Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New Year Thoughts About Israel

I ran across this article today and was reminded of the slow boil that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
Israel changes law to make it harder to cede Jerusalem control
Between this and the Trump Administration's decision to recognize a united Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel, things have been moving fast - and not in a good way.

These things together represent unilateral moves by Israel to resolve aspects of the conflict in Israel's favor. They represent a turning away from negotiation as a means to find mutually-agreed upon solutions, preferring unilateral solutions over the other side's objections instead.

Amazingly enough, this is exactly what I wrote my dissertation about twenty years ago. Then as now, I was interested in conflict dynamics: if side A does X, what choices does side B have, and what kinds of outcomes become more or less likely? One of the core organizing principles, which I still believe in today: in conflict, all actions are working either towards a Unilateral solution (imposing your will on the other side) or a Multilateral solution (finding an agreement that both sides accept). Sometimes parties try to do both, but that usually doesn't work well.

The thing about Unilateral strategies is that they are both one-sided (by definition) and path-determinative. If side A chooses to pursue the Unilateral route, side B loses the option of pursuing Multilateral options instead. Side B's options are reduced - either surrender entirely, or go Unilateral themselves.

Regarding Jerusalem and the wider Arab-Israeli conflict, Palestinians now face exactly this choice. Do they become despondent and simply give up, allowing Israel to take over all of the 1948 Mandate territory and becoming second-class citizens in someone else's country? Or do they fight back, pushing what has been a fairly quiescent conflict back into violence?

I don't know the answer here - I can't make a prediction, because I don't have data about how Palestinians see the situation and what their calculations are. But these are the only two outcomes possible - either surrender into de facto apartheid, or go back to violence. Neither is good from the Palestinian perspective, but they don't control the choices they're given.

I'm mindful too that there may be factions in Israel (including, possibly, the ruling Likud party) which see both of these as good outcomes. They will gladly take the territory if Palestinians are willing to surrender it, and they will gladly seize the opportunity to crush Palestinian resistance if provoked.

For those wishing for peace on earth in 2018, this doesn't look like a good start. Either way, Palestinians suffer. Israelis may suffer as well - how much depends on choices yet to be made. Not a great start to the year.

No comments:

Post a Comment