Tom Segev: Conflict Management not Peace in The Middle East

Tom Segev, Israeli jouranlist (and author of the actually good book on the 67 War) with an insightful if nearly totally depressing op-ed in the Washington Post.

Segev:

I belong to a generation of Israelis who grew up believing in peace. At the end of the Six-Day War of 1967, I was 23, and I had no doubt that 40 years later, the Israeli-Arab war would be over. Today, my son, who is 28, no longer believes in peace. Most Israelis don’t. They know that Israel may not survive without peace, but from war to war, they have lost their optimism. So have I.

Because:

Apart from the conflict’s cruelty — particularly toward civilians, including numerous children — the present eruption is most likely to be remembered as yet another step in a long march of folly that began in 1967.

Following the Six-Day War, the Israeli government contemplated moving hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza and resettling them in the West Bank. That could have made the present situation infinitely less convoluted. But the plans remained on paper because some of the most powerful members of the Israeli government, including the right-wing leader Menachem Begin and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, believed that the West Bank should be reserved exclusively for Jewish settlement.

This was probably the worst mistake in Israel’s history. With nearly 300,000 Israelis living in the West Bank today and an additional 200,000 living in the formerly Arab part of Jerusalem, it is almost impossible to draw sensible borders and achieve peace.

Undoubtedly the post 67 euphoria (partly nationalist, partly religious, which are always mixed in Israeli-Zionist history…even the secular there has a kind of religious fervor), the decision to settle into the West Bank (which as Gorenberg pointed out was really accidental and certainly not thought through) has sealed the region into a forever stalemate.  There is no Palestinian state I’m sad to say anywhere on the horizon.  I think frankly one should just be created on paper, since it is never going to happen otherwise in real life, and then possibly the fact that it exists will make it come to exist.

But this sadly seems to me to the truth all around:

This conflict is not merely about land and water and mutual recognition. It is about national identity. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians define themselves by the Holy Land — all of it. Any territorial compromise would compel both sides to relinquish part of their identity.

Segev says Israel should return to what it was created for, being a Jewish democracy (not as in Gorenberg an Accidental Empire).  It would require a complete withdraw from The West Bank but I just can’t see that happening.  They are too enmeshed, too embedded, the occupation as a cancer on the Israeli political body strikes me as too deep.  Such a radical operation and political chemotheraphy seems beyond any politician in a fractured electoral environment.

The result of which:

I no longer believe in solving the conflict. What I do believe in is better conflict management — including talks with Hamas, which is a taboo that must be broken. The need for U.S. engagement has led me, along with many other Israelis, to harbor high hopes for the administration of Barack Obama. The Bush administration was mainly concerned with keeping alive a diplomatic fiction called “The Peace Process.” But there really was no such “process.” Instead, the oppression of the Palestinians continued and intensified, even after Israel had evacuated several thousand settlers from Gaza in 2005. More settlements were put up in the West Bank.

Agreed.  Again either declare the state or don’t and manage the conflict (or maybe do both).  Don’t have a process towards a Palestinian state because that is all it will ever be–a process towards some unachievable goal.  To change Lennon:  Don’t Give Peace a Chance.  Here Yoda holds true: Do or Do not, there is no try.

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Published in: on January 11, 2009 at 5:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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