(Article originally published 14th May 2021)
Here we are, then; a tragedy both extremely simple and incomprehensibly complex.
Is there a more infamously divisive conflict than that between Israel and Palestine?
No matter what you think of this, the longest-lasting and farthest-reaching of the many problems facing the Middle East, it is likely that the topic elicits a strong response. It is, after all, arguably one of the greatest tragedies of the modern world. A tragedy where, at its core, both sides of the argument are more or less understandable. Where the methods employed by both range from, again, understandable to deeply atrocious.
Here we are, then; a tragedy both extremely simple and incomprehensibly complex. What are we to make of it? Why are we trying to pin the blame on, at the very least, one group of people? Is there anyone even to blame?
Going into this article, I want to clarify my personal position on this conflict. I think that both states, Israel and Palestine, have a right to exist. I think both have a right to self-defence since they are both states. Because they are both states, I find the settlement of the lands which are rightfully Palestinian deeply, deeply troubling. I think the Palestinians, like everyone in the world, have an inalienable right to protest against these actions and the other actions of the Netanyahu government.
Where are the leaders?
One striking feature of this outbreak of violence is the utter silence and negligence from the leaderships of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has only recently actually taken charge. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have been striking Hamas (not the Palestinian Authority - we’ll get to that later), yes, but leading up to this Netanyahu has essentially done nothing. Instead of trying to calm tensions, tensions which Jerusalem is no stranger to, he ignored them. What started out as part of a depressing routine has spiralled into the worst violence for years.
This is probably because of the story that has been lost in this conflict: Netanyahu is very close to being ousted. He has been unable to form a Government, and now the President of Israel has asked a rival to form one - which is extremely close to actually happening. To me, it seems that this negligence from Netanyahu is a result of petty spite and dejection. He may yet survive - if a new government cannot be formed, Israel will go to the polls for the sixth time in the last two years.
But this isn’t just an Israeli issue - Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, the largest organisation advocating for Palestine and arguably the basis for Palestinian Statehood, hasn’t even made any statement for two weeks. The last time we heard from Abbas, the last of the “old guard” of the PLO, was when he cancelled Palestinian elections.
Abbas has turned the PA from a Palestinian state into his personal fiefdom. He hasn’t allowed an election since 2006 - when he lost the election to Hamas, a result he decided wasn’t the right one. Abbas and the PA should be who Palestinians, both within their lands and those living in Israel and Gaza, should be looking to for guidance. Instead, it may as well be that both just vanished from this plane of existence.
That leaves Hamas. Hamas, to me, is the perfect distillation of both sides of this conflict. It has done objectively good things - setting up schools and hospitals in Gaza, for instance - and objectively horrifying ones, such as suicide bombings and rocket strikes against civilians, not to mention dehumanising Israeli Jews.
What is to be done?
That is the question at the heart of this conflict. Unfortunately, the answer at the moment is just another question - what can be done?
The solution, according to the most extreme supporters of both sides, reminds me of Bosnia in the nineties. To these people, the only way to win is to attain a single state, where the opposing people are driven out of their homes to go to the vague “somewhere else” - that, or they are just exterminated, or reduced to second-class citizens.
The simple fact of reality is that Israelis and Palestinians aren’t going anywhere. That rules out the single-state solution. But the Two-State Solution is, as it stands, also unworkable.
What I hope for is that this, the worst violence for years, is a wake-up call to both Israel - whichever government that emerges - and Palestine - either the PA or another organization, whichever emerges. The Two-State Solution needs to be re-negotiated, reworked, remade. Palestine and Israel both deserve to exist - they also both deserve good governments, good quality of life, good social programmes. Above all, they both deserve peace.
Neither will achieve it without the other.
Alex is a Masters student from Portsmouth, finishing an MRes in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at the University of Glasgow. His main areas of interest are the Former Soviet Union, the politics behind COVID-19 Restrictions, and Authoritarianism.
Disclaimer: All views expressed in this piece belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Demographica as a company.
Cover Photo Credit: DEZALB from Pixabay