Not peace, not war, but common denominators

The laws of physics dictate that two straight lines will never meet. This is also true in politics and particularly in intractable conflicts. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an example of two straight lines, two diametrically opposed worldviews, which will never meet. In the worldview of the State of Israel and the Jewish people, the conflict between Israel and the Arabs is based on the question of “who started it”? Israel has throughout its short history attempted to prove that, in essence, acts of war were launched against it by the Arabs, while it used force only to defend itself. Therefore, in attempting to reach peace, Israel asks to secure itself against the possibility of future acts violence against it.

The Arab approach, which is currently being presented by the Palestinians, claims that the Jewish people do not have an inherent right for a national home in the Middle East. Therefore, the question of who started it is completely irrelevant, as the imperialist conqueror has no basic rights. When a conflict is based on these two lines of reasoning which can never meet, there is no possibility of reaching a solution that would bring an “end of claims”. Israel’s demand to recognized as a Jewish state, attempts to frame the conflict around the terms that it requires to be sure that the Arab worldview has changed. However, the Arabs reject this framing, indicating that they view peace as more of a ceasefire or calming of the situation, in order to postpone the conflict to a later date, without revising their negation of Jewish national rights.

For several years during Israel’s existence, relations between Israel and its neighbors was defined by a ceasefire. This ceasefire allowed each side to live with its conception, without requiring that the other side accept the justice of its claims. Each side accepted a ceasefire, as it did not have the resources to continue war. However, there was no desire to accept the rights or worldview of the other side.

Today, a final status solution would require each side to pay a price that it cannot or is not willing to pay. Thus, a different approach is required — a long term ceasefire, which would enable interested parties on each sides to explore common denominators for cooperation based on mutual interest, which would benefit each society. The exploitation of such common denominators has a power of its own, as if it benefits both societies, those who desire war over a ceasefire would lose public support. Even without agreement on fundamental issues, such an approach can lead to a type of co-existence, which would benefit the people of the region.

Thus, the lack of a final status agreement must not result in resumed conflict or a desire to punish the other side, but the exploration of a different concept which abandons the “all or nothing” approach. The culmination of a range and breadth of common denominators would result in a kind of recognition which would benefit both societies.

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center
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