Israel-Palestine: the real reason there’s still no peace

Nathan Thrall in The Guardian:

3500 (1)Scattered over the land between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea lie the remnants of failed peace plans, international summits, secret negotiations, UN resolutions and state-building programmes, most of them designed to partition this long-contested territory into two independent states, Israel and Palestine. The collapse of these initiatives has been as predictable as the confidence with which US presidents have launched new ones, and the current administration is no exception.

In the quarter century since Israelis and Palestinians first started negotiating under US auspices in 1991, there has been no shortage of explanations for why each particular round of talks failed. The rationalisations appear and reappear in the speeches of presidents, the reports of thinktanks and the memoirs of former officials and negotiators: bad timing; artificial deadlines; insufficient preparation; scant attention from the US president; want of support from regional states; inadequate confidence-building measures; coalition politics; or leaders devoid of courage.

Among the most common refrains are that extremists were allowed to set the agenda and there was a neglect of bottom-up economic development and state-building. And then there are those who point at negative messaging, insurmountable scepticism or the absence of personal chemistry (a particularly fanciful explanation for anyone who has witnessed the warm familiarity of Palestinian and Israeli negotiators as they reunite in luxury hotels and reminisce about old jokes and ex-comrades over breakfast buffets and post-meeting toasts). If none of the above works, there is always the worst cliche of them all – lack of trust.

Postmortem accounts vary in their apportioning of blame. But nearly all of them share a deep-seated belief that both societies desire a two-state agreement, and therefore need only the right conditions – together with a bit of nudging, trust-building and perhaps a few more positive inducements – to take the final step.

More here.