The conflict is intractable
There is not a single issue in the conflict that defies resolution. For almost a century, it has been clear that only a partition of the land can serve the interests of both peoples and therefore all serious proposals have been based on the two-state solution. The commonly cited core issues in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are Jerusalem, refugees, borders and settlements, and security. While no single negotiation process in the past has led to a comprehensive agreement, each one has clarified potential compromises and mutually acceptable solutions for all of the above. In addition, the Geneva Accord provided a detailed, public, agreed-upon blueprint for peace on the core issues as well as many more (water allocation, Gaza-West Bank contiguity, etc.). While the negotiations and final Accord were unofficial, bilateral support for it reached the highest levels of both societies, with significant public support for the plan as well.
Neither side is prepared to make compromises
Throughout the history of the peace process, leadership on both sides has offered substantial compromises on core issues that are popularly portrayed as “unsolvable.” For just a few examples out of many:
- Israel agreed that the Arabs parts of East Jerusalem will become the capital of Palestine
- The Palestinians agreed to a land swap that will enable Israel to annex land which is home for the majority of the settlers
- The Palestinians agreed that their state will be a non-militarized one
- Israel agreed that a symbolic number of Palestinian refugees will be able to return to Israel
While leaders throughout the decades have presented different levels of openness and flexibility on different issues, the offers on the table represented concrete steps within a zone of possible agreement. One consistently harmful issue, however, is how little the Israeli and Palestinian publics know or believe in the concessions for peace that the other side’s leadership has been prepared to make over the years.
The failure of the Oslo Accords proves that the peace process is hopeless
The Oslo Accords established the Palestinian Authority and the transfer of authority in civil matters such as education, culture, health and policing to the Palestinians for a temporary period of five years, after which time a permanent agreement was supposed to be reached in which the parties would resolve all core issues. In practice, the fact that this was only an interim agreement which set aside negotiations on complex issues for a later date created opportunities for the continued establishment of facts on the ground that are counterproductive to a final-status agreement (e.g. expansion of settlements), and for violent extremists trying to sabotage the peace process. The truth, however, is that despite the failures and problematic nature of the interim agreement, almost thirty years after Oslo, Israel has not dismantled the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Authority has continued coordination with Israel. Both sides implicitly recognize that without the Oslo Accords and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, the likelihood of violence increases.
We have reached a point of no return
The Geneva Accord provides a blueprint in which 75% of Israeli settlers living in the West Bank would be annexed to Israel as part of a land swap, and would not have to be evacuated. Israel has the capacity to absorb the rest – in fact, the majority of Israeli settlers living in the West Bank already work in Israel proper. This would create territorial contiguity throughout the West Bank, alongside a special corridor connecting Gaza and the West Bank to ensure freedom of movement within a unified Palestinian state. Evacuations of homes is an inherently difficult and sensitive policy to carry out, but the Israeli government has made that call in the past (Sinai in 1982 and Gaza in 2005) when necessary to ensure the security and identity of the state.
Meanwhile, public opinion polls among both Palestinians and Israelis consistently show that the majority in both societies still prefers peace in the form of the two-state solution. Due to misinformation, continued cycles of violence, and stagnation of negotiations, that support has shown a decline in recent years – but the preference for a two-state solution over any other option remains clear among Israelis and Palestinians. It is true that there are extremists in both societies that envision, promote, and work for permanent domination of one people by the other throughout the entire territory; these represent a small minority of the broader populations, and the lack of progress towards a peace agreement only serves to strengthen them.