Some major compromises are needed to achieve a lasting peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The duration of the conflict has, however, led to such engrained attitudes, policies, strategies and aims that compromises are extremely difficult. The number of people killed in the conflict is also a factor. Parties on both sides want to ensure that the dead did not die in vain. Here are the perspectives as seen by either side:
The Palestinian Perspective:
More Palestinians have been killed in the struggle than Israelis. The Palestinians have a greater weight on their shoulders to avenge deaths by gaining a sovereign state and other conditions. However, this also gives the Palestinians the greater desire for peace, because as the conflict goes on they will continue to be the biggest losers in terms of civilian casualties.
The Palestinians have also come to believe that Israel does not want peace, because of the provocative tactics during ceasefires and negotiations. Like the West Bank arrest raids during the recent ceasefire, and the current operation in Nablus, which has dampened hopes of restarting the stalled peace process: Israel's failure to adhere to previous peace deals, like the settlement expansions contrary to the U.S. brokered roadmap agreement, reinforces the Palestinian view.
As does the West Bank "security" wall that Israel is building. Mainly because the Palestinians negotiations rely on the formation of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, the wall is well inside these borders in some places. Palestinian Negotiations Minister Saib Uraiqat said last year: "This is a policy of dictation and not negotiation, this prejudges and prejudices the outcome of permanent status negotiations."
This prevents the Palestinians from making any further concessions or compromises, because the concessions they have made in the past – like the Palestine Liberation Organization's recognition of Israel – have yielded nothing in return. In their resistance lies their dignity, and their dignity is almost all they have left.
The Israeli Perspective:
Israel has received heavy financial and military support from the U.S. throughout decades of conflict. Israelis may well doubt whether this would continue if they were no longer under threat from Palestinian terror. The U.S. supports Israel because it wants an ally in a position of supremacy in the vital Middle East region. But Israel also being threatened certainly makes it easier to explain to the U.S. public why heavy support is needed.
The Israeli government also has strong remnants of the Zionist movement that was the driving force behind the creation of the Jewish state – on the very land so symbolically important to the Jewish faith. As Israeli academic and author Ilan Pape told me in a recent interview, "Israel is an unfinished project of statehood." The Zionists crave certain lands that they believe religious heritage has dictated for the final Jewish state, and hence Israel's reluctance to define borders. To this end, the conflict is necessary, because it diverts attention from Zionist transgressions and because the Palestinian threat begets strong security measures, like occupying Palestinian land whenever necessary, along with the land-annexing security wall. These measures are also extremely provocative, and fuel the vicious cycle of violence.
The wall has been deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice. And the United Nations Security Council has tried many times to issue resolutions against the high civilian death toll of Israeli military operations, occupations and Israel's transgression of human rights laws, as well as taking measures to bring about Israeli adherence to earlier resolutions. The U.S. has used its veto almost every time to prevent the Security Council from condemning Israel's activities. Over the years the unquestioning U.S. support for Israel has become engrained in Washington’s psyche.
The duration of the conflict has also allowed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to become one of the strongest lobbying groups in the U.S. Its primary objective is ensuring continued U.S. support for Israel. Until Israel is held accountable for its actions, the Zionist element will remain strong and will continue to strive for its dream at the expense of peace and the Palestinian population.
The threat that makes this possible is constantly manipulated to present fear for Israel's existence and to allow constant reminders of the Holocaust and the guilt we should all feel – especially the U.S. – for failing to stop it. This aim was helped by the Hamas charter calling for the destruction of Israel, despite the fact that Hamas has never been close to having the means to achieve this aim. This kind of manipulation forces the Israeli population to back Tel Aviv’s reluctance to compromise for peace. Because the fear of Palestinian terrorism is amplified, the Israeli population believes that giving them their own state would not stop the terror; and in fact the terror groups would continue to force the Israeli government to concede more and more land.
This view was strengthened after the Gaza disengagement. Because the Israeli government evicted Jewish residents to allow for the withdrawal, in Israel it was seen as a significant concession by the government – but the terror continued. The Palestinians were still under the Israeli microscope, still had no control of their border, and were still enduring flyovers and high decibel sonic booms from Israeli fighter jets, thought to cause pregnant women to miscarry. Thus Palestinians saw the disengagement as creating an open air prison and a propaganda tactic to strengthen support for Israel's government at their expense. It worked, like all similar tactics in the past. The disengagement strengthened the Israeli view that their government wants only peace. The provocative actions over the years suggest the opposite.
Required for Peace:
The Palestinians too, are guilty of allowing other issues to cloud their judgment and supersede their desire for peace. It is the Israeli government, though, that needs to take the first step.
Until Israel puts Zionism back in its box – having served its purpose – and makes some sort of compromise to counter the Palestinian views caused by the years of the cruel occupation and Zionist land grabs, there will be no compromise from the Palestinians. Until there is compromise from the Palestinians, especially over the right of return – which Israel cannot grant because it would end their Jewish status – there will be no final status agreements and no lasting peace.
Israel won't take the first step until the international community starts holding it accountable for its actions, and this won't happen until the U.S. stops shielding it from the UNSC. This, if it ever happens, will likely come in line with U.S. pressure on Israel to commit to achieving a lasting peace with the Palestinians, and perhaps a threat to withdraw support if they don't. This would place significant pressure on the Israeli government to commit to peace, but will only happen if U.S. interests in the region change drastically.
If Israel committed unquestioningly to peace, after the initial doubts, it would undoubtedly trigger a similar commitment from the Palestinian population and government. Such a commitment from both sides is what is really needed to end this conflict.