The distorted peace process between Palestinians and Israelis assumed that the Palestinian‒Israeli conflict is solvable and will reach an end in the near future. This simplistic assumption needs to be reversed, this contribution argues, in an attempt to look for realistic and workable alternative solutions. What if the underlying assumption of the peace process was that this conflict is persistent, protracted and possibly unsolvable? How would this new assumption affect the available set of policy options and interventions? And how would a different starting point impact on the Palestinian and Israeli strategies?
These questions are not merely posed as an intellectual exercise but are inspired by the complex dynamics of the conflict, the embedded vested interests and realities on the ground, and the asymmetric power relations. Evidently, a just and lasting peace is very far off. Indeed, it is a myth to claim that a negotiated peace is around the corner, or that the two-state solution is the only viable option for a lasting peaceful settlement and the realization of fundamental rights. Realizing rights and the traditional two-state solution have proved to be incompatible spheres. Rather, any analysis should start from the one-state reality (State of Israel) – not to be confused with the one-state solution – its nature and policies, its apartheid structures and regime, and its colonial settler project in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
However, beginning the search for alternative strategies and visions from this starting point necessitates a number of prerequisites or pillars to allow the Palestinians and Israelis to engage in a process of positive change. For the Palestinians, the absence of a unified, representative and accountable political leadership, the absence of a culture of debate, and fragmentation on all fronts are some of the factors that define their weakness. For the Israelis, underpinning factors for the persistent impasse include an unwillingness and inability to recognize and feel the costs of the military occupation, the overall feeling of superiority, and the failure to address the demographic phobia ‒ and the associated phobias ‒ in the collective narrative.