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Choosing between a novel promise or new peril

By Alon Ben-Meir - posted Wednesday, 14 January 2015


Throughout the 48 years of Israeli occupation, both Israelis and Palestinians have adopted and implemented policies in an effort to buttress their positions when in fact these policies have proven to be dangerously counterproductive and have now come back to haunt them. Both sides need to take a hard look at what has gone wrong and start by disabusing themselves of the notion that either can have it all, which was the driving force behind their political actions.

Although successive Israeli governments preached the gospel of a two-state solution, they have systematically adopted policies that run contrary to that promise.

They have continuously built new and expanded existing settlements. Driven by a messianic impulse, they usurped Palestinian territory inch by inch with the intention of creating irreversible facts on the ground, rendering the prospect of a Palestinian state unrealizable.

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Although the settlements enterprise seems successful, it is jeopardizing Israel's spiritual well-being and creating the conditions for what Robert Jay Lifton calls an "atrocity producing situation." That is an environment structured in such a way that an "average person entering it could be capable of producing atrocities."

The kidnaping and brutal killing of three Israeli teenagers and the retaliatory abduction and burning to death of a Palestinian child is one of many cases in point.

Methodically harsh measures have been taken in the occupied territories, including night raids, imprisonment without trial, limiting of mobility, arbitrary search and seizure, punitive home demolitions, and revoking residency, among others. All this has led to diminishing Israel's democratic principles and its prospect of remaining a Jewish state.

As a result, the psychological response of both the occupiers and the occupied has led to fear, loss of trust, helplessness, anger, and grief, as well as indiscriminate rage and brutalization.

While robbing the Palestinians of their dignity, these ruthless practices have dehumanized the Israelis themselves and invited widespread international condemnation with far-reaching repercussions.

Adding insult to injury, Israeli leaders have regularly engaged in acrimonious public narratives portraying the Palestinians as evil, untrustworthy, and bent on Israel's destruction.

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Over time, a large segment of the Israeli population became persuaded that there is no worthy negotiating partner, which has severely undermined any prospect of a peace agreement, forcing the Palestinians to seek an international remedy which will have a profoundly adverse effect on the country.

They have exploited the Palestinians' disunity and the presumed existential threat posed by extremist Palestinians as the reason why peace remains elusive. This fatalistic approach amounts to nothing short of a self-inflicted wound, as only peace can ensure Israel's security and longevity.

Israeli politicians have used national security as a blanket to justify any misdeeds while using military force to provide a quick solution to an endemic conflict, provoking violence instead of stability. As a result, Israel has gradually become a garrison state – isolated, scorned and reviled for having lost its bearing and raison d'être.

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About the Author

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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