On the Path to Blood, Sweat and Tears

Why the renewed conflagration in the firing zones was only a matter of time.

Salaman Masalha
Salman Masalha
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Salaman Masalha
Salman Masalha

The two so-called "nationalist" movements that have been fighting over this country for decades have reached a critical stage in their struggle. No attempt to seek out the guilty parties who are responsible for creating this mess will help, nor will doing so advance the desired solution. Needless to say, the blame lies with the shortsighted leadership of the two nations. These are the same leaderships that, each for its own reasons, refused to recognize the existence of the other national identity developing in this country. After all, any such recognition would have cut the ground from under the national demands of each.

This non-recognition has left the coals of the national conflict smoldering beneath the surface, suffused with the vapors of bloody memories. The renewed conflagration in the firing zones was only a matter of time. The Six-Day War intensified the national imbroglio because it unified all aspects of historic memory, with all their demographics, under the umbrella of one occupation. The settlements sown over the years only intensified the Israeli occupation's hold in the territories, and created a situation that renders it difficult to find a way out of the complicated situation on the ground.

As long as the Palestine Liberation Organization operated militarily against Israel from across the border, the residents of the territories waited for salvation from the outside, both from the Arab world and from the PLO itself. The peace agreement with Egypt removed the largest Arab country from the sphere of conflict with Israel, and the first Lebanon war removed the PLO forces from Lebanon. With outside assistance eliminated, the Palestinians in the territories were left alone in their battle against the occupation. Such is the background to the outbreak of the first intifada.

Despite attempts to extricate ourselves from this national imbroglio by means of the foreplay at Oslo, the Israeli occupation continued to become entrenched, with another outpost and another bypass road, another "thickening" – a euphemism for expansion within built-up areas – and further natural and artificial multiplication. The two decades that have passed since the Oslo Accords failed to create any movement toward the solution for dividing the land into two nation-states.

The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, which was carried out unilaterally, without coordination with the Palestinian leadership, was not motivated by good intentions and not meant to promote the two-state solution. Its only objective was to eliminate the demographic burden of Gaza on the one hand, and to create an impenetrable barrier between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank on the other.

The domination and entrenchment of Hamas in Gaza serves the Israeli interest. Israel is interested in strengthening Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, thereby deepening the rift between the two regions, which were supposed to become one political unit. Because of the separation and the deepening of the rift between Gaza and the West Bank, the Palestinians will be unable to appear before the world as one body with a sole accepted leadership that can make decisions and impose its will on the Palestinian people.

The Israeli right and the Palestinian right, therefore, actually need each other as much as they need air to breathe. They fuel one another and increase the national imbroglio. In the absence of a diplomatic horizon for a solution based on the principle of fairly dividing the geographic area between the two nations, there are voices that are trying to think out of the box and seek another way to share life in this divided land.

But in spite of their good intentions, these voices seem to be playing around with naive, messianist illusions of transforming swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Without the solution of a fair division into two nation-states – with all that implies – we seem to be on the path to a Balkan situation of blood, sweat and tears.

Palestinians hurl stones towards Israeli security forces during clashes at the Jalama checkpoint on February 24, 2013.Credit: AFP

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