Friday, July 10, 2009

Step By Step

What constitutes the "end" of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? To many, it seems, the answer is "the establishment of a Palestinian state". But that's only half the story. The end of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict -- the goal we are trying to achieve -- is a Palestinian state that exists side-by-side, in peace, with Israel. And it's important to keep our eye on the ball.

The fact is that establishing a Palestinian state does not necessarily mean that the conflict is over. It might accomplish that, and I believe it is a pre-requisite to accomplishing that. But Hamas' recent declaration that it does not accept the two-state solution in principle, but would nonetheless join a unity government in a Palestinian state, shows that two states does not inevitably mean peace. Hamas' agenda is pretty clear: it views the establishment of a Palestinian state on '67 borders as a stepping stone to the total "liberation" of Palestine (which is to say, the eradication of Israel). This, of course, is the precise allegation right-wing Israeli skeptics make when opposing the peace process writ large.

The reason why I want to harp on this is because I think a lot of people mistakenly view "steps to ending the conflict" as synonymous with "steps to creating a Palestinian state". That's clearly an important part of the agenda, but it isn't the only thing that has to happen. Of significant importance also is laying the foundation by which Israel and Palestine will exist peacefully next to each other. That means tamping down on extremist rhetoric aimed at delegitimizing Israel as a whole, taking a strong stance against maximalist firebrands who want to see the conflict prolonged as long as possible, and generally building and rebuilding the norm that both Israeli and Palestinian aspirations are important and worthy of respect. People who are undermining that project -- even if they think they're doing it in service of creating a Palestinian state -- aren't actually doing the peace process any favors. Statehood matters. But recognition matters too.


Rebecca said...

I do think Hamas and other extremists will lose popular support and power as Palestinians gain more rights, though.

David Schraub said...

I think so, and I hope so, but it is not inevitable-so. And it's not something we can take for granted. Peace requires work.

Rebecca said...

Absolutely. (And, reading over my comment, I realize that "popular support" could be interpreted as "all popular support" rather than "some," which was not what I meant - I should have been clearer.)