Now I disagree fervently with him on two versus one state, it is trying to put the genie back into the bottle 60 years on. Similarly with respect to Hamas, I believe their ideological dynamics cannot be accommodated in peace with Israel, Jew hate is pretty much all they do...Yet within that spirit of seeking discussion on I/P sans bile with (hopefully) added enlightenment, I lay before my three readers (or possibly two, given Sarah is away on holiday :), the competing nationalism and steady state aggression model of the I/P conflict
In the last few years I've come to the conclusion that the problem is tripartite
#1 Palestinian nationalism has been a wholly reactive phenomenon. From the Grand Mufti onwards, defining the Arabs of Palestine from the Jews has been the objective. The Jews of the National home and then Israel have been depicted not as neighbours (fellow travellers of the Book?) but as an intrinsic threat to Arab identity. In the inter-war period, the Jewish community had a highly developed sense of group identity and represented a modern society at a time where Arab society had yet to undergo a 'nationalisation of the masses' in Mosse terminology. Jews ceased to be one particular community within a multi-ethnic system of estates but rather a competing (and winning) nation state in waiting. The inter-war period saw a rise in social scission as both sides sought to maximise their advantage and in the case of those around the Mufti, bring about a final ethnic solution. The fragile ethnic peace was torn apart by these competing identities and as such partition became increasingly necessary.
Neither Fatah's faux-socialism nor Hamas' Islamism has added to that. Hamas are still doctrinally committed to the forced expulsion of Jews, be they of immigrant descent or of ancient 'Levantine stock'. Fatah built its legitimacy not as a shadow government but as a resistance movement, it never attempted to govern as an elite but rather as a vanguard of action. Anti-Semitism of the darkest and most brutal type was maintained within public discourse as useful ideological glue.
This discourse thus fertilised the ground for Hamas' more violent and cathartic program of endless war and endless reiteration of identity. It should be remembered that for Hamas, Palestinian nationalism is merely a tool and a stepping stone towards a future Caliphate based on Qutb's blend of Islamic modernism. They did not even try to govern, as governance beyond partisan gain and the reinforcement of their military capacities would be counter-productive to their strategy of tension.
Hamas have yet to see beyond this Utopian caliphate, nor the dead ends of MB doctrine. Theirs is a universal and unlimited creed, so in a very real sense, without the room for compromise on essentials. I hope, and alas that is all I can bring to this conflict, that Fatah can begin to act like a party of competent governance and move on from the stasis of suffering that they, the Arab governments and Israel have left many Palestinians in.
#2 Those Arab governments, who for 60 some years have made so much propaganda gain and popular legitimacy from their support of violence need to transfer their monies and efforts towards ending the continued suffering of the Nabka. Rather then support Hamas with guns whilst keeping their own Palestinian populations in camps as second class citizens, both disenfranchised and excluded (to a degree absent in Israel), they should seek to make their 'brother Arabs' a prosperous Diaspora, ready and confident for the founding of a true Palestinian national home.
The use of the I/P conflict as a heroic grand narrative for domestic suppression in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia has been a energising myth, one that has been taken up by the radicals of the MB, HuT and Islamic Jihad. It has poisoned both discourse and policy wherever it has been raised. Its hypocrisy, as demonstrated by the Hama massacres and Black September, must be realised before progress of any kind can be made.
#3 As for Israel itself, it bears the scars of a society baptised in wars with its neighbours. Its society is aware of both its historic uniqueness as the sole Jewish state and the seemly systemic enmity of the Arab world towards it. It is of course, a remarkable successful nation, rich, democratic and comparatively for the region extremely liberal. Yet it has had to deal with an existential threat for much of its life, endemic violence and what might be called the seduction of the periphery. The expansion of settlements has been lead not centrally but from those on the border.
Given the legalistic blur which surrounds the extents of Israel's borders and the status of the West Bank and Gaza, there is a powerful incentive to claim Arab land as Israeli. Given the overlapping jurisdiction of spoils of war, partition plans of yesteryear and the diplomatic no-mans land that resulted from the treaty-less peace, Settlers and Soldiers could claim land and gain government protection. The Jewish right of return made the land betwixt ‘the Sea and the Jordan’ seem over-crowded and certain voices (never unanswered and un-argued) sought a complete conquest via expulsion. The anti-Nabka, the fleeing of North African and Middle Eastern Jewry from their ancient communities after 1948 under intense pressure gave a righteousness to a cause that would lead a democracy towards a half solution: neither ethnically cleansing historic Palestine nor keeping to the partition or the green lines. The solution is clear. The former is a dead end, of deepening a bloody conflict with one ‘last’ act of conquest. The latter requires a worthy and competent Palestinian government, facing down the dogmas of the past, Arab non-interference and putting the plight of the Palestinians first and an Israel brave enough to take the risk.
Weather or not this convergence can occur is unlikely. But peace needs these self-destructive trends to cease.