This book is a journey on a bumpy road through the almost impossible mission of Middle East peace. It is written in a narrative form as critical events have taken place. The concept of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been around for quite sometime and Ben-Meir continues to support it as the only plausible solution of Israeli and Palestinian coexistence, living side by side. In his view, enough agreements and frameworks are already on the table; what is lacking is the courage, creativity, and commitment from self-served leaders who do not see beyond their terms in office.
In looking at the growing rift between Israelis and Palestinians, it is essential to step back and concentrate on the human dimensions of the conflict. Too often commentators and governments have either misunderstood or ignored them. Without confronting these determinants, there can be no realistic hope for a resolution. Chief among these concerns is the psychological ramifications of the second intifada and how the indiscriminate violence, especially the suicide bombings, has sanctified a culture of death that has profoundly affected the psyches of both sides. The prolonged occupation has further compounded the human drama by dehumanizing the two societies, creating a profound sense of alienation and contempt.
Adding to this mix is the destructive role of the Israeli settlements. For the Palestinians they have provided a panoramic perspective on their own helplessness in stopping Israel's creeping impingement on their territory. For the Israelis the settlements have choked off any possibility for a political solution. Another crucial element is the Arab states' treatment of the Palestinians for more than two generations, which has inflicted deep injuries on these proud people in the name of brotherhood. Then there are the demographic dimensions of the conflict, seen by both sides as determining the future viability of their respective national identities. The pursuit of a demographic advantage has created a new reality--the interdispersement of both populations. The stunning and mostly overlooked implications of this development are that it has made coexistence inevitable.
Perhaps more than any other element that has contributed to the grievous development of the conflict is the plight of the Palestinian refugees. Specifically, the Palestinians' own leaders and the Arab states, each with their own agenda, deliberately exploited and perpetuated the subhuman conditions under which the refugees have been forced to exist. Their plight has distorted and undermined any pragmatic discourse about the ways to resolve this human tragedy. Juxtaposed against the Palestinians' human drama is the Jews' dispersement, their ingathering in their ancient homeland and their right to live like any other free people. The acceptance of this immensely complex reality is imperative because any solution to the impasse is inextricably linked to a public recognition by the Arab states and the Palestinians of this Jewish right. Together all these elements have shaped the tragedy that has befallen both peoples.
Although the United States has attempted at various times to mediate a peaceful solution, good intentions, especially in the past eight years, have not been matched by any decisive active involvement or purposeful strategy. Without America putting teeth into its words and resorting to coercive diplomacy if it must, peace will simply be impossible to achieve. But even with fu
Alon B e n-Meir is an expert in Middle East affairs and politics, specializing in the Arab-Israeli peace process. For the past twenty-f