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Before it is too late

By Alon Ben-Meir - posted Wednesday, 21 October 2015


It was always a question of when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would violently erupt once again, which only proves that, contrary to the prevailing views among a multitude of Israelis, no Israeli government can manage the occupation indefinitely. The current replay of past violent flare-ups points to the dismal failure of Prime Minister Netanyahu's policy.

That said, I do not suggest for a moment that all Palestinians are innocent bystanders; Palestinian leaders, including Abbas, have their share in provoking the unrest. But those Israelis who call on their government to use harsher measures to prevent further escalation should answer a simple question: what happens the day after a successful Israeli crackdown, and where will all this lead to?

They all seem to conveniently forget or ignore that what is fundamentally wrong here is the continuing occupation, which by its own very nature cannot be sustained without paying an increasingly heavier toll on both sides.

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The stabbing and killing of innocent Israelis is most reprehensible, and the perpetrators should be brought to justice if they survive the aftermath of their atrocious acts. The Israeli government has the responsibility to take security measures to prevent such criminal acts.

The use of excessive force, however, only provokes more intense violent resistance and fuels the already-existing Palestinian extremism which is not likely to abate, however brutal and forceful Israel's counter-measures might be.

Whether or not the violence was instigated by the Palestinian Authority's unfounded accusation that Israel is changing the status quo at the Temple Mount/Haram el-Sharif is hardly relevant, even if it were true.

If the conflict over the Temple Mount did not instigate the current flare-up, any other incident would have ignited it because the conditions on the ground were ripe for such a violent uprising.

A multitude of Palestinian youths live in abject poverty, are despondent, and have no hope for the future. They feel completely abandoned by their own government on the one hand, and are choked by the Israeli occupation on the other.

The fact, however, that Jerusalem was the flash point is especially worrisome as the city houses the largest number of Israelis and Palestinians living side-by-side. If Jerusalem cannot provide the microcosm of Israeli-Palestinian peaceful coexistence, there will never be peace between the two sides.

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When it comes to the use of force, Israel will sooner than later prevail, which may calm the situation, but only temporarily. The general shifting of the Israeli population to the right-of-center and the enormous power the settlement movement wields make matters considerably worse.

Extremists on both sides will continue to provoke each other, which will only set the stage for the next bloody confrontation if the political status quo and conditions on the ground remain unchanged.

Israel, rather than the Palestinians, will end up licking its wounds, because irrespective of how many Palestinians are killed and how much destruction they sustain, it is a small sacrifice they happily make in their march toward statehood.

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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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