and villages, which sometimes
turn into fertile breeding grounds for militarism.
Israel may in the short-term enjoy the benefits of Oslo, but it will
unfortunately, in the long-term, exchange those benefits for increased
antagonism and hostility from weary Palestinians if negative conditions are not
As the promises of the peace accords disappear in ill-fated political
maneuvers, Palestinians find themselves in an increasingly grotesque society.
To exacerbate societal problems, the past decade has witnessed a
proliferation of religious fanaticism in general and of “Islamic
fundamentalism” in particular. What
Israeli and Palestinian policy makers need to take into account is the
correlation between increased Palestinian liberation and decreased
fundamentalist sentiment. Unfortunately,
subsequent Israeli governments after Rabin’s assassination have not only
reversed former policies, they have also undermined the limited autonomy that
Palestinians gained under the Oslo accords.
Netanyahu’s shortsighted policies of closures and increased
settlements, which continue under the Ehud Barak regime, not only serve to
circumvent the Oslo peace accords, they also accelerate militarism among
This pivotal atmosphere of moderation and militarism indicates that the
situation is ripe for conflict, if the appropriate escalating elements play a
role. According to Leatherman, et.
al., traditional as well as new models of early warning rely on measuring the
relative power disparities between contending groups.
As all of those concerned understand, the power relationship between
Palestinians and Israelis astronomically favors the latter.
Add to this the general disparity of the means to security between
Israelis and Palestinians, as outlined above and as will be discussed later in
this essay. The problems produced
by such a disparity in the power equation transcend military means and are
evident in all areas of Palestinian-Israeli dialogue and conflict.
The very complex security dilemma among Palestinians and Israelis
transforms the issue of land, Jerusalem, settlements, etc. from mere sticking
points in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a collective expression of
constructed mistrust and hostility by both sides.
Thus, for example, Israeli settlements present a territorial threat to
security (Palestinian land usurped by Israeli settlers) as well as an
ideological (a Zionist state versus a state of its people), socio-economic
(economic class and domination based on nationality), political (established
Israeli institutions versus incipient Palestinian institutions), and
environmental (water rights) security problems for Palestinians living in the
West Bank and Gaza.
The Israeli-Palestinian struggle insofar as it is a struggle over
resources, narratives and ideologies appears to be a classical test case for the
Protracted Social Conflict perspective devised by Azar.
According to Azar, “the prolonged and often violent struggle by
communal groups for such basic needs as security, recognition and acceptance,
fair access to political institutions and economic participation” makes the
task of capturing an opportunity at peace much more difficult than the
traditional form of conflict involving different states.
While the precondition of recognition has been met, albeit vaguely and
dubiously, by Israelis and Palestinians throughout the peace process, equal and
fair access to political institutions and economic participation has hardly even
been close to realization by the Palestinian side.
Thus, the conflict will continue amidst talks of peace so long as one
side, the weaker one, continues to have its efforts at economic and political
security frustrated by the other.
Communal conflict often is mirrored throughout the means possessed by
each antagonist and may involve outward hostilities or more latent forms of
fighting against perceived or real injustices.
Militarism among Palestinians is another form of attempting to achieve
the security often denied to them under occupation.
For Israelis, militarism is a way of maintaining the perceived status quo
Zionist nature of Israel, as a nation-state composed exclusively of Jews, which
of course flies in the face of Palestinian aspirations for political and
economic entitlements similar to those that Jews possess.
What Azar’s Protracted Social Conflict theory does not account for,
however, is that a majority of Palestinians do not share the same state
apparatus as Israelis. Azar’s
model may explain how Israeli Arabs’ security needs conflict with the needs of
Israeli Jews and how to resolve such a security dilemma.
The model, however, does not adequately explain how to deal with
Palestinians that are legally outside of Israeli state jurisdiction and only
live under military occupation, with a different set of rules applying for
Palestinians living under occupation as opposed to Palestinians living under the
Israeli state as citizens. Moreover,
Azar’s focus on communal identity as the centerpiece to understanding conflict
resolution does not explain how economic conditions and territorial possessions
shape identity. In other words,
while identity shapes the perception of territory and economic predisposition,
both shape identity. For example,
Palestinian demands for economic security, a universal aspiration, are often
articulated within an exclusive vision of identity.
Israeli whims for military security are grounded in the exclusive
protection for Jews. Communal
identity often shapes the very flavor of the type of security sought. According to Azar “a new type of conflict…distinct from
traditional disputes over territory, economic resources, or East-West
rivalry…revolves around questions of communal identity.”
Here Azar separates conflict over territorial and economic disputes into
a different type of conflict from what he claims is the underlying motive:
preservation of identity. Such a
dichotomy, however, does not adequately explain the complex nature of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hence,
Israeli claims to water rights in Palestinian territories are informed by an
identity motive (providing water to Israelis), as well as a
politico-economic-environmental goal (acquiring a valuable resource).
Unlike his dichotomy between identity and other factors, the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict gives legitimacy to Azar’s conflation of
international and domestic affairs under one “social environment.”
Such a boundary, as international and national, has never existed between
Israelis and Palestinians. Both
histories and narratives are intertwined since the beginning of the contemporary
conflict in 1948.
It is not important to separate where the international and national
boundaries begin and end in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
There is, however, use in separating where the largest share benefits is
allocated by the Israeli state. Naturally,
because Israel is the state of Jewish people all over the world and not the
state of its citizens, the state apparatus is swallowed up by a dominant
arrangement of what Azar has dubbed communal groups.
Jewish Israelis themselves suffer at the hands of the state, arguably in
many cases, more than some Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
There is, for example, the well-known division between Sephardi and
Ashkenazi Jews. Sephardic Jews
remain a social underclass in comparison to the more privileged Ashkenazi.
In this case, Azar is correct in assuming that communal identity defines
the nature of oppression.
Identity and Displacement
Palestinians, however, access to the state has been denied based on identity and
has included a heavy burden on Palestinians, from economic dismay to the denial
of water resources. Because of
Israel’s interest to exclude or partially disadvantage all members not
entitled to the state apparatus and with the stagnating peace process, many
Palestinians perceive the military option as the only viable one. Although
gripping a tiny minority of Palestinians, militarism today is the result of
nearly a century of crisis. Throughout
the twentieth century, Palestinians endured the pandemonium of two World Wars,
whereby the victors determined their fate and the fate of their land (i.e.,
Balfour Declaration of 1917). First
uprooted in 1948 with the establishment of the Israeli state and again in 1967
during the “Six-Day War” with the expansion of the new state, Palestinians
experienced “the oldest and largest” refugee catastrophe of the century,
with 2.7 million Palestinian refugees.
As outlined above, Palestinians remaining in the Occupied Territories
tolerate Israeli practices of political oppression resembling those of South
Africa’s late Apartheid practices. Because
of the hardships of the past century, Palestinian society is now divided among
various lines. Thus, according to
Moughrabi, “A kind of social Darwinism seems to dominate Palestinian society,
where a crude individualism prevails and where only the fit, the clever, and the
A societal clash of ideals also exists whereby on the one hand, modern
“social Darwinism” dominates and on the other, traditional values linger on.
A subsequent result of colonization and occupation, Diaspora, and tyranny
witnessed by Palestinians throughout the twentieth century is a hastened
national identity crisis. Moughrabi
adds further, “something horrible happened to them [Palestinians] during the
years of Israeli occupation.”
This “horrible thing” is the fragmentation of Palestinian society
along several different lines of gender, religion, place of origin, and refugee
status. Social fragmentation
coupled with political disorder strain institutions such as healthcare and other
human services to their limits and creates general inequity.
This has the potential to create a catastrophe for the PLO, which no
longer is able to support Palestinians because of strained resources and
decreasing levels of legitimacy, as the peace process produces no tangible
long-term benefits to Palestinians. Furthermore,
according to Schnitzer, for example, “The healthcare needs of Gaza Strip
residents are enormous and are exacerbated by the more than six years of the
Intifada, the Israeli occupation and a majority refugee problem.”
The inability of “official” Palestinian institutions to meet popular
demands for human services gives rise to alternative means of services, such as
black markets and, more ominously, Islamist organizations providing healthcare
Islamist organizations, the largest of which is Hamas, increasingly
provide Palestinians with services no longer available as a result of the
administration’s inefficiency and lack of resources.
Although not allowed to participate in the PA, Hamas is a very formidable
force in Palestinian society advocating a theocratic state of its own to rival
the theocratic (i.e., Zionist) nature of the state of Israel.
International groups, mainly established and funded by the United
Nations, play a major role in providing Palestinians with basic needs.
This further demonstrates the PLO’s lack of capability to provide for a
common state-based network of services and underscores the need for increased
sources of humanitarian aid directly working with individual Palestinians
without entitlements from the administrative apparatus of the PLO.
The PA’s complicity and Israel’s actions toward undermining the
Palestinian population’s security for their own ends results in a situation
unbearable to either side. The
Palestinians struggle toward the security offered by national homeland and in
the process are shutout by Israeli designs for a pure Zionist state.
In this context the Israeli-Palestinian conflict provides an important
perspective on Buzan’s definition of security, which takes a multifaceted
approach to ensuring general human well being.
Seen in this light, Buzan’s model describes how Palestinian demands for
security go largely unfulfilled by the prevailing order.
the Palestinian case, Buzan’s definition of security, or lack of security,
directly corresponds to Azar’s model of Protracted Social Conflict.
However, once again the complex communal disposition of the
Israeli-Palestinian problem does not exactly validate Azar’s PSC model, while
it does allow room for some prediction. Suffice
to say that if identity is not the main focus of communal conflict, then it will
include radical elements on both sides of the ideological and national divides.
Hence, Hamas, as a party focuses its energies and wins a substantial
minority of the popular conscience. Within
the Palestinian political system, members of Fateh gain the privileges of the
limited Palestinian administration at the expense of non-Fateh members.
Members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), for
example, have largely been discredited internationally and marginalized
domestically. This adds validity to
Azar’s notion that international and domestic inhabit the same social
In addition, groups such as Hamas, and all other “outsider” groups in
the Palestinian political spectrum have been marginalized both internationally
and within the Palestinian power arrangement.
Thus, international power and security relations, such as recognition and
legitimacy, are mirrored domestically and among the contending parties,
including Israel’s ruling government and the PA.
Such a mirroring in political arrangements affects the social structure
as well, a fact consistent with Buzan’s comprehensive definition of security.
the context of social fragmentation and institutional decay, most Palestinians
attribute, rightly or wrongly, their predicaments to years of military
occupation. In light of the
stagnant peace process and in an attempt to unilaterally end occupation,
Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat outlined his intentions to declare a
Palestinian state “with or without Israeli approval by May 1999.”
Although promises to declare a state did not materialize, Arafat is not
alone in his quest for statehood and has received the endorsement of the
European Union (EU) for the “Palestinian right to self-determination,
After the lack of consensus during the Camp David summit, Arafat once
again threatens to declare a state by September 13, 2000 if agreement is not
reached by that date. The
opposition from such a proposition comes from many Israelis and realist scholars
that support claims that a Palestinian state would “field a large army, form
alliances with regimes sworn to Israel’s destruction and serve as a base for
increased terrorist activity that would endanger Israel’s existence.”
what realist scholars and Israelis do not realize is that by not recognizing
Palestinian rights to a homeland, economic integrity, social well-being, and
other general freedoms, Israel undermines its own statist conception of
Because Israel possesses no realistic military option, outside the realm
of annexation, it will not maintain suzerainty over Palestinians if a homeland
is not recognized. Using Buzan’s
definition of security, Israel’s rejectionism would increase military security
by dominating another people at the expense of all other types of security,
including economic, societal and political security.
Moreover, the longer “a final peace agreement” takes, because of
vehemently contested issues such as the final status of Jerusalem and
Palestinian refugees, borders, and Jewish settlements in the Occupied
territories, the more pressure is applied on Arafat to gain some concessions.
The most scowling issue of contention seems to be Jerusalem, since the
city’s eastern quarter holds a Palestinian population of 160,000 and a Jewish
population of 170,000.
Under Israeli control, the city’s Jewish administrators require
Palestinians to carry special permits in order to worship at any holy site.
Along with the question over the future of Jerusalem is the problem of
Palestinian refugees, since most have lived in their refugee shacks and camps
since 1948 and 1967. All refugees
claim their right to return to their lands under United Nations Human Rights
Commission provisions, United Nations Resolutions 194 and 237 and other
international documents relating to a person’s right to return to his or her
The Palestinians and the Israelis view the refugee problem at the center
of achieving any resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Complicating the problem is the Israeli demand that Palestinian refugees
renounce their claim to their homeland on the one hand and the Palestinian
prerequisite for repatriation of the refugees on the other hand.
refugee problem may prove to be as contentious as the issue of Jerusalem.
According to one estimate, there are now five million Palestinian
refugees throughout host countries in the Middle East, North Africa, North
America, and Europe.
Currently, Israel supports a solution of settling Palestinian refugees in
host countries without compensation. While
such a solution might prove convenient for Israelis, it does not resolve that a
large portion of Palestinian refugees remain in camps and settling them would
place a heavy burden, financial and otherwise, on host countries.
Without any compensation to the Palestinians themselves or to host
countries, such a settlement program would never be achievable under current
Israeli offers in return for settlement. Moreover,
such a settlement without compensation concept as proposed by Israel would pose
an ontological as well as a public relations disaster for Israelis who
continually demand reparations of moneys and lands lost during the Second World
War but will not even think of compensating Palestinians for the destruction of
their homeland, culture and usurpation of their land since 1948.
This would occur because in the international public’s perception,
Hitler’s notion of Lebensraumpolitik would appear no
different than Jewish attempts at establishing a living space in Israel for
Jewish survivors of a savage holocaust without compensating the victims ousted
to ensure that living space. Much
as Israelis expect and have received reparations from Germany and recently from
Swiss banks, so too are Palestinians entitled to the same type of reimbursement
for their catastrophic losses.
“final status” issues, such as refugees, Palestinian political ideals differ
along various lines. While
“Palestinian society is pluralistic, mostly secular, highly politicized, and
quite sophisticated,” an irreconcilable political rift exists between
Islamists and secularists.
The PLO has always identified itself with the secularist sphere of
politics and currently controls most seats in the Majlis as well as the Ra’es
position under Arafat. The latter however is not without criticism, hence
It appears that the trend toward
democracy set in motion by the elections is being curbed by an executive
authority determined to arrogate to itself all the powers in the new society.
Like many Palestinians
after the Israeli occupation, Arafat joined a diverse political and secularist
“armed struggle” to liberate Palestine.
Problems confronting Arafat range from pressures by Israel to halt
“terrorist” activities to international pressure to demonstrate his
vigilance for a democratic Palestine. Such goals may contradict one another, since completely
halting “terrorist” activities may require the PA to supersede many civil
liberties in order to accomplish this perplexing task.
Analysts of Arafat’s record on human rights and democracy must take
into account that first, Arafat presides over an ambiguous Palestinian entity
without the luxuries of statehood while secondly, the Palestinian frustration
over the stalled peace process only serves to increase nationalism and
militarism. The longer peace talks
take on a symbolic role without any real benefits for Palestinians, the more
frustrated Palestinians become. Because
of this frustration, militants justify their existence by pointing to the
failures of the PLO. The Arafat
government thus becomes the butt of all Palestinian frustrations, while
militants only gain popularity. Because
of the rising militarism, Arafat can justify his consolidation on power in the
name of suppressing violent elements, thus undermining any future Palestinian
democracy. While, “only democracy
in the West Bank and Gaza can give the region hope for a peaceful future,”
obstruction of the peace process (as in the status quo) to gain short-term
benefits will only undermine future prospects of Palestinian democracy and thus
perceived failures of the PLO to secure the advantages of the peace process,
increasing numbers of Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories, harsh
Israeli conditions for continuing the peace process, and Arafat’s repression
of “militant elements” in Palestinian society accelerates opposition to the
dominant actors. The staunchest
opposition to the peace process and Israel’s right to exist is found among
“Islamic fundamentalists.” Although
non-monolithic, Islamic fundamentalism in its totality is one of the largest
growing minority views in the Arab World in general, and in Palestinian society
in particular. It is to those
movements that one must look to understand the cosmopolitan makeup of revivalism
and its embodiment by Islamist parties. Islamic
Revivalism is not phenomenally spontaneous; rather, it develops through a
gradual process of failure and oppression.
Take Hamas, for example: the group is the product of the defalcation of
Palestinian secularists to deliver on “peace benefits” and continues to grow
because of continued pressures from Israel and the PA.
Pressure from the PLO, in particular, will not silence the Hamas or its
appeal, but will increase it, not only because of the PLO’s repression, but
also because of Palestinian frustration over a shattered economy, and failed
promises of the peace process. In
addition, according to Said, while Islamist elements control one-third of
Palestinian political support, they receive the largest support by many of the
losers in the peace process.
Hence, if benefits do not generally accrue to a substantial number of
Palestinians, Islamist political support will subsume moderate elements in the
Palestinian political system.
“current state of affairs” in the Occupied Territories only strengthens
Islamist parties such as Hamas, while the PLO falls further into the Islamist
trap every time it fails to deliver on its promises of improvements in living
conditions for Palestinians (i.e., removing Israeli check points).
Moreover, Israeli pressure on the PLO to suppress Islamist opposition
only strengthens the latter and a fundamental lesson is lost on such
suppression. The lesson in simple:
the more suppressed a social movement, the more popular it is among its
propagators and supporters.
Subsequently, Islamist groups can only be weakened on their own accord
who wants to get an idea of how an Islamic party can quite easily be cooped and
domesticated is advised to look across the West Bank into Jordan.
One of King Hussein’s smartest moves was to open out the system enough
to let them in; they have since become a sort of dutiful, totally uncharismatic
(and finally discredited) opposition, forced to act in effect as part of the
The PA must follow the Jordanian
precedent if it ever hopes to achieve “democratic pacifism” (although Jordan
is far from a democratic country) or in other words, placate militaristic groups
by allowing them freedoms of expression and participation in a democratic
political process. Lack of
democracy in the Occupied Territories maintains and strengthens the political
appeal of Islamist movements.
By co-opting Islamist organizations such as Harakat al Jihad al Islami
(Jihad) and Hamas through basic human rights such as freedoms of speech,
assembly and political expression the PA can exert its energies elsewhere, for
example, on social and economic problems that, if they go unattended, only give
Islamists more political issues to rally around.
The increase in
the dynamism of Islamist ideologies and organizations in the Occupied
Territories is not only the result of suppression, but also the result of a
political vacuum in ideologies that most often occurs among oppressed peoples.
In a Journal of Palestine Studies statement, Eric Rouleau, a French
reporter in the Middle East for three decades and an expert on the Palestinian
problem, indicates that
Islamic movements develop and become
strong when there’s a political vacuum of ideologies—whether other political
forces have failed or have lost credibility are nonexistent.
The major national crisis—political, economic, social, cultural—to
which the government and the political class are unable to respond.
The Islamists can then claim a solution.
correlates Islamic revivalism to the failure of other ideologies, such as
Pan-Arabism and nationalism to establish an adequate, viable political system
(i.e., the PLO) and adds
the point I wanted to make was that in
the debacle that followed the war [of 1967] I saw something I had never
seen—all the mosques were suddenly overflowing with people.
They put loudspeakers outside the mosques and the sidewalks were jammed
for blocks, even the largest couldn’t contain the crowds.
This was the beginning of what was later called the Islamic revival.
atmosphere of defeat and social upheaval, as was the case throughout the Arab
World after the defeat of Jordan, Syria, and Egypt by Israel in 1967 sparked a
wave of Islamic revivalism that continues today in all forms of Arab and
Palestinian politics. Within the
Occupied Territories, the overall condition of Palestinians has not improved
since Oslo because most residents under Israeli occupation live in poverty, lack
governmental respect for human rights, and general political suppression.
Although no one solution exists to all of those problems, “the
successful party” according to Rouleau is the one that provides not only an
alternative to dissidents, but also provides its supporters with a sense of
Moreover, the perception that Islamists do provide an alternative during
troubled times, further increases support for marginalized but legitimate groups
of opposition. If Israel and the PLO wish to maintain a stable Palestinian
population, they must reverse their current policies of repression toward
Islamist movements and allow their members full expressive and organizational
rights. Otherwise, any measure of
violence against Islamists will only further alienate larger numbers of
Palestinians who participate in such groups to provide themselves with a sense
of hope that is unavailable in the current political stalemate.
In this volatile political standstill among Israelis and Palestinians,
many outsiders may misjudge Islamic groups to be just that, Islamic, with all
negative connotations attached. A
deeper look at the Islamists’ agendas however yields a contradictory view.
According to Musa Budeiri, a professor of philosophy and cultural studies
at Birzeit University,
is a new movement. Born as it was
during the Intifada, it is perhaps more accurate to characterize it as a child
of the occupation; its birth and expansion were dues to its newfound attachment
to the Palestinian national cause.
Budeiri continues, “it is clear that Hamas has a
nationalist rather than an Islamic agenda.”
When allowed to legally exist without government coercion and repression,
Islamists will not only moderate their extreme revivalism, they will also
assuage their acrid reproach toward both the Israeli and Palestinian
establishments and will only work toward piecemeal solutions to nationalist
problems that confront Palestinians. Meanwhile,
the more brutally Hamas is dealt with by the PA and Israeli government, the more
extreme the group will become in its views and actions.
Only with the reversal of the traditional realist “crack-down” policy
of Israel, and now of the PA, can Islamic revivalism take on a secondary
societal function—as it already has done so in Egypt and Jordan.
In both of these countries, Islamists only go as far as providing the
masses with what Said calls the “immediate security” of the Qur’an and
Palestinian culture will always remain part of the Arabo-Islamic
tradition and hence Islam will remain a force in Palestinian society and
The brand of Islam and the degree of its revivalist nature will depend,
to a large part, on the external handling (or suppression) of its propagators.
Any future Palestinian governing body, including the PA will remain a
part of what Marshall Hodgson refers to as Islamicate culture and “any
attempts at severing the tie are doomed to failure.”
Islamic fundamentalism, as embodied by
Hamas, also has much political capital to profit from uneasy circumstances.
Currently Islamists and Marxists (i.e., Hamas and the PFLP or PDFLP)
cooperate in order to counter the failed policies of the Fateh led PA.
Like all other Palestinian political parties, Islamist parties also
operate under Arab models of liberation. What
makes Islamists different, is that they actively reject any concept of a secular
state. Instead, Islamist parties subscribe to and further a state
model based on a greater Islamic nation. In
addition, Islamists reject the communist agenda of the Marxist parties currently
allied with them.
Ideologically, Islamists operate on a practical basis, but like all other
Palestinian parties, work to further an exclusive goal of liberation, based on a
Whereas some parties focus on achieving secular democracies, Palestinian
Islamists believe that that their faith offers the only solution.
This goal, however, does not achieve liberation based on universal human
characteristics, but rather on the intersection of an Islamic and an Arab
identity. In addition, the Islamists’ goal toward liberation isolates
a large minority of Palestinian Christians struggling to liberate themselves
from the exclusion of Zionism. Hence,
the particularistic agenda isolates Palestinians as well as non-Palestinians
because of its narrow approach toward liberation. Moreover, it does not, under Marx’s conception of
liberation, free human beings from the tyranny of religious based politics, but
does the exact opposite, by falsely prescribing an Islamic state as the only way
Room for Tolerance in
the Context of Disparity
Palestinian political parties have thus far perpetuated the zero-sum notion of
competing ideologies even if some do advocate a democratic secularist state.
This is because, regardless of their ideological predisposition, all of
the parties’ conceptions of liberation revolve around the concept of an
exclusive identity, whether Arab, Muslim, Palestinian, etc.
Hence, if Marx’s theoretical assumptions in “On the Jewish
Question” are taken into account, Palestinian political agendas do not offer
any emancipating solution outside of the politico-nationalist framework.
The latter does not only serve to inform politics, but it also shapes
scholarship, including works by the most influential authors on the Palestinian
condition. Edward Said, for example, wrote on Western conceptions of the
“Orient” with the Palestinian agenda in mind.
Throughout his masterpiece, Said describes how Western audiences
perceived “Orientals” in general and Arab Palestinians in particular as
“inconsequential nomads possessing no real claim on the land and therefore no
cultural or national reality."
By criticizing such Western conception, with good intentions
notwithstanding, Said affirms that Palestinians do have a national reality that
was wrongly muted. What Said omits,
however, is that his affirmation of the Palestinian national identity originates
from a deeper historical defense of Palestinians against the Zionist onslaught.
Consequently, a fuller understanding of oppression does not occur because
it only examines the relationship of “Orient” and “Occident” rather than
also including universal reasons behind the domination of one cultural grouping
addition to tolerating Islamist ideals and movement and deconstructing Western
and Israeli conceptions of Arabs in general and of Palestinians in particular
focusing on a future state must be at the zenith of priorities and since the
Palestinian economy is in dubious shambles, attention must be paid to ways of
improving current economic conditions while at the same time working toward an
economy of a future state. “For a
stable, Western-style democratic regime to succeed, a broad and cohesive middle
class with the capacity for political mobilization is needed.”
According to Forbes, “the only hope for lasting peace is if this region
becomes a hot house of prosperity.”
Such a neoliberalist sentiment views development and interdependence
between Palestinians and Israelis as a prerequisite to any lasting peace.
Additionally, Palestinians must build new infrastructures and economic
foundations in order to fully and peacefully operate any new entity or state.
If Palestinians are to have a strong economy in the transitional (prior
to statehood) period, the policies of closure (severance of cities in the West
Bank and Gaza from one another by Israel) and the bureaucratization of working
permits must be reversed by the Israeli government.
Closures and working permits decrease the likelihood of any economic
prosperity—a prerequisite for stability.
High unemployment rates in Gaza and the West Bank, for example, because
of Israeli policies can only create instability.
Estimates indicate an average unemployment rate among Palestinians of 25
percent. Additionally, the per
capita Gross National Product (GNP) of the Palestinian economy is a pitiful
$1,630, a figure even more astounding when compared to Israel’s per capita GNP
Those figures demonstrate the grave injustices of Israel’s occupation
of the West Bank and Gaza. During
the post Oslo era, it would be in Israel’s best interest to attempt to help
lay the foundations of an economically stable Palestinian state by reversing its
policies of severance, closures and permits since
“a stable and democratic Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank is
an absolute must to guarantee peace and stability in the area.”
At this time however, Israeli and Palestinian manipulation of the Oslo
accords can only create instability between both populations.
Additionally, the international community must play its role in peace
making and maintenance by committing foreign aide, Non-Governmental
Organizations and capital investments to ensure peace in the region.
In light of
economic, classist, social, and national considerations that plague the
Palestinian-Israeli future, Marx’s concept of human emancipation appears even
more attractive as an alternative. Zionist
conceptions of Israel have historically failed to achieve for Jews an
exclusively Jewish state. Likewise,
Palestinian nationalism does not promise to culminate in an exclusively Arab
Therefore, alternative models of liberation collectively remain as the
only option in providing any ideological or pragmatic ways to human
emancipation. As Zionist Jews mourn
the failure of their brand of nationalism, scholars and political leaders must
conceive of ways to emancipate all parties universally.
The peace process, despite its shortcomings, both Palestinians and Jews a
chance to reconcile themselves to the notion of a universal human emancipation,
not based on political liberation, but founded upon the principle of freedom
from all oppression for all human beings. In
addition, the failure of the PA to achieve any clear-cut solution for both
Palestinians and Israelis demonstrates how underlying the Palestinian question
is a universal problem, that should not be relegated to boundaries, state
authorities and other particularistic political elements.
Israel’s initial founding on the ruins of the Palestinian nation
represents the age-old archetypes of conquest and the prevailing of a greater
power over a lesser one.
These are universal archetypes of oppression that demand universal,
rather than particularistic, solutions.
Palestinians do achieve any semblance of internal political autonomy under the
current framework of multifaceted oppression, they will do so in manner dubbed
by Richard Falk as “the Westphalian Cosmos-Drama.”
Hence, by seeking emancipation on a political basis, Palestinians only
seek “internal self determination” and thus continue the status quo of
oppression because of their non-Jewish identity by the Israelis and
non-obedience by the “limited autonomy” regime.
Rather than seeking to counter economically elitist policies of
subjugation against Palestinians and other people in all of the lands of
historical Palestine, the hegemonic model of political liberation breeds further
oppression. The current alignment
between the PA and Israel to preserve economic and political exploitation of a
majority of inhabitants also undermines any efforts at remedying the large
disparities discussed above. The further solidification of the PA’s authority over
Palestinians also serves to quell all opposition to the current modes of
Israeli-Palestinian politics, on the surface, may appear in opposition but
often, they act cooperatively by keeping the lower classes preoccupied with
their identity and waging a war against the other. Hence is the relationship between the PLO and Israeli
government, both of which represent all features in the ideological realm of
identity but nothing in terms of a collective impetus that aims at changing the
currently oppressive circumstances for the benefit of the masses.
In a brief
essay, Milton Fisk writes:
of an oppressed ethnic group should not be simply to turn the tables so that the
dominant group becomes oppressed. Steadfastly
following the liberationist principle would, though, lead an oppressed group to
reject its aspiration to oppress. But by having such an unwarranted aspiration, an oppressed
group does not legitimize the dominant group’s oppression of it.”
fears are mirrored by many Israelis opposed to a Palestinian State who point to
a possible security threat, caused by a hostile state allowed to exist
congruently to the Jewish state, as the main concern.
Those politicians, however, never define security or how to achieve it.
Even a narrow definition of security is determined by Israeli policy and
an Israel that is conciliatory in its tone will receive conciliation in return
from Palestinians in general, Islamic “militants”, and many Arabist groups.
Palestinians, if allowed to live under a fair and equitable political
system are more responsible and are less violent toward Israelis.
For example, on October 6, 1997, “the newly released spiritual leader [Yassin]
of Hamas made a tentative truce offer…saying the group would halt such
bombings [i.e., suicide bombings] if Israel stops attacks against our
Yassin’s example is proof that the most militant of all Palestinian and
Islamist individuals can be assimilated into the drive for peace.
There are of course wider implications to Yassin’s proposal since it
shifts from Hamas’ dedication to “destroy Israel” to the possibility of
peaceful coexistence. A further
insinuation is that Hamas supporters, once at peace with Israel, would work with
the PLO toward common Palestinian goals of an improved economy and a viable
political system. Although prima
facie, Hamas is sectarian, it can still act as a right wing party in the Majlis
of a future Palestinian State and not as a “group of terror” as its critics
have dubbed it.
many Israelis distrust the idea of a Palestinian state whether for conservative
Zionist (that is realist) or other security reasons.
According to USA Today, Anat
Hafif, a 29-year-old Israeli teacher was quoted as saying “They [the
Palestinians] can conduct their own lives.
Their own education. Their
own religion. But a state that
would endanger my own? No!”
Hafif says that a Palestinian state will endanger Israel but never says
how. Even if we take a realist
definition of security, any new Palestinian state would not endanger Israel
because, among other reasons, of overwhelming Israeli military superiority, the
permanent demilitarization of the Israeli-Palestinian frontiers.
In addition, interdependence between the two states, economic and
otherwise will bring about a heightened level of security.
Also, any future Palestinian state, born out of peace agreements will not
present the same security threat as is presented in the status quo by
Palestinians suffering under occupation. Fortunately,
not all Israelis share Hafif’s line of reasoning, but instead, many would
agree with a less extreme line of reasoning.
Under purely realist aims to deterrence, Israel will still employ its
Defense Forces (IDF), police, and the General Security Service to repel any
possibility of attacks by groups of a Palestinian state.
Threats to Israeli security can even be further minimized not only
because of Palestinian self-determination, increased stability, and
interdependence, but also because of an improved Israeli military strategy.
under the current strategy of occupation, Palestinians living in cities and
villages under find themselves surrounded by Israeli military checkpoints.
By focusing those checkpoints on a future Israeli frontier and not on the
fringes of Palestinian dwellings, Israel increases security to its forces and
its borders without frustrating Palestinian aims for a sovereign statehood.
Security of forces is achieved by distancing Israeli soldiers from
Palestinian domains while at the same time, when full decolinization occurs,
troops can be placed more strategically as potential defenders rather than
obvious occupiers. In addition to
strategy and safety, complete withdrawal of all Israeli soldiers from Israeli
settlements and Palestinian towns will repudiate a costly military expenditure
for Israel and will allow budgetary allocations elsewhere.
According to Ariga, “…if you ask whether there is any chance for
coexistence with the Palestinians, our answer is in the affirmative.”
The voices for coexistence out of most Israelis combined with the
conciliatory tones of Islamic militant groups such as Hamas are signs that point
to a potential (however distant) end to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Confederation or Bust
As a result of the current dominant paradigm of “severance and
independence” in the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, one alternative
has gone largely ignored by Palestinians, Israelis and the rest of the world. This alternative, advocated by Arab and Jewish intellectuals
such as Edward Said and Rabbi Moshe Sober respectively, is centered in a
peaceful coexistence of Palestinians and Israelis.
For the purpose of this essay, Rabbi Moshe Sober’s writings on the
solution will be discussed. Sober eloquently outlines a resolution manifest in what he
calls the Confederation of Israelis and Palestinians (CIP), which would be a
democratic, and a binational state.
Sober’s plan is not new and is reminiscent, at least territorially, of
the 1947 United Nation’s partition plan (United Nations Resolution 181).
The only addition to the British mandate territory of 1947 would be the
Syrian Golan Heights (currently occupied by Israel).
Politically, CIP would be divided into ten “cantons,” where “some
of [which] will be predominantly Jewish, some predominantly Arab, and some
mixed,” with Jerusalem as a separate canton, serving as capital of the new
state and containing Christians, Muslims, and Jews.
CIP would have a new constitution guaranteeing equal citizenship to all
Palestinians and Israelis.
CIP’s government would be composed of a unicameral legislature, a
supreme court, and a ceremonial executive branch (modeled on the current
structure of the Israeli government). The new government, composed of Israelis and Palestinians
elected popularly would ban the Zionist Law of Return—the law which calls upon
all Jews from across the globe to “return” to Israel—and replace it with a
law that welcomes all Palestinians and Jews wishing to return “back” to CIP.
In support of CIP, Sober argues that Israel had always been a binational
state and that under his vision, Israel would transform itself into a truly
democratic state, guaranteeing democratic rights to all its citizens.
Moreover, the idea of CIP would be supported by most moderate
Palestinians who realize that they have no other option, especially since those
moderates already deal with Israel as a legitimate state.
As mentioned earlier, the concept of CIP is not a new one, but rather
might be “too late” since most Palestinians and Israelis now have the
mindset of separation and autonomy. CIP,
however, must not be intellectually rejected since it seems as a most logical
solution that would alleviate Israeli security concerns of having a separate
Palestinian State and would mitigate the abuses of Palestinian human rights.
Additionally, the CIP proposition and its implementation may help lighten
Palestinian economic hardships and may even harbor nonrevivalist nationalism
among Palestinians, so long as the Islamists are not suppressed or thrashed
based on political reasons. Although
preliminary and untested, Sober’s notion of CIP may increase security in the
Middle East since it will take a spike out of the Arab World’s burning
conscience over the issue of the Palestinian Diaspora and ease Islamic
bitterness toward the control of holy sites by “conquerors.”
For centuries, Jews, Muslims and Christians have lived together
peacefully in Palestine. It was
only after the end of World War I and the dawn of modern nationalism, the
subsequent Balfour Declaration, and several wars did Jews and Arabs become
unable to live together.
In the notion of CIP may be the correction of historical misfortunes that
have divided two peoples of one land long enough.
In the meantime, the PA and the Israeli government must devise a method
of future cooperation and interdependence, even the unlikely event that the
Gaza-West Bank territories gain full autonomy under the PA.
of the most important issues that Israelis must come to terms with is the
concept of Zionism. According to
Palestinian elections signaling the creation of Palestine as a nation has been
predominantly met with optimism by Israelis and Arabs alike.
However, Jews have also begun to mourn the demise of Zionism as a driving
In retrospect, Zionism as an ideology is a century’s
old concept, initiated by Theodor Herzl at the Jewish Council in Basel,
Switzerland. Herzl’s original
theory, however, did not insist on a Jewish homeland in Palestine but rather was
open to anywhere Jews can live in a Jewish state.
Historically, Zionist claims to Palestine—although understandable—are
derived not from Herzl but instead from a strictly European colonial ideology.
As far as Herzl was concerned, a Jewish homeland could have been in
Kenya-Uganda and would have uprooted the indigenous people living in that region
instead of uprooting Palestinians. Also,
according to Levine
the Palestinian nation is being born, the Zionist dream might be playing itself
out as the increasing materialism within Israeli society moves further and
further from the ethos that motivated the Zionist enterprise during its
A change in ideology on both sides is a major step to
building peace and prosperity in the violent and downtrodden Palestinian-Israeli
conflict. In opposition to Zionism
are Muslim and Christian claims to Jerusalem and Palestine as being sacred
grounds for all Abrahamic religions—not just to one.
Choosing between conflicting words of God however is a very difficult
task, since if one word is preferred over another, the idea of God is
discredited to at least one party. While remaining a major obstacle to peace, the contradictory
claims between peoples of the Qur’an, the New Testament, and the Torah can be
resolved when individuals know how closely linked they are.
Education of the “other” can help beset the stereotypes that have
haunted Arabs and Jews alike and allowed each side to interpret and follow
arbitrary commandments that have created hate and mischief in the hearts and
minds of most Israeli and Palestinian women and men.
now stand face to face with what they perceive as injustice and broken promises
by their own leadership and Israel many years after the beginning of the
Intifada. They sit and wait with a
ravaged economy on the one hand and failed promises of improvement on the other.
The “deeply fragmented” Palestinian society is at a crossroads in
history; plagued by the problems of 50 years of dispossession, internal
displacement, bloodshed, and occupation. The
Arab-Israeli conflict will only be resolved by self-determination, whether along
the lines of Sober’s Israeli-Palestinian Confederation or through complete
territorial severance from Israel. The
latter does not only mean having separate boundaries and sovereignty, although
the two are prerequisites to any subsequent steps, but also the freedom to act
as the popular will dictates and not have another sovereign infringing upon the
Palestinian right to liberty. Along
with international assistance, Palestinians can resolve their internal political
and economic dilemmas as well. Although
the current PA is not satisfactory to many critics, it is and will remain the
voice of Palestinians for the time being and thus the main implementer of the
provisions of all agreements. Rivaling the PA, Islamist groups such as Hamas and Jihad can
only be domesticated through a democratic system of government and freedom of
assistance should not only be in the form of loans, grants, or investments, but
should also include political assistance such as the monitoring of elections to
ensure fair trials of candidates and ideologies.
Monitoring can be accomplished through the United Nations and must
include a commitment to the Palestinian people of free and fair elections.
In addition, Israel must face consequences for its actions—not only by
the United Nations alone—but also by the United States.
The latter must halt its policy of blindly supporting Israel on all
issues and commit itself to the equality of Palestinians.
Benefits of supporting Palestinian self-determination will outweigh the
costs of increased militarism, despair, institutional decay, antagonism, and
human conditions, according to Tickner, not only destroy any impetus behind
security, but they also undermine the very nature of peace seeking.
Moreover, the outmoded realist assumption on state security must undergo
a serious revision in seeking a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. Security should be
redefined to include all areas of human suffering and must be treated as a
collective and holistic concept in order to stifle the potential for violence.
While Palestinian statehood may be the only solution to a century’s war
between two peoples, it will create other sets of problems to regional security.
Aside from the traditional realist threat to security, an economically
weak Palestinian state may engender problems too common to other Third World
countries. Conversely, Israeli
conceptions of sovereignty as a holy construct must be revised in order to
decrease the perception of Palestinians as an impediment to the Israeli general
will. There simply does not exist a
unified Israeli or Palestinian nationality, but instead, both nationalities
contain many divergent views running the gamut of the political spectrums.
In addition, power in Israeli-Palestinian relations must not exist for
the sake of coercion, but rather must take on a mutually beneficial relationship
between both Palestinians and Israelis.
a beneficial relationship can only exist if both sides accept the complex nature
of security as outlined in this essay by Leatherman et. al., Buzan et. al. and
Tickner and avoiding the Protracted Social Conflict as defined by Azar.
The intercongruence of both background attributes of the conflict as well
as the process of the conflict have the potential to be transformed into a
partnership for peace without unfair capitulation by one side or another.
Such a scenario would transcend the current power structures inherent
within the peace process that serve to privilege one group at the expense of
another. If both sides adopted
alternative models of security equally, every issue would be considered as
important for one side as it is for the other.
This type of atmosphere has more of a potential to produce a genuine and
viable peace than the solutions offered in the status quo.
Such an atmosphere is also long overdue given the possibilities for
large-scale escalation for the first time since the beginning of the Oslo
negotiations. Capturing the
opportunity now would secure, for the first time in contemporary Middle Eastern
history, an atmosphere of cooperation rather than the current one of mistrust
To conclude with
Moughrabi’s eloquent words:
I believe that, given a chance, the Palestinians can
become the only democratic society in the Arab world. To have a passport, never mind a voice, you still need a
state, and thus the trappings of statehood—borders, sovereignty—are viewed
as central by almost all Palestinians. Statehood
means that Israel can no longer confiscate their [Palestinian] land, demolish
their houses, and uproot their trees. It
means, potentially, that they can choose their identity, both individually and
self-determination can, as mentioned earlier, take shape in two ways: “CIP”
or “Palestine,” since these two concepts are not mutually exclusive and
since Israeli respect and recognition for Palestinian identity is an integral
part in Sober’s outline of CIP. Unfortunately,
because of the Arab-Israeli conflict’s attenuated timeframe, the first
generation of the Palestinian Exodus may never return to their farms, homes,
shops, families or lives in their former homeland. Currently, an end to the conflict does not appear in sight,
since Palestinians and Israelis alike live in an entrenched interlude neither
between peace agreements that have brought peace nor agreement.
Observers and students of the Arab-Israeli conflict however must be aware
of the prospects for peace and the endurance of the Israeli and Palestinian
peoples in the quest for peace. Indeed,
most Israelis and Palestinians realize the benefits of peace and historically
understand the consequences of the absence of lasting peace.
Palestinians and Israelis must realize that the peace process is only a
gradual proceeding requiring the earnest cooperation of both sides.
Final resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict must be consistent with
international law and must attempt to correct the injustices suffered by
millions of people for over a century. Only
through lasting and equitable peaceful conditions, open mindedness and
reconciliation among Arabs and Israelis can a “final status” agreement
survive the trials of time and former enemies.
Buzan’s definition of security deviates from the traditional unimodal
definition by including a wider range and a network of security variables,
including security based on sectors of the military, environment, economy,
society, and politics. See
Buzan, Barry, Weaver, Ole and de Wilde, Jaap.
Security: a New Framework for
Analysis (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1997), ch. 8. Throughout this essay, I will reference this definition of
security, in addition to Anne Tickner’s, and compare them to the defacto
definition that both Israelis and Palestinians have subscribed to, and
continually apply in the status quo, and since the beginning of the