The conflict between Israel and Palestine

Posted in Israel / Palestine | 19-Jul-04 | Author: Dieter Farwick

You might ask yourself: Why again Israel/Palestine? Indeed, it seems to be a never ending story. Its outcome, however, will have world-wide repercussions beyond the broader Middle East. We cannot turn a blind eye to this conflict that is tightly interwoven with all the problems we are facing in the arc of instability "from Marrakech to Bangladesh". Developments in Afghanistan and Iraq are directly linked to the conflict between Israel and Palestine, as is the international reputation of the lone superpower, the United States. The history of the last fifty years is full of peace initiatives that all failed.

In this newsletter, a talented, young German expert develops two interesting demographic scenarios for the coming decades. They illustrate that time is running against Israel. Demographic trends are a time bomb. By 2026, the ethnic majority in Israel and Palestine is expected to change to the Arab side. It is true that crude categorization in Jews and Arabs ignores the diversity that shapes ethnic, social, cultural, religious and political identities and loyalties on both sides. Arab Israelis, Middle Eastern Jews, anti-Israel ultra-orthodox Jews, Bedouins and Druze do not fit in such a simple picture. However, it is demographic fear that is driving Israel's desire to disengage from Gaza and the West Bank, even without a peace agreement. Abandoning Arab territories is a precondition for preserving the Jewish identity of Israel.

In addition, the ongoing conflict places heavy financial and economic burdens on Israel, and on the Palestinian Authority as well. There seems to be no solution by outside force and pressure. The solution has to come both from Israel and Palestine. The withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza might be the first step in the right direction. A grand coalition government in Israel, which might be formed within weeks, might be able to convince Israelis to make sacrifices. Hopefully, there will be competent and trustworthy partners on the other side. Arafat is not such a partner. Arafat, who has come under pressure by his own people, is not such a partner.

What can the rest of the world do? We should offer ourselves as an honest broker for both sides to come to a fair two-state solution, and we should offer political guarantees and financial support for a long-lasting transformation.