The Two-state Delusion: Israel And Palestine--a Tale Of Two Narratives

Paperback | July 26, 2016

byPadraig O'malley

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“A thoughtful autopsy of the failed two-state paradigm . . . Evenhanded, diplomatic, mutually respectful and enormously useful.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Disputes over settlements, the right of return, the rise of Hamas, recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, and other intractable issues have repeatedly derailed peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine.
Now, in a book that is sure to spark controversy, renowned peacemaker Padraig O’Malley argues that the moment for a two-state solution has passed. After examining each issue and speaking with Palestinians and Israelis as well as negotiators directly involved in past summits, O’Malley concludes that even if such an agreement could be reached, it would be nearly impossible to implement given a variety of obstacles including the staggering costs involved, Palestine’s political disunity and economic fragility, rapidly changing demographics in the region, Israel’s continuing political shift to the right, global warming’s effect on the water supply, and more.
In this revelatory, hard-hitting book, O’Malley approaches the key issues pragmatically, without ideological bias, to show that we must find new frameworks for reconciliation if there is to be lasting peace between Palestine and Israel.
Praise for The Two-State Delusion:
“Impressive . . . [O’Malley] has done a tremendous amount of research about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He’s not only delved deeply into the literature; he’s also interviewed dozens of participants on both sides. The result is a book so packed with information that it will reward even the reader so dedicated that she consumes the Israel-Palestine stories buried on Page A17 of The Times.” —The New York Times Book Review
The Two-State Delusion provides an impartial, empathic but relentlessly objective look at our reality . . . [and] a refreshing departure from the blame game in which Israelis and Palestinians and their respective international champions try to make the other side responsible for the peace process’s failure. And it diverges from the tendency to find the trick that will do the job, and comes to a conclusion as intellectually compelling as it is dismaying.” —Haaretz (Israel)
“An honest assessment of where the Israelis and Palestinians are right now.” —Cleveland Plain-Dealer
“Exhaustively researched . . . There are no heroes in O’Malley’s account, and no clear villains either.” —Publishers Weekly

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“A thoughtful autopsy of the failed two-state paradigm . . . Evenhanded, diplomatic, mutually respectful and enormously useful.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)   Disputes over settlements, the right of return, the rise of Hamas, recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, and other intractable issues have repeatedly derailed peace negot...

Padraig O’Malley is the Moakley Chair for Peace and Reconciliation at the McCormack Graduate School of Global and Policy Studies, University of Massachusetts. He has dedicated his career to studying and helping to resolve conflicts in Northern Ireland, South Africa, and beyond. He is the author of Shades of Difference and Biting at the...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:512 pages, 8.3 × 5.4 × 1 inPublished:July 26, 2016Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

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ISBN - 10:0143129171

ISBN - 13:9780143129172

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 IntroductionWithin forty-eight hours of taking the oath of office in January 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Senator George Mitchell as his Special Envoy for Middle East Peace. Obama’s Joint Chiefs were already telling him the anti-Americanism among Muslims that U.S. soldiers encountered in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and elsewhere in the region posed a danger to their mission and lives. While much of this sentiment could be attributed to post-9/11 sensitivities, Muslims’ perception of America’s lack of evenhandedness during the long Israeli-Palestinian conflict and their perception that the United States always sides with Israel no matter the circumstances served as ongoing sources of resentment. Settling the conflict in the Middle East could no longer be left to the protagonists. Now American national-security interests superseded their parochial concerns. For decades the two peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, had fought one calamitous engagement after another, dithered from one fruitless negotiation to another, always managing to end up further from peace than ever. A resolution of this conflict was required.Obama agreed with the Joint Chiefs’ assessment. Finding a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict became one of the new administration’s foreign-policy priorities. Getting Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiation table, with the United States “running interference” and prepared to play “tough love” if necessary, could lead the two sides to agree to some kind of two-state solution—perhaps one that neither side was entirely satisfied with but one that met their needs, if not necessarily sufficiently meeting their interests. Perhaps the new borders for the two states would be even more complicated than gerrymandered congressional districts and the mapmaking creatively accommodating. But no matter: A two-state resolution was the only feasible option. All of the “experts” agreed—and on this alluring subject there are hundreds, if not thousands, of experts.“It’s not rocket science,” said Robert Malley, then director of the Middle East program at the International Crisis Group (ICG), now a senior director of Obama’s National Security Council. “And a lot of people who have looked at this have reached the conclusion that the parties won’t reach there on their own. If the U.S. wants it done, it will have to do it.”1Wanting it done, yes; putting its own proposals on the table, a very different matter.Special Envoy Mitchell hit the road, shuttling throughout the Middle East, with numerous stops in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to visit Israel’s newly elected prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu; in Ramallah to visit Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and president, too, of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO); and in the capitals of Arab countries in the region.“The most relevant question to the two sides,” Mitchell told me in 2012, “is how they cannot see that their interests would best be served by getting into a serious negotiation in which they could reach an agreement that would then allow them to achieve what they say they want to achieve. That the longer it goes without that kind of negotiation and without that kind of agreement, the less likely they are going to be able to achieve it.”2>> Act I opened in Cairo.On June 4, 2009, at Cairo University, President Obama delivered a speech that reverberated throughout the Muslim world.3 He promised “a new beginning” to undo the damage to the relationship between the United States and its Muslim counterparts, which had deteriorated badly following 9/11. Addressing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he reiterated that the United States did not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements and cautioned that further construction should stop.Days later, during a speech at Bar-Ilan University, Netanyahu reluctantly embraced a two-state solution for the first time, albeit postulating a Palestinian state in terms that fell well short of what hitherto had been discussed in negotiations.4 Netanyahu’s coalition was one of the most right-wing governments in Israel’s sixty-year history, and his policies on the Palestinian issue were dictated by the need to hold his coalition together. Any proposal that would further arouse the ire of parties in the Likud, the party he headed, or any to the right of it, of which there were several in his governing coalition, would almost certainly be rejected out of hand if it threatened their time-worn shibboleths.The Israelis were deeply insulted that Obama did not follow up his Cairo speech with a trip to Israel and furious that he would admonish Israel on settlements before an Arab audience. Israel interprets anything less than overt displays of unwavering support on the part of every American administration as signaling some kind of policy shift, now signified, it believed, by Obama’s calls for halting settlements. Meanwhile, the PLO seized upon Obama’s repeated insistence on a halt to settlement construction and made it a condition for resuming talks. After much cajoling—and some pressure from his allies in Europe—Netanyahu offered a ten-month freeze, which would not include construction already in the works or in East Jerusalem. He made the formal announcement in Tel Aviv on November 25, 2009.5 Weeks earlier, during a visit to Israel, U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton had praised Israel for making “unprecedented” concessions on West Bank settlement construction and urged both sides to renew stalled peace talks.6 The Palestinians insisted that the freeze had to include East Jerusalem.7 Haggling over the issue ate into the ten-month moratorium.In May 2011, Netanyahu visited the White House, following a March 2010 visit that had gone badly.8 By all accounts the May meeting wasn’t much better,9 further acerbating the already strained relations between the two men going back to Obama’s Cairo speech. In the joint press debriefing that followed, Obama was unequivocal: Settlements had to stop. In response, Netanyahu ignored the issue and focused on their discussion of the threat Iran’s continued enrichment of uranium posed.In September, the freeze lapsed with the Israelis and Palestinians still hunkered down in their bunkers. The Palestinians were adamant: no freeze on settlements, no talks. The Israelis met obstinacy with obstinacy: no preconditions, no talks.The curtains closed on act 1.>> Meanwhile, events across North Africa, hitherto unimaginable but with far-ranging and unforeseeable repercussions, moved to the fore. Spontaneous mass demonstrations of “people power,” beginning in Tunisia in December 2010, toppled long-entrenched dictators.10 Demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where hundreds of thousands of Egyptians from all walks of life demanded the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled Egypt with an iron fist for thirty years, were a riveting spectacle and ushered in the Arab Spring. The Middle East was being remade.When Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, ordered his troops to kill unarmed Sunni Muslim demonstrators in March 2011, what had begun as a peaceful protest escalated into a revolt by Sunni Muslims against the ruling minority Alawites, a Shia offshoot.11 The scale and brutality of Assad’s attempts to quell the revolt led to massive opposition to his regime; the revolt drew increasingly large numbers of the population to its side. Assad’s response: “Kill my citizens.” Although the ranks of rebel groups swelled, they lacked the weapons to withstand Assad’s savagery. Their appeals for arms from the West were met with silence, with the usual excuses of weapons falling into the “wrong” hands, but jihadists from across the Muslim world heard the call and made their way to Syria to wage jihad and help the rebels.12 When Assad’s regime appeared on the verge of collapse, Hezbollah, the Shia “resistance” movement from southern Lebanon, sent its elite units to fight on his behalf; they stopped the hemorrhaging and Iran, of course, remained the regime’s staunchest ally, ensuring Assad had the weapons he needed and on occasion sending units of its elite Revolutionary Guard to give additional weight to his counteroffensive. The Israeli air force struck Syrian convoys whenever it believed they were being used to transport sophisticated missiles to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Hundreds of thousands of refugees poured into Kurdistan in Northern Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey.The war, in its fourth year in 2015, still threatens to drag neighboring countries into the conflict or lead to internal instability, always regime threatening—Jordan stretched to cope with more than 627,000 refugees; 1.2 million refugees fled to Lebanon (which means that one of every four of Lebanon’s population is a refugee, unbalancing the country’s tenuous confessional equilibrium); close to 1.7 million fled to Turkey; and roughly a quarter of a million into Kurdistan. None of the countries is being given the financial humanitarian aid required to accommodate such huge deluges. The war in Syria has already and will continue to reconfigure the geopolitics of the Middle East, a proxy war between the Sunni Saudis and Shia Iran for regional hegemony, with Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, itching to reassert Egypt’s once-preeminent status in the region, and Turkey maneuvering to establish its own political space. Meanwhile, the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which now calls itself simply the Islamic State, cut an arc across much of Anbar Province in Iraq and northern Syria, intent on establishing a Caliphate in the region, sweeping all in its path with a brutality that defied understanding.13For Palestinians, the Arab Spring provided a dollop of much-needed hope: They had no doubt that once democratically elected Islamists had secured their governments they would take up the Palestinian cause. They are still waiting as the Arab Spring countries flounder, submerged in chaotic transitions.14 Israel reacted warily to the unfolding drama but with disbelief that Obama could call for the deposing of Mubarak, a U.S. ally but an ally, too, for Israel because he ensured the Camp David Accords (1978) were rigidly adhered to. Obama, Israel concluded, was very definitely not a reliable friend, although he provided it with more military aid than any of his predecessors.*Speaking at the State Department, Obama briefly revisited the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in May 2011 when he called for a two-state settlement along the lines of the 1967 borders.15 His speech elicited little response from jaded publics in both communities who had become immune to repetition. Besides, it was overshadowed by the regional turmoil. That same month, Senator Mitchell, who had persevered in his increasingly futile mission of employing his impeccable diplomatic skills to push and prod for the leverage that might break the deadlock, called it a day after twenty-eight months.*>> Act 2.Once Obama was reelected to a second term, he instructed John Kerry, his new secretary of state, to take up the cudgels. After six trips to Israel and the West Bank between March and July 201316 and with an indefatigable resourcefulness that earned him the admiration of Israelis and Palestinians alike, he coaxed the two sides to agree to talks for nine months. Talks resumed on July 28 in Washington DC. The naysayers had a field day. The news was met with skepticism and scoffing between intermittent yawns. The best of the pundits and the cream of Middle East experts were left flat-footed and flabbergasted that Kerry had actually gotten the two sides to the table. So much for punditry and its predilections. Few of the “experts” expected much to come of the talks; most expected them to collapse at some point; none saw them as paving the way to a two-state solution. And on this score they were right.In an extensive interview with David Remnick in the New Yorker in January 2014 on whether an agreement could be reached between Israel and Palestine, Obama, toughened by the vicissitudes of five years in office that had quenched much of his idealism and tempered his pragmatism, expressed what would be difficult to interpret as other than an assessment loosely laced with pessimism. Obama told Remnick that each of his three major foreign policy issues—the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iranian nuclear issue, and the civil war in Syria—had a “less than fifty-fifty” chance of success. “[I]n all three circumstances,” he said, “we may be able to push the boulder partway up the hill and maybe stabilize it so it doesn’t roll back on us. . . . the region is going through rapid change and inexorable change. Some of it is demographics; some of it is technology; some of it is economics. And the old order, the old equilibrium, is no longer tenable. The question then becomes, What’s next?”As it turned out, Ukraine was, and then ISIS.17>> In an op-ed in the New York Times on September 14, 2013, the scholar Ian Lustick, professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania and a longtime advocate of two states, drew attention to the fact that for more than thirty years all sides had been “wedded to the notion that there must be two states, one Palestinian and one Israeli,” while also for three decades “experts and politicians have warned of ‘a point of no return.’” John Kerry, he said, was merely “the latest in a long line of well-meaning American diplomats wedded to an idea whose time is now past.”What irked him most, perhaps, was that the “true believers” in a two-state solution couldn’t see beyond the position they so dearly clung to. They had no alternatives to propose, were not open to rethinking their basic assumptions, and as a result were “forced to defend a notion whose success they can no longer sincerely portray as plausible or even possible.”18Critics descended on Lustick like locusts. His peers severely rebuked him, questioning his logic and bemoaning his loss of “faith.”But what if Lustick is right? What if a two-state solution is now more remote than ever? And what if repeated attempts to negotiate one are actually damaging, rather than enhancing, the peace process?The obstacles to implementing a sustainable and enduring two-state-solution agreement have exponentially multiplied over the past twenty-five years. The idea that a settlement will emerge from the labyrinth of intricacies, conceits, disparagements, unfathomable misunderstandings, endemic fears, and competing claims layered with hate is becoming ever more remote. Negotiating a two-state solution requires a degree of trust on both sides that even the miraculous cannot conjure. And even if an agreement between them were reached, it would not necessarily be sufficient to secure a lasting peace. What’s more, the tectonic plates of history are always shifting and over time different sets of dynamics—demographics, the detritus of the Arab Spring, the civil war in Syria, the developing global war on ISIS and other transformative changes in the region—will change the contours of the conflict. The protagonists themselves may have less of a say in what the eventual outcome will be than they themselves believe.A resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict calls for a lot more than rocket science, as the current administration has now seen.By every yardstick the conflict qualifies as intractable. Violence perpetuates violence and further entrenches each side in its “narrative,” the prism through which each views the other and themselves. A half century’s repression in the West Bank, settlements, settler violence ignored by the IDF, “armed resistance,” political parties and other movements avowedly dedicated to “liberating” all of Palestine, the Second Intifada, and the political reconfigurations following the 2014 showdown between Hamas and the IDF in Gaza have compounded distrust at accelerating rates over the years. Not only has distrust hardened and deepened, but it has increasingly become a source of hatred and paranoia. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is rife in both societies and with it the socio-psychological convulsions it generates. Both sides see the conflict as existential, zero-sum, and therefore seemingly irresolvable. It is psychologically embedded in their DNA. Both Palestinians and Israelis “double down” on their respective historical narratives of the roots of the conflict, take refuge in their collective memories, disparage the other party’s narrative, and luxuriate in the righteousness of their respective cause, creating what experts in conflict resolution label an “ethos of conflict”—an ethos that entraps both sides.19 The conflict becomes a compelling, in some ways psychologically fulfilling, way of life. The moral clarity of blaming the other entirely is intoxicating. They have become addicted to it.This existential dynamic makes reaching an agreement on any number of more concrete political issues and “facts on the ground” even more insurmountable and becoming more so every day. The Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem continue to proliferate at an accelerating rate, complicating any eventual resolution. The hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised Palestinian refugees and their descendants living in the abysmal camps in neighboring Jordan, a dismembered Syria, and Lebanon continue to grow in number, as do the refugees still living in camps in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. As these populations swell, so does the difficulty (and, ultimately, expense) of addressing their eventual status in any agreement.What’s more, the internal politics of both Israelis and Palestinians are virtually defined by the overarching conflict, and nothing in these politics drives the leaders to a resolution. Just the opposite: The most powerful political tides, often driven by extremists, undermine any spirit of compromise and reconciliation. There are groups on both sides that would move tomorrow, and in all sincerity, to resolve the conflict—the basic elements for such a rational agreement are well established—but these doves are a small minority.Given the facts on the ground and, just as important, the “facts in the mind,” giving a final settlement agreement (FSA) a “less than fifty-fifty” chance is more wishful than realistic. Skepticism, like Lustick’s, regarding any initiative that seeks an enduring two-state solution is more than justified. After two and a half decades of failure and more than five decades of bitter animosity, which both sides continue to stoke, it is time to recognize the impossibility of reaching a two-state solution as it has been articulated and start engaging in a new process no longer hamstrung by false assumptions.>> I began work on this book in 2010, with the aim of uncovering why the seventeen attempts20 to reach a fair and just peace had failed and understanding how these lessons might be applied to ensure a more positive outcome for further rounds of negotiations. I wanted to know whether prospects for the two-state solution were any better now than they had been two and a half decades earlier.Since 1972, I have been involved in the conflict and post-conflict situation in Northern Ireland. I have written about it extensively, including three books; brought the warring protagonists together on a number of occasions; and conducted hundreds of interviews in Catholic and Protestant communities throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Since the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement in 1998, which finally brought the conflict to an end, I have continued my involvement in a reconciliation process that will be ongoing for decades while healing slowly evolves into a full recovery. In 1989 I began my research in South Africa, documenting the transition from apartheid to freedom. I ended up spending the better part of twenty years there, interviewing all the prime players on an annual basis. Many of these interviews took place while negotiations were still being conducted.21 I eventually wrote a book about South Africa, which President Mandela graced with a fifteen-thousand-word introduction.Feeling I had a solid grasp on the dynamics of these two conflicts and how they had been resolved, I decided to turn my attention to the third of the world’s most intractable conflicts: Israel and Palestine.>> How could a people, I asked myself, themselves the victims of the most heinous human atrocity in recorded history, subject another people to life under occupation? How could two peoples living cheek to jowl not find a way to resolve their differences after close to fifty years of conflict?Between 2010 and 2012, tape recorder in hand, I interviewed numerous Israeli Jews and West Bank Palestinians, most of whom had been involved in some senior capacity in every peace initiative since Madrid 1991. I also spoke with individuals who held senior positions in Hamas, a number of prominent Palestinian Israelis, civic society leaders, academics, an assortment of other leaders in both societies, and solicited the opinions of “the street” whenever the opportunity arose. The sum of these conversations forms the core of this book. Most of the interviewees are quoted in the text, many more than once; in some cases their responses are aggregated. All of them have been the bedrock of my understanding of the conflict, past, present, and future.Not one of my interviewees in Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza disagreed with Lustick’s conclusion. Most acknowledged that the “tipping point” for finding a two-state solution had been or was on the verge of being passed. They might not have described it as a “delusion,” but they were no longer optimistic that such a resolution could be reached. Neither is a single political leader in the conflict. Neither are their constituents. Poll after poll confirms as much. Nevertheless, both sides cling tenaciously to the belief that somehow, someday, the necessary leadership will emerge, throw off the yoke of the political mire their societies are sunk in, and rescue them. Given the increasing mistrust between both parties, the increasing complexity of the facts on the ground, and the political instinct for self-preservation, this seems extremely unlikely.In the end, many years down the long and winding road, many of the issues so contentiously and bitterly disputed today will simply become irrelevant as ineluctable political, economic, social, and natural forces over which the warring parties have little or no control shatter cherished dreams and long-held myths; erode the power of national narratives; redraw geopolitical maps to take account of the inexorable; compel human beings to reconfigure the ways in which they make choices; and realign the relationship between Israel and its allies and the Palestinians and their allies. In short, the facts on the ground will make the two-state solution not just delusional but simply irrelevant, and the only lasting solution to this conflict will slowly but surely begin to reveal itself once the two sides, in concert, agree that they must first heal themselves.  Chapter 1Early History: The Two NarrativesNarratives are stories. Historical narratives tell us about our past, from whence we emerged centuries ago, our trials and travails as we weathered all kinds of natural disasters, wars with other people, territories conquered and relinquished, whether we were part of empires at one time or another, how we emerged in our own right, how we came to be where we live, how our culture developed, and how our values formed. Our histories include enemies who attacked us and were repulsed, wars won and lost, the many different forms of government we lived under, whether we were colonized by another people, and how we fought colonization and found independence and self-determination. The evolution of our arts and literature, heroes we revere and our sense of moral being, how we became distinct and, ultimately, as we progressed through the vicissitudes of history, how we became a country or whether we are still aspiring to become one.Narratives are subjective and selective. They frame and filter concepts, images, and information according to desirable beliefs, values, symbols, traditions, and preferences. They are motivational tools that reinforce existing social identities and uniqueness. They arouse deep passions and allegiance.For the most part historical narratives can be verified, although facts are sometimes intertwined with mythologies, which, repeated often enough, become in themselves “facts.” Historical narratives tell us who we are. Compressed, they provide the building blocks for our distinctive identities. They place us in time, endow us with meaning. We thwart attempts to disrupt our narratives or have them questioned. In the modern era, historical narratives were the linchpins for emerging nationalism and the world’s various and multitudinous nationalities. Narratives can evoke a strong and complex array of emotions. They bind us to their rhythms.The Two-State Delusion is the tale of two historical narratives that clashed due to a unique set of circumstances and the consequences that followed; and of the efforts to somehow reconcile two irreconcilables, which unfortunately have made the conflict more intractable, adding to the tragedy.>>The Israelis and the Palestinians: two peoples with two histories that traverse and transcend millennia. These histories intersected in the late 1880s and clashed because both claimed the same land—Palestine—as theirs by immutable right: the Palestinians by virtue of historical presence, the Jews by divine ordinance, which they asserted took precedence, and because Great Britain, one of the great powers before World War I, lent support to their claim. The two claims were irreconcilable and ultimately led to conflict between the two claimants, a conflict that has persisted in one form or another for the better part of a century and has no immediate end in sight.The Jewish Israeli narrative begins with the expulsion of the Jews from their “homeland” (a concept that didn’t exist at the time) in Judea circa 70 CE.* After that, they spread across the earth—often involuntarily, throughout much of what is now Europe, Russia, and North Africa. Outcasts, despised as Christ killers, discriminated against, ghettoized, persecuted, and subjected to frequent pogroms, they nevertheless clung to the belief—for two millennia—that one day they would return to the land from which they had been expelled.By the 1870s, Jewish emancipation in most Western countries allowed Jews to enjoy the same rights, for the most part, as their fellow citizens. In Eastern Europe, especially Russia, where anti-Semitism was pervasive, the situation was very different. Under the rule of Alexander III (1881–94) hatred for the Jews reached its zenith. According to Conor Cruise O’Brien, author of The Seige: The Saga of Israel and Zionism, “By the end of 1881, pograms had hit 215 communities in southern and southwestern Russia, where most Jews lived.” The scale and frequency of pogroms increased; from 1882 onward the implementation of anti-Semitic measures was official policy;1 the worsening conditions and the rise of Zionism,* which evolved among Russian Jews from the mid-1850s and precipitated waves of Jewish immigration—aliyahs—into Palestine. This migration, along with a complex web of other events and the relentless politicking of Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann, culminated in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, giving a green light to the creation of a national “homeland” for Jews in Palestine under the protective umbrella of Great Britain.*2The Palestinian narrative is more straightforward: The Palestinians were the indigenous population in Palestine without interruption for 1,500 years. For over 600 of those years, from 1516 to 1923, Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire. Jews from Europe and Russia began coming, sporadically and in small numbers, for much of the nineteenth century. Palestinian natives welcomed these Jews, but beginning in 1882 they came in larger numbers: some 25,000–35,000 in the first aliyah (1882–1902) and then thousands more in the aliyahs prior to the beginning of World War I in 1914. When the Balfour Declaration was promulgated near the end of the war, the 66,000 Jews in Palestine totaled close to 9 percent of the population. The Palestinian population was not consulted. More aliyahs followed the end of World War I. Palestinians and Jews lived on the land in relative harmony until August 1929.In the years before 1929, Jews in Palestine slowly began to cohere around a concept of nationhood in the ancestral homeland that augmented, if indeed it did not replace, the glue of a shared religious tradition.3 Distinctions between Zionist Jews and Arab Jews became blurred as this growing nationalism became the most common source of Jewish unity. Any spirit of communal amity with the Palestinians, any sense of shared endeavor in a harsh land, began to give way to a dream not just of a homeland but of an internationally recognized state; not just a state that included Jews but a Jewish state with every Jew around the globe eligible for citizenship.*The Palestinians understood the implications of this vision for their own communities. In August 1929 a simmering dispute between Muslims and Jews over access to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in both the Jewish and Muslim faiths, turned deadly.4 “On the 15th August, 1929, some hundreds of young Jews organised a demonstration at the Wailing Wall, in the course of which the Zionist flag was raised and the Zionist anthem sung. Incensed by this, Moslems held a counter-demonstration at the same spot on the following day, when written prayers placed in the crevices of the wall by Jewish worshippers were taken out and burned.”5 Over the following week, 133 Jews and 110 Arabs were killed, 339 Jews and 232 Arabs injured in Hebron, Jerusalem, and Safed.6 Then, on August 29, an Arab riot in Hebron killed 67 Jews, among them women and children. Jewish businesses were pillaged and synagogues desecrated. This violence transmogrified Jewish-Arab relations almost overnight.7 Harmony was now ancient history, and the ethnic animosity in Hebron became the template for future relations between the two communities. The Jewish “beliefs were clearly counterpoised to the aspirations of the Arabs,” Hillel Cohen, author of 1929: Year Zero of the Jewish-Arab Conflict, writes, and “[those beliefs] turned all the Jews who subscribed to those principles into a single amorphous mass. And therefore, during the 1929 murderous riots, the Arabs in their own view were not killing their Jewish neighbors, but their Zionist foes who were trying to take over their country.”8In one sense, it was no different from neighbors suddenly turning on each other for no reason other than ethnic identity or religious persuasion.In the lead-up to World War II, the numbers of Jewish immigrants increased dramatically, in large measure because of increasing Nazi oppression in Germany, but a still larger number were prevented from immigrating because of British restraints limiting Jewish immigration. Resentment among the Palestinians simmered until 1936, when Palestinian Arabs revolted against the British colonial presence that permitted Jewish immigration on such a large scale. The insurrection lasted three years before the Palestinians surrendered. Nothing had changed. The number of Jews in Palestine had increased from 84,000 in 1922 when the first official census was taken to 450,000* on the eve of World War II.9 Eight years later, in 1947, the nascent United Nations made the Palestinian fear of an Israeli state more threatening when the General Assembly passed Resolution 181,* which would have partitioned Mandatory Palestine into two states, one an official homeland for the Jewish people and the other an official homeland for the Palestinian people. The Jews, who would be given 55 percent of the land but be saddled with a large Palestinian minority, accepted, albeit reluctantly. The Palestinians just as swiftly rejected it.10Two wars followed. The first, known by the Israelis as the war of independence and by the Palestinians as al-Nakba, or “The Catastrophe,” lasted less than a year, from December 1947* to March 1948, and was an intercommunal conflict between the Palestinians and Jews that triggered the exodus of Palestinians. The Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary organization founded in 1920,11 routed the depleted Palestinian army, which had never recovered from its defeat by the British the previous decade.12On May 14, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the foundation of the state of Israel, and eleven minutes after midnight on the fifteenth, the day before the British Mandate was to expire, the United States extended de facto recognition. The second war—which lasted from May 15, 1948, to March 1949—followed immediately. On May 15 armies from Jordan, Syria, and Egypt invaded, intent on destroying the new state of Israel and returning the land to its rightful Palestinian owners. However, their actions were not entirely altruistic; they were also motivated by their own territorial ambitions. To repulse the advancing Arab armies in 1948, the Haganah, now the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), enlisted 2.2 percent of the total Yishuv (the Jewish population of Israel) for the national defense.13 (The equivalent in the United States today would be a standing army of 7 million instead of the 1.5 million currently serving in the U.S. military.)The invaders were easily repulsed by the Haganah. Armistice agreements signed in 1949 awarded Israel an additional 23 percent of Palestine and part of the Sinai desert. The Israeli state now comprised 78 percent of Mandatory Palestine. The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, was annexed by Transjordan. When the fighting finally stopped, some 750,000 Palestinians had fled their homes and communities between December 1947 and March 1949, either voluntarily or involuntarily as a result of expulsion; they waited to return to their homes, as was mandated by UN Resolution 194.* They and their descendants are still waiting.>> Israel barred Palestinians from returning to their homes, violating the Geneva Conventions* and leaving them a stateless people—what the Jews had been—dispersed throughout refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq. In 1948, about 80 percent of Palestinians had become refugees.14For Palestinians redressing this mass flight today, the Nakba and the Right of Return* elicit as much hopelessness and passion as ever. Palestinians insist that this core issue must be resolved in negotiations according to the letter of international law. Israel, however, is adamantly insistent that it will never accede to the demand—to do so would threaten the very Jewishness of Israel. Moreover, Israel did not recognize the Palestinian population as “indigenous” to Palestine in the first place, arguing the land has always been theirs by divine right. The 13 percent to 15 percent of the Palestinian population who remained in their homes during the 1947–49 wars lived under military rule until 1966,15 and although they were given citizenship, they were not given equal rights.* They and their descendants are classified as Arab Israelis; the designation “Arab” perpetuates the belief that they came originally from one of many Arab countries and could have returned to one of many countries.* Israel itself has been “redesigned” since 1948, with every vestige of a Palestinian presence erased: street names, neighborhoods, artifacts all scrubbed clean of any Arab association and replaced with Hebrew nomenclatures.16 History is perceived as one of continuity.17 Jews were forced out of Palestine and after two thousand years they returned. The space between is a blank.To this day, Israeli Jews and Palestinians claim to be the legitimate owners of the same land. For over a hundred years they have faced off. Israeli Jews live in a country that is prosperous and democratic, a highly developed homeland for Jews from every corner of the earth; Palestinians have never accepted the logic that declares that their homeland must be sacrificed to that purpose. Agreement to share the land seems impossible. The respective historical narratives that justify each side’s ownership of the same land are competing narratives and irreconcilable,18 hence the interminable political struggle for a resolution that will somehow accommodate both narratives, and hence the intractable conflict. The human toll of dead and injured has had profound effects on the psyches of both Israeli Jews and Palestinians.19 From the First Intifada in 1987 until April 2014,* nearly 10,000 Palestinians and 1,636 Israelis were killed—a six-to-one ratio; as regards injuries, between 2000 and 2014, 8,549 Israelis were injured while between 2000 and 2009—a time frame five years shorter—approximately 35,000 Palestinians were injured. There were 16,626 Palestinians injured in 2014 alone, double the number of injuries to Israelis from 2000 to 2014. Interpret as you will.*Since 1948, with massive U.S. assistance, Israel has amassed the most formidable military in the Middle East. As a result, the Six-Day War in 1967 was an embarrassingly one-sided confrontation. Israel overwhelmed a coordinated attack by Egypt, Jordan, and Syria and found itself in military control of all of Palestine, including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (together referred to as WBG). Israel subsequently annexed East Jerusalem and refused to withdraw to the armistice lines of 1949, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and in defiance of UN Resolution 242, which called for “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”* Consequently, Israel has occupied the West Bank and Gaza for close to half a century and the Palestinians, an occupied people under its military rule, have lived in subjugation.*Our meta narratives define our values and norms and provide the underpinnings of our identity.20 When they clash with the meta narratives of another community that makes competing claims, the narratives develop a stranglehold on the political and cultural life in both communities and ensure, for better or, more often, for worse, that the past virtually dictates the future. In the Palestinian-Israeli conflict this makes it almost impossible to find common ground; and in its absence a peace process is hamstrung from the outset.It is impossible to understand the failures of the negotiations since those in Madrid in 1991* without understanding the protagonists’ respective narratives. And perhaps, just perhaps, their respective willingness to acknowledge the right of the other to its narrative and accord it due respect might provide a key to unlocking the prison to which they confine themselves, and thereby tentatively begin to chart the way to finding a different future.In my conversations with West Bank interviewees, the refrain is just that—the refrain. Every Palestinian interviewee wants the outside world to understand the historical injustice: the deviousness and hypocrisy of the great powers that endorsed the Jewish colonization of Palestine just as these powers were beginning to divest themselves of their own colonies. Israel, in their view, is a colonial creation imposed on the basis of an insupportable logic, the result of the deliberate expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland in 1947–48 and the expropriation of everything they owned except what could be carried away on a cart. Israel was consequently responsible for the suffering in the diaspora, especially Lebanon, and now for the day-to-day misery of living under occupation, subject to the whims of a capricious overseer.Because their experiences dictate their behaviors, they view their world through the prism of seemingly permanent humiliation, indignity, dispossession, and disrespect. The word “humiliation” suffused my conversations with West Bank Palestinians, leaving little room for other issues to become part of the dialogue. So while the Palestinian national narrative is invariably cast in terms of the Nakba and the occupation, a subnarrative is daily life in occupied territory. The protagonist is not an enemy on a battlefield in an ongoing war—that would have a certain clarity—but something much more insidious: the near-impotent life of the occupied at the hands of the occupying power.The proliferation of checkpoints, long queues at those checkpoints, routine inconveniences, bureaucratic pettiness, ill treatment and abuse by soldiers, roads reserved solely for Israeli settlers’ use, settler violence that is not checked by the IDF, arbitrary detainment with no recourse to due process all coalesce into the humiliation that is the real psychic cost of their being trapped in circumstances over which they have no control.Every Palestinian has a story about the arbitrariness of administrative detention: some neighbor or friend picked up in the dead of night, the lengths to which the family had to go simply to find out where the detainee was being held. And of course there is closure,21 which the IDF uses to restrict imports to and exports from the West Bank, stunting economic growth and levels of employment, threatening Palestinians’ livelihoods, creating uncertainty, and hence inhibiting investment.22 In addition, there is the separation barrier that cuts into the West Bank and encircles the settlements built around Jerusalem. The barrier sometimes cuts through fields and villages, separating Palestinian families, stranding neighbors on opposite sides, preventing farmers’ access to their farmland and other workers from reaching their jobs, restricting freedom of movement, and isolating Palestinians from the world beyond the walls.*Ironically, perhaps one of the more powerful evocations of the occupation dynamic comes from a young Israeli soldier, Oded Na’aman, who served two of his three years of compulsory military service at a checkpoint. In his essay, “The Checkpoint,” Na’aman captures the moment:Since the military occupies the land on which the enemy resides, it cannot conquer the enemy’s land any more than it already has. And insofar as the enemy has no land, it has no political independence, no real capacity for civic life. It is therefore impossible for Israel—logically impossible—to “go to war” with the Palestinians in the West Bank: Palestinian individuals may suffer to a greater or lesser degree, but the Palestinian people, as a people, cannot be further defeated. . . . But the checkpoints’ primary mission is to demonstrate presence, to exhibit the army’s constant surveillance and its overwhelming force. . . . [Y]ou cannot hide and you cannot fight; Israel is both omnipresent and omnipotent.23Akram Hanieh, whose connection with the peace process goes back to the Madrid conference and who is founding editor of the newspaper Al-Ayyam, recalled the shame he felt after a particular incident with his daughter:I remember that I was going with my child ten years ago, she was three. There were Israelis inside Ramallah. We were stopped by an Israeli Jeep and [the soldier] said, “Where are you going?” My child began to look queer at this guy who was asking her daddy these questions. After he allowed us to leave, she said, “Who is he, Dad? Why did he stop us? What is his uniform?” I didn’t say anything. How can you tell a three-year-old that it’s our country but there is an Israeli occupation?24A similar story with identical import is told by Issa Kassissieh, then deputy head of the PLO’s negotiations unit, for whom the humiliation had become unbearable: “It’s all about my dignity,” he said.When I go from Jerusalem to Bethlehem with my children, to go to Nativity Church, and then the troops will get me out and get their dog to sniff me, and see how my daughter and my son see me humiliated, this is bad. You don’t want to be in our shoes. And what we are struggling for? Justice and dignity. Keep it in your mind. That’s it. I care less about a national state. I care about my dignity.25And the same refrain is reiterated, yet again, by veteran negotiator Abu Ala:There are no good occupations in history. Occupiers are enemies to the people who are under occupation and rob them of their dignity. Protecting their dignity is the first thing people under occupation look out for. Why does this foreigner take away my dignity? Anybody who goes from one city to another will pass through an Israeli checkpoint. “Stop! Stop! Your ID? Your card?”26Jabril Rajoub is a Fatah party “heavy,” a member of the Central Committee, and often touted as possible successor to Abbas. At the time of our interview, he was president of the Palestinian Women’s National Soccer League, forced to spend large amounts of his time trying to navigate through interminable dealings with Israeli authorities on permits and visas for women playing soccer either at the club level or for the Palestinian national team or for foreigners, mostly FIFA or IOC members that want to come to the West Bank to assist in building the national teams. Permits are slow in coming, problematic at best, sometimes one-way only. “The problem,” he said, “is that the Israelis sometimes don’t give permits, or they exert pressure on countries from outside not to come to play in Palestine, or they do not let some Palestinian players leave to play, and sometimes they give the permit to leave, but they do not give the permit to come back. Once it happened with the goalkeeper; he waited ninety days in Jordan till they let him come back. Once, also, the captain of the national team had to wait sixteen months in Amman till the Israelis let him come back.”*27In March 2010 Saeb Erekat, the PLO’s chief negotiator, accompanied U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton and special envoy Senator George Mitchell to Benjamin Netanyahu’s home to discuss where things stood. One can feel the reverberations of Erekat’s anger when he describes the rude, dismissive way he believes Netanyahu treated him. First he had to wait outside the office while the Israeli prime minister talked with Clinton and Mitchell. Finally summoned into the inner sanctum, when he tried to present Netanyahu with the sheaf of papers the PLO had prepared, setting out the recent understandings reached by Mahmoud Abbas in his capacity as PLO chairman and former Israeli Prime minister Ehud Olmert on border and security issues, Netanyahu brusquely waved the papers aside with a flick of his wrist and informed Erekat that this was not the way he negotiated. Through the rest of the meeting, Erekat sat silently, an irrelevant appendage in the discussion.28At least once in every interview with me, Saeb Erekat rhetorically asked: “Who said life is about justness and fairness?” I had no answer for him.For every Palestinian, the humiliation and dispossession meted out by the omnipresent accoutrements of the occupation trigger both individual and collective memory. Different questions in different interviews with the same individual often elicited virtually the same verbatim answer. The response might have been laced with frustration, simmering resentment, barely concealed anger, derogatory remarks, accusations of duplicity, and/or claims of moral superiority, but it was mainly a recitation of the history and the humiliation of occupation, a demand for dignity and justice.Palestinians are singularly self-centered and absorbed with their loss. In my interviews, the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, as well as men and women on the street, rarely acknowledged conflicts and travail other than their own. Egypt and Syria are next-door neighbors, the Arab Spring and its ensuing tumult were at their doorsteps, but their reactions to questions about those conflicts were tepid almost to the point of disinterest. Although they had been witnesses to two Gaza wars29 between Israel and Hamas, Gaza was rarely mentioned in the interviews, and then only in passing. Some interviewees did opine that the Arab Spring uprisings simply didn’t measure up to the standards set by the Palestinians’ intifadas and that, of course, once democratically elected Islamic governments had their own houses in order, they would turn their attention to the Palestinians’ cause. Many emphasized that the Second Intifada was the wellspring for the Arab Spring: They were not averse to claiming some ownership of other peoples’ revolutions.Many West Bank interviewees appeared to be intellectually depleted, unable to engage in an exchange of ideas, cynical about further talks with the Israelis, and less than hopeful that a two-state solution would somehow be achieved anytime in the near future. Why should they want to explore issues they deemed irrelevant?Specifically, they had little interest in discussing the implications of the changing character of the Israeli state; how the Arab Spring and the general chaos in the region might impact Israeli security concerns; or how the regional balance of power, which is in a state of flux, was bound to change and might affect Palestinian aspirations and hence require a recalibration in the ways they pursue those aspirations. They politely answered questions about these subjects, but they rarely raised them as key concerns. They’d rather dwell on the narrative. They wanted an end to the divisions between Fatah and Hamas, but accounts of reconciliation between the two being imminent have proved false on so many occasions that new renditions are shrugged off. Perhaps the latest on April 23, 2014, that the two sides had agreed on a reconciliation pact will be taken more seriously if the stages of implementation it calls for begin to materialize.30 No one is holding his breath.In the West Bank, interviewees passed over the implications of Iran’s advancing nuclear capability (though the weight of opinion, unsurprisingly, came down in Iran’s favor). In Gaza the Iranians are cheered on. Questions about the efficacy of negotiating tactics and strategies were treated as sideshows of little importance, given the dismal record of the past and endemic distrust that has become more corrosive with every passing year, irrelevant in the context of the occupation.Over 50 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and more than 70 percent of Gazans are classified as refugees. Some 70 percent were born into powerlessness; about half are under seventeen years of age.* The occupation is part of the normalcy of life; even the youngest succumb to its psychological conditioning. It is impossible not to empathize with their dismal predicament. However, it is also clear that Palestinian leaders share at least some responsibility for their situation. They are not as powerless as they appear to be. Internal Palestinian politics, especially factionalism in Fatah and the inability or unwillingness of Fatah and Hamas to reconcile their differences have had debilitating and divisive impacts on the Palestinian polity. The fractious fighting in Fatah itself may yet be the party’s undoing,31 as different factions jostle contentiously, trying to ensure that their preferred candidate succeeds Abbas.32Palestinian interviewees invoked the sanctity of human rights at every opportunity, but the PA’s adherence to democratic norms in the West Bank is dubious at best. Human rights are routinely violated—the rule of law is capriciously applied, arbitrary arrests, detention without trial of potential political adversaries, occasional torture, press censorship, repression of union activity, suppression of dissent and restrictions on assembly for most forms of opposition.33 Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), once the backbone of local development, routinely come under the surveillance of branches of the Palestinian Authority Security Forces (PASF) and, of course, of the Israelis. The PASF itself, once praised for achieving a high degree of professionalism, is increasingly problematic.34 Low-intensity authoritarianism corrodes pluralism; new economic and political elites emerge, and their agendas take precedence over the best interests and the needs of their people.Such criticisms remain largely unmentioned and definitely unaddressed by the Palestinians themselves. Interviewees just didn’t want to go there. It didn’t serve the narrative. An intifada? Always unpredictable, but at the time of my interviews, unlikely. Every allusion to an intifada, however, comes with the invariable caveat: “You never know.” “Today,” said Hiba Husseini, a PLO negotiator during the Stockholm track,* “there’s a sense of deep fatigue, deep exhaustion, and disillusionment as to whether the occupation will ever end. Israel has managed to break our spirit in terms of violence, because the price has always been very, very, very high.”35Indeed, given the way in which the IDF, the undisputed overlord, has doled out death over years short of half a century, always using disproportionate force to remind Palestinians of the price they must pay for every “transgression,” resistance fatigue is understandable. But in a struggle that Palestinians perceive as a war against colonialism, epic resistance comes in waves, after which the tide recedes before powerful currents again propel them shoreward.>> Palestinians never forget—because they are not allowed to forget—the asymmetry of power on the ground in the West Bank that permeates their daily lives. Israel sees to that. Nor do they forget the asymmetry of power at the negotiating table and on the world stage. The word “asymmetry” is part of their lexicon. It has many uses, sometimes to cover up self-inflicted derelictions in their behaviors that undermine their cause. But there is little questioning of the fact that Palestinian negotiators are disadvantaged at the negotiating table because the dynamic is not of one free people negotiating with another free people. Instead, it is of one free, powerful people (Israel) negotiating with a people it oppresses (Palestine), with the third-party mediator—the United States—irredeemably biased in favor of Israel. “Washington will never be in a position to put pressure on Israel,” says Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee. “It is Israel who puts pressure on Washington.”36 The sentiment encapsulates the complaints of pro-Israel bias expressed by all Palestinian interviewees. Much as the United States and Israel might protest, the United States is psychologically predisposed to being biased, even unknowingly.* Akram Hanieh recalled a singular incident when the United States showed a conspicuous lack of empathy with the Palestinians’ circumstances, noting how distressed President Mahmoud Abbas was at President Obama’s address at the United Nations in September 2011, when he called on the General Assembly to reject the PLO’s application for membership as an officially recognized state on a par with Israel.37 “There was something very shameful about Obama’s speech,” Hanieh said. “He only adopted the Israeli narrative. He didn’t say a word about our suffering. I remember President Abbas in New York asking me something like seventeen times over two days, ‘Why didn’t he talk about our suffering?’ I believe this affront was something killing to us. I don’t care about the daily politics. I care about the narrative.”This asymmetry of power in the Mideast is guaranteed by America. Indeed, there is no gainsaying the fact that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has entered its sixth decade in large measure because Israel enjoys the absolute protection of the United States; Congress provides unquestioning protection and unprecedented levels of foreign aid to enhance Israel’s already formidable military capacity.38The impact of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is indisputably unsurpassable.39 According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $121 billion (current, or non-inflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance. Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance, although in the past Israel also received significant economic assistance.” That assistance is manifested in other ways. The CRS says:Strong congressional support for Israel has resulted in Israel receiving benefits not available to any other countries; for example, Israel can use some U.S. military assistance both for research and development in the United States and for military purchases from Israeli manufacturers. In addition, U.S. assistance earmarked for Israel is generally delivered in the first 30 days of the fiscal year, while most other recipients normally receive aid in installments. . . . In addition to receiving U.S. State Department-administered foreign assistance, Israel also receives funds from annual defense appropriations bills for rocket and missile defense programs. Israel pursues some of those programs jointly with the United States.40When sequestration slashed federal spending at all levels in 2013, with no exceptions, the trade journal Defense News noted, “Despite sequestration and protracted fiscal constraints, Israel can expect an additional decade of sustained and possibly increased levels of security assistance once its current $30 billion, 10-year military aid package expires in 2018.”41Stuart Eizenstat, a former official who negotiated an earlier aid package on behalf of the administration of then-president Bill Clinton, says simply, “Support for Israel in the United States is astonishing.”* While every U.S. administration is adamant in pronouncing that peace in the Middle East is a matter of U.S. national security and every administration calls further construction of Israeli settlements detrimental to peace, Israel continues building new settlements and expanding older ones. The weak-kneed U.S. admonitions are meaningless. So are UN General Assembly resolutions calling the settlements illegal, because the resolutions are vetoed by the United States if they reach the Security Council.* Yes, there are differences between the United States and Israel, but they are within the family and will result in, at worst, a temporary and functionally inconsequential estrangement. They will never be allowed to do real damage.In contrast, since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the mid-1990s, “the U.S. government has committed approximately $5 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians,” which puts them “among the world’s largest per-capita recipients of international foreign aid.”42 The aid, however, is allocated according to U.S. priorities: “Preventing terrorism against Israel from Hamas and other militant organizations. Fostering stability, prosperity, and self-governance in the West Bank . . . with . . . a ‘two-state solution’” in mind. “Meeting humanitarian needs.”43 Aid to Israel, on the other hand, is allocated according to the priorities Israel sets. With fiscal year 2014–15 as a baseline, Israel received $3.1 billion annually and the Palestinian Authority $400 million.*Consider Secretary of State John Kerry’s telltale choice of Martin Indyk as his point man in the last round of negotiations (2013–14). Indyk is an “insider” on the Middle East peace process, America’s first Jewish ambassador to Israel, and an important player at Camp David but one who is not trusted by the Palestinians. (Nabil Sha’ath, also an important player at Camp David, described Indyk as “partial, biased, pro-Israel” and said he “defended Israeli settlements more than Israelis did.”)Indyk is a fine writer and his accounts of both Camp David and the Oslo process in Innocent Abroad are vivid, fascinating in detail, and riveting reading, but his portraits of the two principals—Barak and Arafat—reveal not-too-nuanced admiration for the one and near disdain for the other.We learn that Barak was not just “Israel’s most decorated soldier,” but that he had also “gained these accolades as a commando involved in daring operations behind enemy lines”; had developed the IDF’s “Sayeret Matkal, the army’s elite commando unit”; had planned meticulously; and “insisted that an exit strategy always had to be built into the plan, so that if an operation went awry, the unit would be able to extricate itself before dawn.” Barak was prepared to make “tangible, far-reaching concessions to end the conflict once and for all.” Indyk says of Arafat, on the other hand, that he “inhabited a self-made, mythical world in which he claimed to be the only undefeated Arab general”; that “over many decades he had managed to blackmail his stronger partners by threatening collapse”; that he “understood that he was now the only game in town”; that “standing up to Barak and Clinton . . . was a surer way to survive than risking concessions that might risk him being devoured.” He claimed that “Arafat resorted to one of his tactics when finding himself in a tight corner: he lied”; that “Arafat was narcissistic enough to imagine himself following in the footsteps of these two great heroes of Muslim history” (Caliph Umar Bin al-Khattab and Saladin al-Ayyubi); that “Arafat had been seeking an escape route from the moment he arrived at Camp David.”44The overall impression he leaves you with is that Barak was prepared to make far-reaching and daring concessions to put the future of his country above personal considerations of power, that he had come to broker an end to the conflict. On the other hand, Arafat was conniving, dishonest, apt to change his mind, manipulative, not to be trusted, and he invariably put personal survival above what might be best for his people.His book reveals throughout an implicit pro-Israel bias, however, much as he may wish to be seen unbiased.* Considering his background as a Washington establishment insider, this particular “asymmetry” is perhaps a given. The Palestinians certainly believe so. Interestingly, when I interviewed Indyk in August 2011 in Washington DC, he was quite forthcoming: “I’m not at all confident that an American-led effort can resolve the conflict anymore. Whereas previously I would have said that we were indispensable to the resolution to the conflict.”45 However, such ruminations did not stand in the way of his immediately accepting the role Kerry assigned him.>> Palestinians are a gracious and generous people. They are smart and enterprising and intersperse accounts of their tribulations with mordant humor. The occupation has not robbed them of their humanity, but after almost fifty years their hope for the future is ambivalent. Their bitterness and resentments are palpable when they talk about Netanyahu and perhaps best encapsulated by Saeb Erekat’s cutting remark thatIf Thomas Jefferson was the president of Palestine, Montesquieu the speaker of our parliament, and Mother Teresa the prime minister of the Palestinians, and they insisted on two states 1967, Netanyahu would brand them as relatives of bin Laden. He is not a partner for peace. He was elected to undermine and destroy the two-state solution, and he’s done a good job, under protection of the American Congress. He doesn’t believe in two states. He wants to create a third state for the settlers in the West Bank.46Their fading faith that the future can and will bring change exacerbates their sense of powerlessness.47 After decades of occupation and loss of dignity, their behaviors have adapted to the humiliation of subjugation: Palestinians have developed defense mechanisms to shield the psyche from the intolerable. Perhaps the behaviors of decades under total domination have become subconsciously ingrained. Perhaps rebelliousness has given way to accommodation and lethargy. Certainly their responses to my questions were reflexive. The constancy of conformity has sapped the energy to engage. Instead, they tighten their grip on victimhood. Israel or the United States or other powerful interests in the West are to blame for all their grievances. “Never in the history of mankind,” they will tell you, “have any people endured oppression as harsh as ours.” To some extent, this has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.Without exception the subtext is always the same one: Humiliation and indignity are the staples of life.What the Palestinians want and what takes precedence over all else is restorative justice and an end to the occupation. They want their dignity back. It is often said—by Israelis, by the unaffiliated, but also by the Palestinians themselves—that they come to negotiations not so much to address the issues they must resolve to secure a future state but to redress the injustices of the past—specifically, the refugee question following the wars of 1947–49 and the right of return. Tal Becker, an insightful Israeli negotiator, said: “Statehood is not why they’re in the room. What drives the Palestinian ethos is a sense of dispossession and humiliation, and if statehood is part of rectifying that, and it is only a relatively small part—then it’s relevant to discuss it. If it’s a way of avoiding those issues, then it’s not on the table. If you’re offering them statehood so as not to talk about the issues of dispossession and humiliation in history, and their connection to Jerusalem, and so on, they’re not interested in statehood.”48In Tangiers in November 1988, Yasser Arafat’s PLO recognized the existence of the state of Israel on the 78 percent of Palestine that it then occupied. In return for forfeiting what it believed was the Palestinians’ legitimate claim to their birthright, the PLO would settle for a Palestinian state on the remaining 22 percent.49 It was a historic concession the Palestinians cried over, a break with their own history and narrative, all in the hope of peace. Yet Israel was dismissive. Why? Because no matter what, it could not be dislodged from the 78 percent of the land it occupied and besides, all the land, it believed, was theirs in the first place. Rather than seeing the PLO position as a major Palestinian concession, Israel saw it as the PLO’s acknowledgment of reality. The PLO believes it made a preeminent concession of unprecedented proportions forfeiting much of their birthright, and to have it disparaged by Israel as little more than a gesture to reality, coupled with Israel’s unwillingness to concede the remaining 22 percent for the creation of a Palestinian state,* created a chasm between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians that negotiations have failed to narrow, much less bridge. In most of my interviews with Palestinians the fact that the PLO’s groundbreaking, unilateral action was hardly acknowledged by Israel, and then only in a negative way, came up time and time and time again.“When I am sitting with an Israeli at the table, I know they are powerful; I know they are stronger than me,” says Akram Hanieh, “but I feel that I have the moral high ground and that I am stronger morally, so I am proud of myself, my people, of my struggle, and sometimes you feel that you have nothing to lose, you know, and at the same time you know that they know that, and they find it disconcerting, because, oddly enough, it empowers us at their expense.”50Such is the psychological power of righteousness and false solace, but “victories” on this battlefield of moral absolutes have yielded almost nothing of concrete benefit for the Palestinian people, after more than sixty years. Shlomo Ben-Ami, Israel’s chief negotiator at Camp David, acknowledged that the Palestinian insistence on hewing to the idealistic, impractical high road is difficult for the Israeli mind to “decode.” Palestinians, he inferred, prefer to fight on the grounds of moral absolutes, a field where, they believe, they hold the high ground.51 Unfortunately for the Palestinians, considerations of morality play no role in hardball negotiations. History is littered with injustices. History moves on.52>> Israel exists—in fact, it thrives—in spite of what seems like a determined propensity to tear itself apart. It is riddled with schisms—political, religious, economic, cultural—some potentially profoundly grave, some sufficiently pervasive to threaten its social cohesion.53 Yet Israel is held together, despite the multitudinous differences among its multilayered ethnic components, by this one primal fact: While the West looked the other way and found pious excuses for inaction, only a whisper of fate saved the Jewish people from total annihilation. Such knowledge—and the belief that it could happen again—is the key component of the ethos of the extraordinary bonds of a shared vicarious experience ensconced in a transcendent collective memory.The Israeli center holds, and it does so because the Holocaust, an evil of unimaginable dimensions and the bonding, primal element of Jewish identity,54 is enveloped in the national narrative of the return of Jews to Judea and Samaria (which is how Israeli Jews refer to the West Bank) after expulsion more than two thousand years ago. Jewish Israeli interviewees rarely mentioned the “Final Solution”; indeed, they did so only when I specifically addressed it. Why not? The Holocaust is a given.In a 2009 survey of Jewish Israelis, 98 percent stated that “remembering the Holocaust” is a “guiding principle” of their life, more so than feeling part of the Jewish people, feeling part of Israeli society, or even living in Israel.55 The Holocaust rewired the brain of the Israeli Jews—indeed, of Jews everywhere. The Holocaust is omnipresent, the core of their identity as an acquired living memory.56 “Every day,” says Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, “everyone experiences a ‘Holocaust moment.’”57 Second- and third-generation carriers of the Holocaust legacy and memory contribute to maintaining the Holocaust as an integral part of Israeli life.* There are constant references to the Holocaust in the media, books, art, and cinema; it is a mandatory part of school curricula. Of high school students, 76 percent say that the Holocaust affects their worldview, and 94 percent say they are committed to preserving the memory of the Holocaust.58None of this should come as a surprise. Since the 1960s, Yom Ha’Shoah has been an official holiday dedicated to remembrance. For two minutes, sirens sound throughout the country. All activity comes to a complete halt. The entire population stands at silent attention. “For many decades,” the highly respected rabbi Michael Lerner writes in Embracing Israel/Palestine, “one of the rituals of induction to the IDF, had been to climb the steep hills leading to Masada, the ancient fortress where the Jewish revolutionary extremists who rebelled against Rome in 67–70 CE found refuge and later launched new attacks on the occupying forces. When the Romans finally breached the fortress . . . , in 73 CE, they found close to one thousand bodies—the scene of a mass suicide.”59Here, he says, is an implicit message central to the Zionist theology of Israel: “Unlike those diaspora Jews who failed to resist and were marched into the gas chambers of Europe singing pious religious songs about the coming of the messiah, we, the new breed of Jews, will never again give up our state. If necessary, we will follow the example of the Masada Jews, who killed themselves rather than let others kill them.” Unless you understand “how deeply this message is embedded in the collective unconscious,” he says, “you cannot understand Israel.” There are still plenty of Jews, he explains, “who have absorbed the Masada complex into their deepest beings—such that if faced with a perceived return to the vulnerability of statelessness, they might choose the path of Masada rather than surrender . . .” And although “most Israelis would not follow a destructive path, they’d find it difficult to constrain a militant minority who articulated the fear of the majority that the Jewish people were about to once again face a dangerous period of total powerlessness.”60Moreover, every year the IDF organizes trips for thousands of officers, accompanied by a Holocaust survivor, to Auschwitz-Birkenau or other death camps in Poland.61 “The danger,” Lerner concludes, “is that we are unwittingly strengthening a kind of narcissistic entitlement. This gets Jews and Israelis off the hook for confronting their own aggression and developing a self-awareness that they split off and project onto Palestinians, Arabs, or all non-Jews in order to see themselves as the eternal victim.”62 Hence the sense of hereditary victimhood and the mantle of exceptionalism that accompanies it.The Jews, Lerner maintains, were never afforded the space in which they could properly grieve the Holocaust and the losses that emanated from it.63 When Israel was founded, he contends, Jews were not in a position to acknowledge to themselves the extent of the pain and trauma they had suffered, and the added trauma of having to fight for survival in Palestine. With the Holocaust such an omniferous presence, they do not believe the rest of the world can ever understand how a concatenation of factors can trigger automatic, perhaps even unconscious, fearful associations with it, and hence the proliferation of possible existential threats.64 For Jews, it is not possible to put the trauma of the Holocaust “behind us.”Every challenge to the narrative only reinforces the collective memory. Therefore an ethos of permanent alertness to perceived threat is seen as a prerequisite for national survival and is an integral part of the political environment that permeates every aspect of Israeli society. This sense of having to protect against threats, real or otherwise, has bred a sense of exceptionalism. It is a self-validating belief that there are few red lines Israel cannot cross in the name of defending itself. Therefore, Israel’s actions, according to the Israeli perspective, cannot be judged in conformity with universal norms but must be understood in the context of the driving imperatives of its need to survive and the belief that in the end Jewish Israelis are on their own, all alone, in a small country surrounded by over 100 million people in hostile Arab states that would wipe it off the face of the earth, given the opportunity.This sense of omnipresent threat and the need to defend aggressively against perceived threat make it impossible for Israelis to view themselves as victimizing others. When the UN appointed the Goldstone Commission to investigate possible war crimes following Israel’s invasion of Gaza (initiated in December 2008), the conclusion that both Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes and that Israel may have been guilty of committing crimes against humanity ignited a firestorm of fury across Israel.* The very suggestion that a people who had been the victims of what was perhaps the most reprehensible crime against humanity in history—one that had almost resulted in the extinction of the Jewish people—might have committed war crimes themselves was incomprehensible. Any insinuation that Israeli actions may have victimized another people is inimical to Israelis’ understanding of themselves. The government, which had refused all cooperation during the commission’s investigation, condemned the report in the harshest language,65 and with U.S. connivance the report never reached the Security Council—it was buried among the rubble of thousands of UN reports on one thing or another and became fodder for academic studies.Many Jewish Israeli interviewees justified Israel’s exempting itself from compliance with UN resolutions, injunctions of the Geneva Conventions, the human-rights yardsticks of both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and its own human-rights organizations because these reports and resolutions are not contextualized in an understanding that Israel’s overriding imperative is for Israel itself to guarantee its existence. Like the Goldstone Commission, reports of investigative international commissions end up in the trash can.66And likewise, too, they assert that in the Arab world the acknowledgment that the Holocaust had occurred is invariably coupled with caveats that it had not occurred on the scale documented in the West: perhaps one or two million killed, but not the six million claimed by Jews.* Israel dismisses UN resolutions as either anti-Semitic or attempts to delegitimize the state of Israel. As they see it, the many countries that came into existence when they secured self-determination after World War II had no knowledge of Jewish history. Most had emerged after bitter conflicts with their occupying colonial powers; all could identify with the Palestinians and their “struggle” against another colonial power; few, if any, would ever give the benefit of doubt to the Jewish state. Many nations that routinely voted in the UN to condemn Israel for violating the human rights of Palestinians were dictatorships where human rights were squashed and opposition suppressed. Israel simply dismisses them as inconsequential hypocrites. Israelis are well aware of comparisons between their presence in Palestine and South Africa–style apartheid.67 They dismiss them as ludicrous slurs that smack of latent anti-Semitism. How easily the world forgets the nearly two millennia of persecution the Jews have endured. Thus, the word “apartheid” serves only to harden the resolve that Israel will forever be the Jewish state, home of the Jewish people.* Besides, they cannot be “occupiers” in the West Bank, because their stay is temporary, pending a peace settlement. (After half a century, many have a convoluted definition of “temporary.”)68In 2012, 138 countries voted to approve the Palestinian application for observer status at the UN (only the United States, Canada, Israel, and six minor states opposed the resolution).69 A petulant Netanyahu responded to the Palestinians’ successful bid by authorizing plans for settlements in the E1 corridor abutting Ma’ale Adumim,* the disposition of which in future negotiations will determine whether the Palestinians have a contiguous state with direct access to East Jerusalem. The governments of major Western powers, among Israel’s closest allies, called in Israel’s ambassadors—a first—for a rebuke, but Netanyahu responded to his domestic and international critics by defiantly approving a further round of settlement construction.70 In the end, German chancellor Angela Merkel met with Netanyahu in Berlin and administered the obligatory slap on the wrist. But her government subsequently announced several new measures to strengthen the economic ties between the two nations.71Israel, if it can, will never let Western Europe off its guilt-ridden hook, and for its part Western Europe is still sensitive to the fact that it abetted the anti-Semitism that facilitated the Final Solution and is reluctant to offer more than mild criticism of Israel’s actions, let alone turn off the spigots of aid.72 As for the United States, Israel rests comfortably. It knows it can count on U.S. support in just about all circumstances. But on occasion the relationship becomes frayed. Israel has not forgotten that President George H. W. Bush, prodded by James Baker, his secretary of state, pulled the plug on $10 billion in loan guarantees when Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir refused to accept the condition that the money would not be spent on settlements.73 Nor was the Obama administration’s announcement that it would work with the technocratic government, Hamas and Fatah agreed to, that would govern the PA between August 2014 and promised elections in November 2014 well received.74 The already damaged relationship between Obama and Netanyahu would further deteriorate.>> The bottom line for Israeli Jews is that the West, even America, cannot be completely trusted in every conceivable situation. In fact, when the issue of Iran’s nuclear capability came to the forefront and the international talks in Geneva got under way in November 2013 to resolve the threat, what the United States and nations in the West saw as “breakthroughs” were scathingly rubbished by Netanyahu.75 Obama’s visit to Cairo but not Tel Aviv or Jerusalem shortly after taking office in 2009 deeply alienated Netanyahu, and the accusation that Obama was not pro-Israel stuck.The deeply held convictions of “never again” and “we are alone” combine to create a powerful juggernaut of self-justification of whatever measures are taken to safeguard Israel’s national interests and eliminate perceived threats.* Judgment is distorted because the consequences of embarking on a particular course of action are not subject to a cost-benefit analysis in terms of the possible repercussions in the international community. If the threat is “existential”—the definition of which is very different to America or Europe than to Israel—to employ Netanyahu’s word regarding Iran’s nuclear capability, the repercussions simply do not matter.A poll by the Anti-Defamation League in the United States found that 82 percent of Jewish Israeli youngsters between the ages of fifteen and eighteen believe that Israel faces a significant threat of extermination; 77 percent of adults agree.76 Certainly many of the Jewish Israelis I interviewed cling to the belief that the real agenda of the Palestinians is to drive the Jewish people out of Palestine and into the proverbial sea, and that no peace agreement in the world would deter them if they could find an opportune way.The results of longitudinal studies of Israeli adolescents and young adults do not suggest that the power of this narrative is on the wane. Just the opposite. They suggest a coming Israel that will be more anti-Palestinian Israeli, with a disturbing propensity to expressions of hatred (25 percent); more ultra nationalistic; more suspicious of the Arab world, more right wing; less committed to democratic values; less tolerant and will have little trust in most institutions other than the defense forces.*77 Young people put far less emphasis on peace as the primary goal of the state and far more on its Jewishness.>>On the operational level—the tactical and strategic level—the Israeli narrative can be condensed into just one word: security. It trumps every other consideration.“What has changed since the Holocaust is our determination and ability to defend ourselves by ourselves,” Netanyahu said at the Holocaust Memorial in 2013. Then he vowed: “We won’t leave our fate in the hands of others, not even the best of our friends.”Moreover, he left little doubt as to what Israel would do if it decides Iran has reached the ultimate point of nuclear capability, paraphrasing the Passover Haggadah: “In every generation there are those who rise up against us to destroy us. In every generation, every one of us must think of himself as though he has survived the Holocaust and established the state [of Israel]. In every generation, we must ensure that there will not be another Holocaust.”78As a direct result of Palestinian suicide bombers and militants, intent on committing acts of violence, crossing into Israel from the West Bank, work began on the separation barrier in 2002, making it virtually impossible for Palestinians to enter Israel, unless they have permits to do so. The barrier has had the desired impact: Between 2007 and 2012 militants carried out seven suicide attacks, killing 24 and wounding 201.79 If the barrier is ever finished, it will encircle most of the West Bank but leave 10 percent, including the major settlements, on the Israeli side—a maneuver, Palestinians believe, to predetermine the borders of a future Palestinian state. In any event, there have been no PLO militant attacks, thanks to both the barrier and Mahmoud Abbas’s 2005 directive that the PLO abandon armed resistance, forgoing violence and henceforth seeking self-determination for Palestine through peaceful means only.In Gaza, between 1967 and 2005, when Israel unilaterally withdrew, 87 Israeli civilians and 179 members of the IDF were killed, and 1,074 civilians and 3,777 members of the IDF were wounded.80 In 2007, after Hamas crushed Fatah and took control of the Strip, Israel fortified the wall that seals Gaza from Israel, detaining all Gazans within the Gaza Strip and prohibiting travel from Gaza to the West Bank and vice versa—an important subject for future discussion. The walls have afforded Israelis an unprecedented sense of freedom from terrorism. Would they settle for any negotiated agreement that would lower that sense of security? It’s hard to imagine.Among the recent developments that have altered the matrix of Israel’s security concerns: the cataclysmic ruptures in Egypt; the relentlessly brutal and dehumanizing civil war in Syria, where jihadists from foreign countries and Hezbollah do much of the fighting; porous borders between Turkey and Syria; the possibly destabilizing impact of the flow of refugees from Syria into Lebanon and Jordan; the self-described Islamic State (ISIS);81 possible jihadist threats to Jordan; the hand of Iran everywhere; its dissatisfaction with the talks of the P5+1* with Iran over denuclearization; and, of course, the aftermath of the 2014 Gaza war. No land-for-peace swap or other offer will ever take precedence over these security concerns. No agreement will ever negate the Israelis’ prerogative to engage in military incursions in a demilitarized Palestine in pursuit of terrorists. And under no circumstances whatsoever will there be an FSA, unless Hamas and Islamic Jihad and other militant groups decommission their weaponry and destroy their inventories. Wishful thinking.Every Jewish Israeli interviewee homed in on the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, which was framed as a unilateral act of goodwill. Here, they said, Palestinians were given the opportunity to create their Singapore; but rather than build for their people, Hamas used it to attack Israel, launching hundreds of rockets into southern Israel, often in numbers sufficient enough to result in war.*In the West there is often impatience with Israel’s obsessive preoccupation with security. Palestinians are particularly puzzled, since Israel possesses the sixth most powerful military machine in the world and enjoys total dominance over the capabilities of any army in the Arab world. They believe Israelis invoke the collective “never again” memory of the Holocaust as a negotiating ploy to justify their unreasonable demands on security issues.In this assessment they are mistaken. Israeli security concerns are not a ploy. Some aspects of what Israel sees as a threat to delegitimize it in the global community are real; some are imagined. It doesn’t matter. Many of Israel’s specific tactical and strategic fears are grounded in circumstances on the ground; others are not. It doesn’t matter.The fact that a fear is based on an imagined reality and is therefore “baseless” doesn’t make the experience of that fear any less real. Illusionary forebodings are no less real—to individuals or to cultures—than more grounded ones. Memories of the Holocaust do trigger Israel’s perceptions of existential threat. So do memories of the intifadas. So does Iran’s nuclear capability. The enemy is always out there, and so is its ultimate goal. Only the enemy is real.82The Israelis’ collective memory of near annihilation and the actual circumstances of a hostile region are conditions that have no cure. With appropriate defense antidotes, they can be arrested and go into remission for a period of time, but they cannot be eliminated. Even if, by some miracle, the Palestinians should accede to every single security demand, the Israelis would still fear that a Palestinian government in the future would be unable to meet its obligations, not out of malevolence but simply because it is not psychologically equipped to do so. Of course, who knows what new threats and fears the future may bring? One could say that the fears are self-fulfilling and self-perpetuating, since preemptive actions can provoke a response or may result in a cycle of violence. Impregnable security measures will remain the Israelis’ sine qua non in negotiations.>> Jewish Israeli interviewees proved as adept as the Palestinians at not directly addressing uncomfortable questions. Like their Palestinian counterparts, they have internalized the rationales for their situation. Their responses suggest that the Israelis believe that the Palestinians are not as deeply wedded to their nationalism as Israeli Jews are to their own. They see the Palestinians’ aspirations as essentially negative—that is, not wanting a Jewish presence on the land of Palestine, rather than passionately wanting a Palestinian state per se. While most would not agree with Golda Meir’s widely debunked remark that “there is no such thing as a Palestinian people,” many continue to harbor suspicions, perhaps at some subconscious level, that Palestinian nationalism is only a collage of events and materials hastily patched together to justify territorial claims. Shlomo Ben-Ami, head of the Israeli negotiation team at Camp David, puts it this way: “The Palestinians related to the emergence of the Zionist onslaught by negating the right of the Zionists to establish themselves in this part of the land, and at no moment did they believe that they should present a political alternative. They only wanted the Zionist penetration stopped.”Accordingly, he argues, “Palestinian nationalism did not conform to the rise of nationalisms in Europe in the nineteenth century.”83The implication is that if an emerging nationalism does not neatly fit into the European paradigm, something is amiss. It must be a flawed and inferior and illegitimate nationalism.The Israelis see themselves as having assiduously invested their labor and their capital into building the institutions of a modern nation-state even prior to the official establishment of the Israeli state in 1948. A decimated people, they turned victimhood into vibrant nationalism. Meanwhile, from their perspective, the Palestinians invest little of themselves in state building, accomplish little, and instead sit back and wait for history to vindicate them. Ben-Ami is far from alone in comparing the Jews, who worked their butts off to advance their position even if the returns were incremental, to the Palestinians, who are passive, luxuriating in the “poor me” posture, more disposed to globe-trotting to sell their victimhood than to getting down to the nitty-gritty of what will undoubtedly be tough negotiations to resolve the problem.Governing institutions such as the Palestinian Authority are not the result of collective collaboration of the Palestinian people but are reliant on foreign subsidies that ward off financial meltdown; if the subsidies were withdrawn, the PA would collapse, with disastrous consequences.84 “The Palestinians did not know how to create state institutions,” Ben-Ami asserts. “The entire international community had to come here and put pressure on Arafat, appoint a prime minister, a parliament, elections, because to him none of these things were imperatives. This is what they define as their homeland, and they never thought of it in terms of a modern state.”85 But why should the Palestinians have to think in “statehood” terms when the concept is a European import and alien to the way they had been governed for centuries? Why should conformity, with the architecture of nation-states and concepts of nationalism that emerged in Europe in the mid–nineteenth century and provided the paradigm for a Jewish state and Jewish nationalism, become the defining criterion for the Palestinian right to self-determination? The questions don’t compute for the Israelis.Jewish Israeli interviewees were unanimous in blaming the Palestinians for missed opportunities and failure. They believe Abba Eban had it exactly right when he famously said that “the Arabs [Palestinians] never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity,”86 a remark frequently quoted, usually with an air of condescension. Israelis are very comfortable discussing the Palestinian leadership’s shortcomings and what they should do instead.The Israeli interviewees rarely referred to the Palestinians as “occupied” people, with Israel the occupier. The preferred nomenclature is “disputed” territories.87 They had little to say about the restrictions placed on Palestinians. They know that Palestinians are poorer, yes (much poorer, in fact: the per-capita income disparity is thirty to one), but Israelis have little knowledge of Palestinians’ daily circumstances. The separation barrier cuts them off from any interaction with Palestinians, who have been psychologically erased from their consciousness. A cultivated ignorance protects Israelis from comprehending the impact of hundreds of checkpoints, arbitrary detention without trial, the military presence in the West Bank that “rules” as it sees fit and acts without being answerable to any authority.Not a single Jewish Israeli interviewee raised the matter of settler violence, despite its thorough documentation and the frequent references to “price tag wars” in the media.* No one questioned the injustice of the special roads for settlers’ exclusive use, speeding their journeys to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem while Palestinians have to navigate winding, circuitous routes and bypass roads, with checkpoints, to get from Ramallah to Nablus.The Palestinians’ obsessive invocation of their “humiliation” does not resonate with Israelis. Given their own history of humiliation, they cannot imagine themselves as being the cause of the humiliation of others. Denial scrapes it off the mind. Recall the vehement reaction to the Goldstone Commission. Although Israel says that the occupation is temporary, after almost fifty years the temporary and the normal have become coterminous. Indeed, almost 80 percent of Jewish Israelis age fifty or younger were born into an Israel in which the West Bank is regarded as an extension of Israel proper. They were raised to see it as part of the normalcy of life and to see all Palestinians, with whom they have little or no contact, as a potential existential threat—“terrorists” who must be kept on a tight leash.Just as Palestinians do not want to sully their narrative by acknowledging the deficiencies in their own culture and institutions that have contributed to their current precarious status so, too, were Jewish Israeli interviewees disinclined to consider how the drastic asymmetry of economic and military power might have a corrupting influence on both cultures. Palestinians are mired in poverty? Palestinians are Arabs. As such, they have a different value system from the West, different attitudes toward time and work. Beyond that charged stereotype, the economic disparity is not something the Israelis spend much time thinking about.They definitely do not want to consider that decades of humiliation and dispossession may have so mutilated the Palestinian psyche that the people have, in order to survive psychologically, internalized the humiliations and passively accept subordination until, of course, it erupts into outbursts of violence. The IDF arrests fifteen-year-olds for throwing stones.88 Is it disturbing that the ordinary Israeli believes that the arrests are justified, that the kids need to be taught a lesson, that they are probably budding terrorists? My interviewees are appalled only that the Palestinians’ behavior elicits sympathy in the West, which theoretically shares Israeli values.Jewish Israelis I spoke to rejected out of hand the idea that Israel is the impediment to the peace process. On the contrary, they asserted that Israel has actively promoted a final resolution to the conflict for over two decades. In negotiations, according to their perspective, it is Israel that always puts “bold” proposals on the table while the Palestinians endlessly prevaricate. “The Palestinians,” Ben-Ami said, “think there is no need to be urgent. There will always be another opportunity. I sometimes feel that another UN resolution condemning Israel has become the elixir of life for Palestinian nationalism, whereas the elixir of life should be the resolution [of the conflict]. Having Israel isolated and in the dock of the tribunal of the international community has become substitute for the real thing. This is a clash of mentalities.” Jewish Israeli interviewees did not see any contradiction between Israel’s avowed efforts to promote the peace process and the construction of settlements for up to 500,000 in the West Bank, or the Judaization of East Jerusalem, or the acceleration of both initiatives during Netanyahu’s first term and a massive acceleration during his second term.89 They were almost dismissive of the idea that the settlements are a barrier to peace: Once negotiations determine final borders, they assert, all settlements outside the borders would be dismantled and if necessary up to 100,000 settlers evacuated. This is a rational, clinical analysis that misses the point: Jewish Israelis do not take into account the humiliation Palestinians feel as they hear Israelis talk peace but see Israelis gobble up their land.At a conference examining what went wrong at Camp David, Yossi Ginossar, a member of the Israeli delegation and former senior official in Shin Bet,* brought the humiliation of Palestinians to the forefront of the discussion. He said:I have believed that until Israelis humanize Palestinians as a society and as individuals, and thus also rationalize the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the conflict will not be ripe for the conclusion of any peace agreement. [Our governments have] failed to humanize Palestinian society in the eyes of the Israeli public and make Israelis see Palestinians as a normal society. . . . As a society we must learn to treat Palestinians as human beings who have the same authenticity that we ascribe to ourselves. . . . I believe we are not yet ready to do so.90His Israeli colleagues took little heed.But on this account they cannot be faulted; Palestinians do not listen either. The constancy of the clamor of both to assert their rights to which their narratives entitle them leaves little room for listening on either side. The deafness is self-imposed and predetermines that negotiations on a two-state solution will always find barren ground.  Chapter 2Dueling Narratives and Addiction to NarrativeThe Palestinian perspective is anchored in the Great Catastrophe, the Nakba, and the ensuing occupation of their homeland. The Israeli perspective is anchored in the belated return to their homeland and the Holocaust. Both claim the same land. The people who lost their homeland—the Palestinians—feel humiliation and demand restorative justice. The people who won theirs—the Israelis—feel historic vindication and an obsession with security to protect themselves from the losers. The twain will never meet.For seven years (2002–2009), three highly respected academics, Sami Adwan, professor of education, Bethlehem University; Dan Bar-On, PhD., department of behavioral sciences, Ben Gurion University (deceased Sept 4, 2008), and Eyal Naveh, professor of history, Tel Aviv University, supervised a group of Israeli and Palestinian teachers working under the auspices of the Peace Research Institute in the Middle East (PRIME) to develop a history text drawing on the two narratives with a view to creating a single “bridging” narrative.1The teachers were unable to craft the document. “After the renewal of widespread violence—after the breakout of the Al Aqsa Intifada,” Adwan et al. write in their book, Side by Side, the teachers reached “the painful conclusion that no such bridging narrative appears likely to be viable among our people at the grassroots level for some time, perhaps not for generations to come. The mutual suspicion, hatred, and poisoning of the minds among both peoples in relation to the ‘other’ have become so intense that sustaining a common bond has become impossible, except within very small and exclusive elite groups on each side.”2In place of the common narrative, the teachers developed two parallel narratives. In the book the authors examined the two sides’ understandings of the same events side by side. They found little overlap of understanding. The authors note that “in our teachers’ seminars we observed that there was a constant tension between the fact that the two narratives were regarded equally, whereas outside the seminar room there was a continuous power of asymmetry between the parties to the conflict; Israel’s dominance and occupation of the Palestinians in the occupied territories and the domination of the Palestinian minority by the Jewish majority within the State of Israel.”3 Israeli Jews, on the other hand, “tend to perceive themselves as a minority in a hostile Muslim Middle East and thereby construct an opposite asymmetry of feeling inferior.”4Animosity is rife, outright hatred not uncommon. Distrust of the other’s motives and ultimate aspirations is almost total. Each believes the other wants to get rid of it; each wishes the other did not exist. Polarization is virtually absolute. The other has become “the other.” Over sixty years of repression under the boot of an occupying force (the Palestinian perspective) and in fear of retaliatory terror attacks (the Israeli perspective) attitudes have hardened. Each sees itself as the real victim, and their respective behaviors reflect their perceptions of themselves as such. Studies with Jewish Israeli and Palestinian participants have found that individuals who are perceived (and perceive themselves) as victims become socially “exempt” from recognizing and taking responsibility for the pain they cause the “other.” They become exempt from accusations of having perpetrated aggressive acts against the other.5 Jewish Israelis are comfortable with their rationale for having to police Palestinians as they do, and the Palestinians are comfortable with their rationale for acts of terrorism that justly counter the inhumane way they are policed. Because each conceives of itself as the victim, neither views its actions as those of an aggressor.In the last round of talks (August 2013–April 2014),* even though the matter was outside the agreed parameters, Prime Minister Netanyahu threw a wrench in the works when he insisted that the Palestinians must publicly recognize Israel as “the Jewish homeland” before the talks could get down to the really serious business of negotiating a peace.6 Such recognition, he said repeatedly, “is the real key to peace,” “the minimal requirement,” and “an essential condition.”7 On another occasion he said, “The core of this conflict has never been borders and settlements—it’s about one thing: the persistent refusal to accept the Jewish state in any border.”8 It is his drumbeat. Talks are dross unless this demand is addressed a priori. Addressing the AIPAC conference in Washington in March 2014, he hammered the point home: “It’s time for the Palestinians to stop denying history,” he declared. “Just as Israel is prepared to recognize a Palestinian state, the Palestinians must be prepared to recognize a Jewish state.” He called explicitly for President Abbas to “recognize the Jewish state.” In doing so, he told Abbas, “you would be telling your people, the Palestinians, that while we might have a territorial dispute, the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own is beyond dispute. [Y]ou would finally [make it] clear that you are truly prepared to end the conflict.”9The PLO rejected his demand out of hand.To anyone who is not an Israeli or a Palestinian, the term “Jewish state”—for a country whose population is already about one quarter non-Jewish—is an ambiguous misnomer. But for Palestinians and Israeli Jews it brings into sharp relief the Gordian knot of their opposing narratives. It is an abbreviated code for articulating two crucial components of Israel’s a priori, nonnegotiable demands that challenge three main tenets of the Palestinian narrative.First, to recognize “the Jewish state” would require Palestinians to accept that Israel is the exclusive homeland of the Jewish people. Second, it would explicitly concede Palestinian acquiescence that the refugees have no right of return and implicitly concede that Israel bears no responsibility for their exodus. Third, it would undermine the prospects of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.Conceding the right of return would abnegate the Nakba. The Nakba is one of the building blocks that concretized a cohesive Palestinian national identity post-1949; such a concession would undermine the very foundation of what it means to be a Palestinian. In other words, it’s a concession no Palestinian leader could make.10 Finally, if Israel is the homeland for the Jews, the future of Palestinian Israelis becomes problematic—up to 1.6 million could have their citizenship revoked.“The core of the Palestinian conflict is the refugee problem,” says Muhammad Shtayyeh, a senior Palestinian negotiator, “and it’s the most complicated one. For us, the cause of the refugees launched the Palestinian revolution in 1965, two years before the occupation of the West Bank. Therefore, the issue of refugees is the crucial issue. Without solving it, you will not have resolved the whole problem.”11 The responses of both Palestinian and Jewish Israeli interviewees were invariably contextualized in their respective narratives. Likewise, twenty-five years of putative peacemaking is littered with evidence that often enough the two sides cannot even agree on what was the substance of the conversations they had conducted on core issues. These are not just “two ships passing in the night.” Nor does the metaphor of “parallel worlds” suffice. Israelis and Palestinians live in parallel universes, and the radical asymmetry of power—with the Palestinians’ behavior shaped by weakness, the Israelis’ by strength—only reinforces the dueling narratives.“Parity of esteem,” in the parlance of negotiation experts, is a simple concept but requires a fundamental reorientation of behavior on both sides. Each says to the other: “I know your narrative and I reject it in its entirety, yet I accept your right to define your own narrative as you wish, and I will respect that right and its aspirations.” The important component is respect; respect is more embracive than trust. Until each side reaches a level of understanding of the other’s narrative that facilitates a willingness to accord parity of esteem, peace agreements will likely falter, perhaps not immediately but in a corrosive ambience that slowly emerges and is conducive to disregarding some of their provisions. Peace agreements are pieces of paper. The task of translating them into sustainable reconciliation is a long and difficult process; former protagonists are in “recovery.” Unless they nurture that recovery, their peace agreement will fall apart or lapse into “frozen” pacts.In Israel and Palestine there is no parity of esteem for the respective narratives and therefore no trust. This is why the onset of any negotiation is often not welcomed by either the leadership or the constituencies of either side. Instead, the prospect brings latent fears to the foreground, and the leaderships play to these fears, feeding their constituencies the same stale and divisive pronouncements about “the other” that have been repeated ad nauseam over decades. They engage in debilitating tit-for-tat exchanges, talk only about what the other side has to do, what the other side needs to tell its people, never about what they themselves have to do, what their own people need to understand. All this prepares the way, should the talks collapse, for one more repetition of the blame game and violence, which becomes self-fulfilling and self-motivating.The Palestinian and Israeli leaderships, over twenty-five years of negotiations in one form or another, have made no effort to prepare their respective constituencies for change, to spell out unambiguously the scope and nature of the compromises and sacrifices they would be called on to accept if they truly want to resolve the conflict. For example: that for the Palestinians there will be no right of return; and for the Israelis there will be no undivided Jerusalem. Instead, the leaderships offer meaningless recitations that both sides will have to make “painful” compromises. Instead of concentrating on understanding and coming to terms with what a negotiated settlement will cost their side, they focus on the costs the other side is being asked to incur and convince themselves that the other side either cannot or will not live up to such obligations. But if one side takes no responsibility for its own part in a conflict, neither will the other side acknowledge responsibility for its part. Hence the standoff.For the Palestinians it’s simple: Israel is fully responsible for all problems stemming from 1948 and must take responsibility in order to fix them. For the Israelis it’s equally simple: The Palestinians and their Arab sponsors started the 1948 war (all the wars, in fact) and are therefore responsible for the consequences. Both sides know that neither narrative is fully correct, but rather than explore that narrow ground where the self-justifying constructions cross, they stick adamantly to their positions. The rare attempt at a compromise is rejected. For example, Olmert in 2008 offered the following wording to Mahmoud Abbas: “Israel is sensitive and is not indifferent to the suffering of Palestinians who live in what became Israel and were forced out of their homes as a result of the conflict and then lived in misery for years.”* For Olmert this was as far as Israel would go to acknowledge that it had had a significant role in creating the refugee problem. However, when I read Olmert’s words to Akram Hanieh, he said they were an insufficient acknowledgment and therefore unacceptable. When the price a settlement will exact is high (and it certainly will be for both sides in this particular conflict), when different segments of each society are confused about or unsure of the direction their society should take, when there’s no ultimate trust (or no trust at all) between the two parties in the conflict—add it all up and the natural inclination is to balk, back off, procrastinate, retreat into the comforts of the narrative, and blame the other for the failure.Under these challenging circumstances, what chance is there for peace? In each community a substantial majority believes that this conflict that has immersed them in a loathing for the humanity of the other may never end. Given all the UN resolutions; years of studying maps and haggling over miniscule percentages and square meters of ground; Palestinian humiliation and passivity; Israeli exceptionalism and paranoia about existential threats—given all this, it’s hard to hope that resurrecting peace talks on a two-state solution that rehash the rehashed will lead to breakthroughs.>> After sixty-seven years violence persists, which only perpetuates the killing, further entrenching the two sides in their respective narratives that are the roots of the conflict and providing each with justification for its killing. Violence, actual or impending, and the fear of violence assume pivotal roles in the lives of both societies, according to Daniel Bar-Tal, Branco Weiss Professor of Research in Child Development and Education at the School of Education, Tel Aviv University, and an acclaimed Jewish Israeli scholar who studies the socio-psychological foundations of intractable conflicts and peacemaking.12 Both sides perceive the stakes as zero-sum, winner take all.In Embracing Israel/Palestine, Rabbi Michael Lerner argues that both cultures also suffer from a social form of PTSD13 that can consume an entire culture when it is unable to return to “normal” after a grave threat or actual act of violence or abuse has triggered a hyper-alert, “fight-or-flight survival response.” “The person remains in a somewhat decreased but nevertheless heightened state of attention to danger and mobilization of body and mind,” he writes. “The person perceives the dangers as still being present when they are not, or interprets present dangers through the lens of past dangers that were far greater . . . may perceive her or himself to be in the same situation as the original trauma or may feel as if the current situation is so close to the original trauma as to be indistinguishable.”14 As a result, “the person may unconsciously participate in recreating dynamics that do in fact resemble the original trauma.”15More recently, researchers have described “continuous traumatic stress” (CTS), building on the insights associated with PTSD. CTS emerges from ongoing trauma exposure within situations of protracted conflict and violence. According to psychologists Garth Stevens and Gillian Eagle, Debra Kaminer, and Craig Higson-Smith, CTS trauma exposure is both current and to be realistically anticipated in the future, rather than being past or “post.”16One of the contexts in which CTS has immediate relevancy, Eagle and Kaminer, write in their seminal article “Continuous Traumatic Stress: Expanding the Lexicon of Traumatic Stress,” are situations where “danger and threat are largely faceless and unpredictable, yet pervasive and substantive,” that is, “low intensity warfare, in which there are frequent terrorist attacks, including upon civilian targets, or in which repressive state forces operate with impunity”—criteria the Palestinian/Israeli conflict seamlessly meets. CTS “becomes a permanent emergency, something constant and internal that colors the whole web of relations across the society and the daily calculations of its citizens.” Moreover, “when the primary focus of traumatic awareness is upon anticipated danger,” thinking tends to be “dominated by fantasies of what might occur and ways of avoiding this.” Thus, “the mental life of the person experiencing CTS is characterized by preoccupation with thoughts about potential, future traumatic events . . . rather than with the details of a previous unprocessed event.”17A further significant dimension of CTS is that “the absence of protections from threat and danger is perhaps of equal significance as actual risk of exposure.” Such situations arise where there is no “normally functional system” of law and order, especially when “the perpetrators of violence and atrocity [are] precisely those who would usually be charged with the regulation of violence and the protection of communities.” Ruptures in the social order associated with the collapse of those responsible for upholding it instill “desperation and rage . . . when there is no recourse to protection and justice.” In a world perceived as inherently unjust and with no means of rectification, “passivity and hopelessness,” may become manifestations of “a sense of impotence or ‘learned helplessness,’” and ultimately nihilism. Or members of the community may assume “control . . . in violent and threatening ways.” In short, CTS may be expressed “as unbearable and unmanageable as a consequence of the rupture of the social fabric.”18CTS involves exposure to a highly unpredictable environment in which it becomes useful to map out areas, sites, or even likely time periods of safety and danger. Flexible employment of defensive adaptation is required, allowing for continued engagement with the world at the same time as being able to draw upon whatever limited protections may be available at short notice, where and when required. This may translate into a high level of vigilance that becomes subliminal and habitual.19The noted late Jesuit psychologist Ignacio Martín-Baró, who was among the Jesuits massacred by the Salvadoran army in 1989, summarized the responses of people living under conditions of extreme fear as revealing “a sensation of vulnerability; exacerbated alertness; a sense of impotence or loss of control over one’s own life; and an altered sense of reality, making it impossible to objectively validate one’s own experiences and knowledge.”20 He cites the work of the psychologist J. Samayoa who studied the behavioral changes that occur as a result of people having to adapt to war that results in dehumanization. Samayoa categorized the changes: “selective inattention and a clinging to prejudices; absolutism, idealization, and ideological rigidity; evasive skepticism; paranoid defensiveness; and hatred and desire for revenge.” Moreover, “the anticipatory anxiety” that comes from “worrying if a threatening situation will occur, whether that fear is realistic or not, can permanently transform how people respond to threats.” A distinguishing characteristic of CTS is the complexity of distinguishing between real and perceived or imagined threat. The lense of the imagined is more fear driven than the lense of the real. Both PTSD and CTS feed voraciously on a sense of victimization. Studies show that when a group is convinced that its culture is being persecuted, the ongoing threats link past and present.21 Individuals categorized as enemies today are perceived as reincarnations of former adversaries, whether they belong to the same group or not.22PTSD and CTS, along with perceived victimization and righteousness, distort the ways in which each group perceives its own narrative. Narratives can foster insidious and repetitive cycles of stimulus, response, and impact—patterns that resemble addictive behavior. They are elements within the functional “societal psychological (i.e., sociopsychological) infrastructure” that help societies cope with living under harsh conditions, generating “severe negative experiences, such as threat, stress, pain, exhaustion, grief, trauma, misery, and hardship, and cost, both in human and material terms.”23Bar-Tal refers to them as narratives of “collective memory” and the “ethos of conflict.” The two have overlapping characteristics that are carefully nurtured and maintained by social institutions and political processes. They are sustained in public discourse, rituals, ceremonies, and offer mind-sets that preserve the existing order, however horrific—because an uncertain future is too terrifying.24The narrative of collective memory is partial, selective, and distorted; it serves to foster group cohesion by appealing to existential threats. One’s own group is both hero and victim; the history of suffering and losses gives weight to the righteousness of the cause. In contrast, the opposing group is viewed as wicked, illegitimate, and responsible for both the outbreak and the continuation of the conflict. “In other words,” Bar-Tal and his colleagues write, “focusing on the injustice, harm, evil and atrocities associated with the adversary, while emphasizing one’s own society as being just, moral, and human, leads society members to present themselves as victims. Beliefs about victimhood imply that the conflict was imposed by an adversary who not only fights for unjust goals, but also uses violent and immoral means to achieve them.”25The narrative of the present, write Bar-Tal and Gauriel Salomon, is an “ethos.” An “ethos of conflict” emerges as central shared beliefs in societies undergoing long periods of intractable conflict. “The narrative of the ethos indicates to society members that their behavior is not just random but represents a coherent and systematic pattern of knowledge. This narrative implies that the decisions of society’s leaders, the coordinated behavior of the members of society, and the structure and functioning of the society, are all based on coherent and comprehensive beliefs that justify and motivate members of society to accept the system and to act in a coordinated manner.”26The degree to which each side nurtures and adheres to its ethos of conflict determines its ability to motivate and mobilize the masses to continue the conflict, even in the face of adversity and, on occasion, defeat. It provides the rationale for the pain, suffering, stress, hardship, and dislocation. Each side’s ethos is all-encompassing and all-powerful. They are complementary. They require each other.An ethos of conflict refracts a community’s shared experience through the prism of a remembered past. It also provides focal points that contribute to the continuation of the conflict.27 Bar-Tal identified eight interrelated themes of societal beliefs that are the hallmark characteristics of intractable conflict: societal beliefs about the justness of the in-group’s goals; beliefs about security; beliefs about positive collective self-image; beliefs about in-group victimization; beliefs that delegitimize the opponent; beliefs of patriotism; beliefs of unity; and beliefs about peace.28Conflict narratives also serve several other functions. They shape the political process by providing meaning, clarification, and direction into highly stressful and threatening circumstances. They promote victim/persecutor dichotomies and breed in-group self-righteousness and superiority. In turn, they justify collective action—however violent it might be—by attributing it to circumstances caused by a violent, immoral, subhuman “enemy.” As a result, conflict narratives inspire mobilization and action. They arouse a form of patriotism and willingness to sacrifice, both to defend and to avenge past grievances and prevent future harm, even obliteration, by the enemy. Along the way, one’s own standing and collective identity is solidified, with beliefs and practices institutionalized throughout the cultural and political system.29>>This brings us to the key concept in this discussion: the habits of attitude and behavior* assiduously cultivated by both Israelis and Palestinians over the past decades that permeate their societies and have evolved into addictions.* As humans, our brains are wired to react reflexively; our addictions, specifically, are rooted in unconscious, or at least involuntary, reactions. They have a dysfunctional internal logic that elicits little understanding from non-addicts. The two cultures are addicted to an inextricable, intertwined nexus of factors: PTSD, victimization, fear, and demonization—the status quo, that is, because this status quo bestows, literally if perversely, the comfort of the known.In a scathing report in 2012, the International Crisis Group (ICG) called the peace process “an addiction.” It said:[T]he reason most often cited for maintaining the existing peace process is the conviction that halting it risks creating a vacuum that would be filled with despair and chaos. The end result is that the peace process, for all its acknowledged shortcomings, over time has become a collective addiction that serves all manner of needs, reaching an agreement no longer being the main one. And so the illusion continues, for that largely is what it is. . . .The inescapable truth, almost two decades into the peace process, is that all actors are now engaged in a game of make-believe: that a resumption of talks in the current context can lead to success; that an agreement can be reached within a short timeframe; that the Quartet is an effective mediator; that the Palestinian leadership is serious about reconciliation, or the UN, or popular resistance, or disbanding the PA. This is not to say that the process itself has run its course. Continued meetings and even partial agreements—invariably welcomed as breakthroughs—are possible precisely because so many have an interest in its perpetuation. [Emphasis added.] But it will not bring about a durable and lasting peace. The first step in breaking what has become an injurious addiction to a futile process is to recognise that it is so—to acknowledge, at long last, that the emperor has no clothes.30So how do we put the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in a “habit/addiction” context? What are the routines that became habits and what are the cues and reward systems that make these habits impervious to change? The last hundred years are strewn with them. A history of repetitions: nothing learned; habits of interaction unchanged; process unchanged; accusatory fingers unchanged; incitement unchanged; hatred unchanged. The Israelis and Palestinians are, one could say, addicted to their conflict.31In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg writes that neurological researchers have found that “the process within our brain is a three-step loop. First there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future. Over time this loop—cue, routine, reward—becomes more and more automatic. The cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges. Eventually . . . a habit is born.”32A Palestinian-Israeli “habit/addiction” context can be illustrated using Duhigg’s cue-routine-reward addiction loop. Some examples of Palestinian “cues” include persistent humiliation, victimization (Nakba/right-of-return narrative), powerlessness, and imposed peace-process attempts. For Israelis “cues” include persistent fear, victimization (Holocaust/anti-Semitism narrative), exceptionalism, and imposed peace-process attempts. “Routines” for Palestinians include armed and civil resistance, provocation (rockets fired from Gaza), and unilateral actions outside of previous agreements (such as seeking UN status before reaching an agreement on borders). “Routines” for Israelis include pervasive securitization of territory and population, the overwhelming use of force and collective punishment, and unilateral actions outside of previous agreements (such as the expansion of settlements). The “reward” responses gained in both cases are placated feelings of self-righteousness, vindication, maintaining the status quo, and sustaining global attention on the conflict regardless of the negative consequences of these behaviors. The danger of addiction is that appeased feelings are temporary and routines have to be repeated in order to maintain levels of satisfaction/reward.Among some of the habit loops that become self-perpetuating and thus addictive are (1) cue: U.S. intervention, routine: a negotiations process that repeats itself, ensuring failure, reward: blaming the other side for failure and attribution of actions on its part that ensure failure, reassertion of the righteousness of one’s positions (narrative based); (2) cue: the Nakba, routine: insistence on the implementation of the right of return, knowing it is not going to happen, reward: end of negotiations, but an affirmation by the Palestinians to the public that this is one demand they will not yield on, coupled with a reiteration, again, of Israeli intransigence, righteousness, adherence to historical narrative; (3) cue: Holocaust/Nakba, routine: obsessive compulsion to remember, reward: solidification of identity; (4) cue: conflict; routine: ethos of conflict; reward: reinforcement and reaffirmation of ethos of conflict and the righteousness of one’s cause; (5) cue: conflict, routine: use of disproportionate force, reward: threat reduced or eliminated. (The Israeli response to threat of war is to use disproportionate force, in the belief that this will eliminate the perceived threat, but the same perceived threat always reappears in a few years; Israel resorts again to the use of disproportionate force, again believing deterrence has been achieved, but the same threat appears, yet again, a few years later. Addiction literature draws on Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: the propensity to do the same thing over and over again, believing the result will be different if you just repeat it one more time. The Gaza wars of 2008–9, 2012, and 2014 are illuminating examples of this phenomenon and the unquestioning logic that sustains it.)From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

“Impressive . . . [O’Malley] has done a tremendous amount of research about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He’s not only delved deeply into the literature; he’s also interviewed dozens of participants on both sides. The result is a book so packed with information that it will reward even the reader so dedicated that she consumes the Israel-Palestine stories buried on Page A17 of The Times. . . . O’Malley is not only knowledgeable; he’s also honest.” —New York Times Book Review  “The Two-State Delusion provides an impartial, empathic but relentlessly objective look at our reality . . . [and] a refreshing departure from the blame game in which Israelis and Palestinians and their respective international champions try to make the other side responsible for the peace process’s failure. And it diverges from the tendency to find the trick that will do the job, and comes to a conclusion as intellectually compelling as it is dismaying.” —Haaretz (Israel)“On the basis of a meticulous research effort . . . O’Malley argues very persuasively that the two-state solution is dead. . . . This volume provides valuable and very timely explanations for the persistence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One can only hope that Israeli, Palestinian and American decision makers will absorb the major lessons taught so very convincingly by O'Malley.”—Middle East Policy“An honest assessment of where the Israelis and Palestinians are right now . . . After interviewing more than one hundred leaders on both sides, [O'Malley] believes everything attempted so far is on the wrong track. The problem, he explains, is that both sides are looking backward instead of forward.”—Cleveland Plain-Dealer“A thoughtful autopsy of the failed two-state paradigm . . . [O’Malley] carefully sifts through the intractable coexistence between the Palestinians and Israelis and finds both sides so traumatized by the ‘narrative’ of their respective struggle that they are unable to view the other with respect or humanity—the beginning of true reconciliation. . . . Evenhanded, diplomatic, mutually respectful and enormously useful.”—Kirkus, starred review “Exhaustively researched . . . There are no heroes in O’Malley’s account, and no clear villains either.”—Publishers WeeklyPraise for Shades of Difference: Mac Maharaj & the Struggle for South Africa“A striking success.” —Jeremy Harding, The New York Times Book Review   “An original and important work . . . An entry for the reader into a wider understanding of the elements of the Struggle, the contradictions that had to be overcome to bring us freedom.” —Nadine Gordimer, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature   “[O’Malley] is knowledgeable and sure-footed as he recounts this story… making a complex narrative on the whole quite clear.” —San Francisco Chronicle “Meticulous and unflinchingly honest.” —The New York Sun   “Brilliantly written.” —Library Journal (starred review)    “A groundbreaking biography of a central figure in the fight to end South African apartheid.” —Publishers Weekly   “[Shades of Difference] is one of those seminal works that every South African should read. If you have read Mandela’s Long Road to Freedom and other annals of our struggle, it is imperative to add this one to your collection because it provides an important and vital thread to the understanding of South Africa, then, now and into the future.” —Musa Zondi, The Sowetan   “An extraordinarily well-researched work . . . O’Malley has a deep understanding . . . and is perhaps one of the few outsiders who could readily understand the South African struggle.” —The Independent (South Africa)   “[Shades of Difference] is more than the story of one of the most important players in the liberation drama – it is required reading for those of us who want to understand where we came from, how we got here and why some things happen as they do.” —Africa News   “If you are interested in where this country has come from and where it may be headed, then this book is required reading.” —The Star (South Africa)   Praise for Biting at the Grave: The Irish Hunger Strikes and the Politics of Despair “Anyone who wants to understand the essence of the confrontation will have cause to be devoutly grateful for this book.” —The New York Times Book Review   “O’Malley’s story of two English-speaking communities who squandered the benefits of constitutional government is frightening, for his theme—the destructive effects of feelings of beleaguerment, entrapment, and victimization—is echoed in every morning’s newspaper.” —The New Yorker   “A book equal to the pity and terror of its subject, Padraig O’Malley simplifies nothing, extenuates nothing, and scrutinizes everything. This is not only a heart-felt narrative, but a sustained exercise of moral and political intelligence.” —Seamus Heaney “A brilliant, chilling, and heartbreaking book.” —Boston Globe “O’Malley shrewdly assesses the psychological, cultural, religious and political forces that kept the hunger strikes going against all odds, and against all reason.” —Washington Post “A fierce and uncompromising examination of the history, mythology, mindset and religion that make up modern Ireland, north and south alike.” —Philadelphia InquirerFrom the Hardcover edition.