Israel’s victory in 1967 brought a sense of capacity and power to the hearts and minds of Israelis. In victory, Israelis came to feel they are undefeatable. As a result, Israel has asserted its status as the stronger party—the holder of all the cards. And Israel’s assertion of its military superiority and its strong position in the international area, led to a pervasive sense of defeat that washed over neighboring Arab countries. Indeed, until the 1973 War, this led Israel to refuse to engage in any serious peace process, until the peace agreement with the Egyptians and later the Jordanians were signed. These breakthroughs required moments of brave leadership on both sides.
The legacy for Palestinians of Israel’s sense of invincibility was that Israel channeled this into exerting pressure over Palestinians in negotiations: a mindset that it could bring the Palestinians to their knees and produce a final status agreement which robbed Palestinians of their right to self-determination in a two-state solution. Israel imagined it could offer Palestinians something short of a state, a semi-autonomy and responsibility only for managing municipal matters. Despite high hopes during the Oslo years, this period was accompanied in the last two decades by increasing Israel presence in the West Bank and deepening settlement activity.
The result is a deadlock—for Israel and the Palestinians. The two-state solution, often thought to be the only viable solution for the conflict, is becoming harder to accomplish. The fact is, fewer and fewer Israelis and Palestinians believe it is feasible. While a one-state solution is today presented by many as an alternative to the elusive two-state deal is in reality even harder to accomplish and does not reflect the real wish of most Palestinians and Israelis. What we want is separation and two independent homelands: two states for two peoples.
If the international community would have stepped in immediately after the 1967 war, it would have been able perhaps to dictate a solution. But its failure to do so left a vacuum. Today each side looks for opportunities to exploit this vague and undefined status. But this journey is not without costs—time has only deepened the hate between these two nations, as a changing reality on the ground makes a solution more complicated to achieve and reduces faith in a solution.
Every single day we slide deeper into occupation is bad for all Palestinians and bad for all Israelis. Both have an interest in a historic and brave decision to negotiate a dignified divorce before it is too late. Prolonging these 50 years of indeterminacy has a steep cost. I fear that instead of a territorial conflict our conflict will become a cultural clash and religious confrontation that might last for decades.
Palestinians and Israelis can live together if the leadership on both sides--and especially, in my view, the stronger side--will decide once and for all to stop the sandstorm of animosity.
Mohammed Darawshe is Co-Executive Director of the Givat Haviva Institute and also served as the Co-Executive Director of the Abraham Fund.
The 1967 war left Israel, Palestinians and the whole Middle East in a strange zone of undefined status. It would be wrong to call this a ‘status quo,’ because it is a status that changes for the worse every day. After fifty years, Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people continues. Occupation is a technical term, but to Palestinians, “Occupation,” is not just a word. It captures the harsh daily reality of suffering of a nation, a nation which does not see a light of freedom and independence at the end of the tunnel.