The root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is ethnic racialism which melts down to the obdurate dispute over land claimed by Israeli Jews as their biblical bequest and by the Palestinians, who seek self-determination. Briefly, the Israeli-Palestine conflict can be described as the world’s largest refugee crisis, humanitarian suffering in Gaza, and Palestinian factional fighting. International intervention to end this crisis has been attempted for years, but to no avail. In 2003, an effort was made to establish an independent state in Palestine but only to aggravate the Palestinian military attacks on Israel (Reuters). Within the Palestinian Territories, a power struggle between rival Palestinian factions has led to the establishment of two administrations, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Hamas. The situation in the region has worsened with Hamas, a militant faction assuming power over Palestine, by overthrowing the PLO. Currently, there are around 1.7 million refugees live in the West Bank and Gaza, many in crowded camps (Reuters). The region’s socio-economic conditions have deteriorated significantly in recent years, and the population is increasingly reliant on food aid. In such a situation when the two states have reached a passé in the peace-keeping process, it is extremely important to have an international intervention to set the process on the right track. This essay aims at providing a few policy recommendations to the US government to help find a solution to this impasse.
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Gordon Allport in The Nature of Prejudice (1954) postulated that the interactions between identity groups engaged in prolonged conflict based on ethnicity are difficult to reach a solution especially when one group’s identity is accepted than the other negated, the latter will indulge in further conflict. Due to the prevalence of too much negative energy between the groups, reaching a solution is very difficult. The most interesting situation in the Israeli-Palestine conflict is that both parties feel that it is a zero-sum conflict, not only with respect to land but also with respect to national identity and national existence (Kelman). Here the problem is each perceives the existence of the other as a state as a threat to its existence. Both believe that only one can be a nation. The zero-sum view arises from the idea that both sides fight over a piece of land that both claim to be their homeland. Under these circumstances, acknowledging one of the sides’ nationhood is perceived by the other side as jeopardizing its claim over the land (Kelman). This is what has been done by the Israeli lobbyists in the US. In such a situation what is the way of providing a solution to the conflict between the two sides?
So the main problems identified in the conflict between Israel and Palestine are threefold. The first is the nationhood criterion. Both the Jews and the Palestinians consider themselves as a nation. Second, is the problem of land sharing. Here the political identity and nationhood are dependent on a strip of land and denial of the legitimacy over the land of one group is a total defeat for the other. Third, is the role of the diasporas in creating the sense of common peoplehood in the two sub-communities is very strong, and hence coming to a solution is psychologically considered as going against the Palestinian or the Jewish diasporas.
Clearly, it is direct negotiation between the two parties that can solve the problem, and not military disengagement and non-belligerency that can resolve the conflict between eh two parties. It must be understood that the solution to the problem is not external, but psychological. As the hindrances that we have identified are related to the social psychology of the two sub-communities, there needs to be a direct negotiation between the two parties in order to remove these psychological curtains. The leaders of the two groups failed to enter into a discussion where their national identity is at stake, especially within the precondition of negotiating on their borders. This impasse can be solved only in a negotiating framework based on mutual recognition of the other’s right to national self-determination in the land both sides claim (Kelman). What the US has to do is act as a mediator in the negotiating table and ensure both sides that the right to their national identity and ethnicity is not at stake on the negotiating table. What the US so far has done has supported Israel due to increase militant attacks on the state by Palestinian extremist groups. But this attitude only abstains the latter from being open to negotiation. So as a policy, the US should abstain from being pro to either of the sides and be the assurer in the two sides’ mutual recognition process.
Allport, Gordon. The Nature of Prejudice. Cambridge, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1954.
Kelman, Herbert C. “The Interdependence of Israeli and Palestinian National Identities: The Role of the Other in Existential Conflict.” Journal of Social Issues vol.55 no.3 (1999): 581-600.
Reuters. “Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” 2008. Web.