The Conflict Between Israel And The Palestinians Will Go On And On Neither side can prevail militarily. Both camps have factions that consider the other side a mortal enemy

WASHINGTON – Whatever the outcome of the current Israeli military operation aimed at destroying or at least downgrading Hamas’ ability to launch missiles from Gaza into Israel, one thing is clear: a permanent, credible peace between Palestinians and Israelis is impossible. 

Mutually exclusive claims

Leaving aside the many nuances of positions and opinions within the two camps, the insurmountable issue is that we have two ethnic groups with essentially mutually exclusive, near-absolute claims over a rather small piece of land.

While the Israelis have said that they are open to a two states solutions, they have also declared that they would accept only a Palestinian state that would be able to prevent any hostile action against Israel originating from its territory.

Well, since this is essentially impossible, because there are Palestinians willing to keep up the fight against Israel, no matter what, here is a perfect excuse for not allowing a Palestinian state.

Beyond this, the Israeli settlement policy is a not so subtle tool to slowly but incrementally change “the facts on the ground”. The more Israelis live in the occupied territories, the more the occupied territories become de facto part of Israel.

Neither side can win

And peace will not come as a result of a military victory. Israel, notwithstanding its unquestionable military and economic superiority, cannot “defeat” the Palestinian radicals who are willing to continue their ideologically motivated fight against the Jewish state essentially “for ever”. By the same token, while Hamas has enough strength to make life difficult for the Israelis, it does not have the resources to destroy Israel.

Religious origin of territorial claims

And there is more. Many religious Israelis maintain that all of Palestine belongs to the Jews, because the Bible says so. While there are many Jews who hold secular views, and would therefore accept the right of Palestinians to live next door in lands considered Jewish by religious people, the very fact that a significant chunk of the Israeli nation believes that all of Palestine belongs to them is an incredibly powerful obstacle to the full and unconditional acceptance of a real Palestinian state.

From the Palestinian side, same story. There are many pragmatists who honestly believe that peace and compromise are both possible and desirable, and that two states can live peacefully side by side. But then there are other Palestinian factions that are absolutely unwilling to recognize Israel’s right to exist, under any circumstances.

And we know that these extremists are aided and financed by Iran and others who are delighted to keep this wound open, this way forcing Israel to be in a state of permanent military alert, and therefore forced to devote inordinate amounts of precious resources to its national security.

Permanent peace?

Given these mutually exclusive ideological prejudices that make any compromise impossible, a real, permanent peace agreement is out of the question.

It may be possible to have pragmatic arrangements that allow most Palestinians to survive and may be even prosper in their “quasi-state” status. But this is about it.

Hamas and Israel: the conflict continues

As for Israel and Hamas, do not expect any “resolution”. Neither side can prevail in a definitive way. Even assuming full success of the current Israeli military operation, at best Israel may be able to substantially degrade Hamas’ ability to launch more rockets against the Jewish state –for a while. But Israel cannot “defeat” Hamas, an elusive guerrilla force that hides within the Palestinian civilian population. And, as long as Hamas can count on substantial support from Iran and others, it will have the resources and the incentives to recruit more members and continue its ideological fight against Israel.

All wars must end

Sure enough, if we take the really long view, history tells us that all wars, including unconventional conflicts, “eventually” come to an end. The Franco-German animosities ended. The Vietnam War ended. The Cold War ended. And so on, and so forth.

But historic animosities, many of them fueled by religious or ideological beliefs, end only because the state of mind of the key players is altered substantially.

If, at some point, both Palestinians and Jews abandon the ideological and religious arguments that justify and reinforce hatred and mutual suspicions, then peace becomes possible, because there would be no longer any interest in a costly and protracted confrontation.

But, until that moment, expect this old conflict to continue.

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