Most troubling, leaders on both sides are increasingly attempting to marginalize and repress local activists fighting for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Israel has cracked down on human rights NGOs while a chorus of influential Palestinian voices are pushing an “anti-normalization” agenda.
Despite this, Israeli and Palestinian civil society activists keep fighting. It is tempting on this anniversary to look back at the past 50 years in despair, but I retain hope. I do because the youngest generation of Israelis and Palestinians, despite knowing only conflict throughout their lives, is choosing to close the divide between them. Where their parents and grandparents have given up, young people are taking risks to meet each other, and to understand each other and are building the fabric necessary to someday bring about a resolution to a conflict that has lasted far too long.
My hope is that in another 50 years, when these kids are writing their own reflections, the story they tell will be a story of how they finally overcame the myriad factors driving them apart; how they fought against leaders incapable of overcoming their own petty political interests; and how when they reached the pit of despair in 2017, they figured out how to claw their way back to the light.
Since the prospects for peace reached a pinnacle during the period shortly after the Oslo Accords, sadly, those prospects have grown dimmer. But since the high point of the peace process, the policies of the past 25 years have steadily widened the physical and psychological chasm between Israelis and Palestinians. Today, even those who live on top of each other – quite literally in some cases – do not know each other and have almost no interaction. As a result, smaller and smaller numbers of Israelis and Palestinians voice support for a two-state solution. For the first time, the idea of a one-state solution has become part of the normal discourse.