Palestinian students protesting in Gaza - AP - February 29. 2012 -
Palestinian students protesting in Gaza, February 29. 2012. Photo by AP
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At last Likud and the moderate right have found a formula to save the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No longer will they talk about "conflict resolution" - the phrase now is "conflict management." The explanations are many and they sound convincing - the split between Hamas and Fatah, the large gap between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority on the core issues, and the most common excuse of all: There's no partner on the other side.

All this supposedly makes it impossible to resolve the conflict and reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians. So the focus has to be on maintaining the status quo; for example, strengthening the Palestinian economy, making things easier for the people, and making gestures to the PA such as removing roadblocks. (But heaven forbid, not releasing prisoners arrested even before the Oslo Accords. They will be left for the next time a soldier is abducted)

Meanwhile, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz has planned a railway route for the West Bank (the Likud primary is coming up ) while Naftali Bennett, the former head of the Yesha Council of settlers, is proposing a temporary diplomatic plan for managing the conflict. Bennett's idea sounds logical: Since it's impossible to solve the conflict or annex the West Bank as it is, Israel must unilaterally annex Area C (under exclusive Israeli control ) and give the 55,000 Palestinians living there full Israeli citizenship.

The problem with the plans by Bennett, Katz and everyone else who seeks to "manage" the conflict is that they are dancing a tango alone. There are no Palestinians in this story. They are expected to accept, with love and submission, the annexation of some 60 percent of the West bank and make do with traveling around that area without encountering roadblocks or soldiers.

The real problem is that since the West Bank's security situation has settled down, the Israeli public and media ignore the Palestinian issue and concentrate on "entertaining news" from the territories - a new theater, a soccer game, a car race, and even the opening of a branch of Kentucky Fried Chicken in Ramallah. There's nothing to say anymore about resolving the conflict and there's no one to talk to about it. So on the assumption that things will remain quiet, the present situation has to be preserved.

But in recent weeks there have been signs of a change for the worse in the West Bank's security situation. The Palestinian people, who have been in a state of apathy for the past four and a half years, (since the Gaza upheaval in June 2007 ) are showing the first signs of agitation. The hunger strike by Islamic Jihad's Khader Adnan got hundreds of people out onto the streets, and an Israeli right-wing group's announcement on the Internet about the Temple Mount led to the worst clashes there in recent years.

Also, the assumption that an improved Palestinian economy will provide immunity against a third intifada is no longer valid. Growth in the West Bank over the past few years is slowing and only a small stratum of businessmen and tycoons enjoy the "economic peace."

This trend can be expected to intensify. The more progress the Palestinians make in their internal efforts to reconcile (held up because of the crisis in Hamas ) and the longer the diplomatic stalemate, the greater the Palestinian people's anger. We can assume that putting up another outpost or violence by the settlers will add fuel to the next round of violence.

Solutions to the conflict are not yet on the horizon. This stems mainly from the leaders' lack of desire on both sides to make painful compromises that could cost them their seats, not because a solution is lacking. The leaders' ignoring of the urgent need to resolve the conflict and the accusations between them are only bringing the next intifada closer.