In the recent award-winning novel, “The One Hundred Year Old Man” by Jonas Jonasson, the old man, Alan, in conversation with a new acquaintance Bosse, said, “He’d been out and about in the world and if there was one thing he had learned it was that the most impossible conflicts were based on the dialogue: “You are stupid. No, it’s you who are stupid. No, it’s you. “The solution”, said the old man, “was often to down a bottle of vodka together and look ahead”. “So will a bit of vodka solve the Israel-Palestine conflict” asked Bosse. “For the particular conflict you mentiond, it is possible that you will need more than one bottle” the old man answered. “But the principle is the same”.
Clearly the Israel-Palestine conflict is now at the two or even three bottle stage and looking ahead remains the only viable way of solving it. But, as the recent clash between Gaza and Israel showed, there is little or no sign of progress. A survey in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, on October 24 showed that most Israelis would support an apartheid-style regime. Haaretz commented that, “ultra-nationalist views are espoused by a majority of Israelis”.
Former US President Jimmy Carter, who is the midwife of the Middle East’s most durable peace agreement – the one between Israel and Egypt - was reported as saying last month that, “It looks like a decision has been made to go to a one-state solution but to conceal it from the world.”
In other words - Israel will rule in perpetuity over Palestine, making it a subservient part of Greater Israel but without any political rights for the inhabitants and totally beholden to the government of Israel - as were the black Bantustans to white South Africa’s apartheid regime. The idea of a so-called “two-state” solution with the Israelis and Palestinians living harmoniously side by side in their own independent states, trading with each other, sharing water together and generally being good neighbours would be scrapped.
If it goes for a one-state solution Israel will be shooting itself in the foot as the Palestinians will soon be a majority in a Greater Israel. But the Israeli public seems to have blindfolded itself to that contingency and its implications for both its own future and that of the wider Middle East.
The Israelis today point to the “Balfour Declaration” of 1917 as their founding “charter”. This document published by Palestine’s colonial power, Britain, gave political backing to the concept of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East. Yet Lord Milner who headed the drafting group in London which actually wrote the Balfour Declaration was clear that Jewish immigration into Palestine could only happen in the context of an Arab federation to which the Jews would bring economic dynamism with their capital and labour. (This explains the apparent confusion relating to the “double promise” that London made during the First World War to both Arabs and Jews, giving them both the impression they would have a confirmed homeland.) Milner also stated in parliament in 1923 that Palestine would remain a British mandate and would “never become a Jewish state”.
In 1948 the British fled Palestine, worn out by policing the conflict between the Palestinians and Jews and being the target of the terrorist gangs of the Zionist movement. A state of Israel was declared with the support of the UN. Then the combined Arab armies launched a war to defeat Israel. They were repulsed. The Israelis conquered the West Bank, the heartland of Palestine. They also extended the boundary of Israel and in the decades afterwards colonised parts of the West Bank and Gaza with settlers.
As was so in the time of Moses many modern Israelis believe that God designated all this land to the Israelites. According to the Biblical text, The Book of Deuteronomy, God told Moses to order his generals to kill woman and children as well as the men of one tribe who stood in the way of the Jews’ migration from Egypt to the “Promised Land”. Secular Israelis today like to think they don’t go along with such extremism yet an overwhelming majority of all Israelis supported the bombardment of Gaza, even though less than a handful of Israelis died and over a thousand Palestinians, including many children, died.