Bernard Avishai makes it his business to respond to “rash opinions” about Israel and its conflicts. His recent opinion piece about the Israel-Palestine conflict, published as a Prospect first draft (the finished article is available in this month’s hard-copy Prospect), begins:
“Most people know, roughly, that Palestine is two entities: a West Bank majority, nominally led by the Palestinian Authority—but really by a secular business and professional class in Ramallah—and an Islamist minority, centred in Gaza, run by an arguably pragmatic but unarguably totalitarian Hamas. What we have yet to learn, however, is that Israel is two entities also.
There is a slim secular majority, a Hebrew-speaking republic centred in Tel Aviv that profits increasingly from links with the outside world. This Israel is hawkish about security, but opposed to annexing occupied territory. It is comparatively highly educated and cosmopolitan, vaguely committed to democratic norms and therefore to a peace process. It can imagine a Palestinian state alongside an Israeli one.
But then, set against this, you have Israel’s second state. This is not the one-fifth Arab minority who might never accept a Jewish state. Instead, since 1967 Israel’s Zionist settlement policies and laws privileging orthodoxy have engendered a huge Judean state-within-a-state: anchored in Jerusalem, largely theocratic, and deeply implicated in the ongoing West Bank settlements. Judea is less educated than its Hebrew cousin and instinctively more tribalist. Judeans are largely wards of the state. Most see peace—that is, a return of two million Palestinian refugees to Greater Jerusalem—as the end of their way of life.
Only through understanding the fundamental divides on both sides can President Obama break the deadlock.”
Most people on the ground in Israel, Gaza and the occupied Palestinian territories, understand this. Some of them want to tip the region into conflict – they are without exception those who seek a single state solution, broadly speaking the religiously-motivated settlers and Hamas. Of course there are some settlers who simply love the land and want to remain, whether under Israeli or Palestinian authority. Of course there are some in Hamas who are fighting the occupation as Muslims, but who are resigned to the existence of Israel. And of course there are some single staters who think it would be better for Israelis and Palestinians to share that particular bit of land – although these latter are hugely outnumbered by the others. But the way things are, the extremists are poised to fight each other like two cats in a bag.
How can British Greens help to avoid exascerbating the conflict and forcing ordinary people to the extremes, away from a negotiated resolution and towards a military one?
Not by supporting one side over the other.