Academic journal article Middle East Review of International Affairs (Online)

Is the Peace Process Dead?

Academic journal article Middle East Review of International Affairs (Online)

Is the Peace Process Dead?

Article excerpt

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more /

Or close the wall up with our English dead!

-William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act III,

Scene I

We demand of everyone to push ahead with reconciliation [between Fatah and Hamas] and to end the state of division, so that we will be able to stand against the occupation, to halt its activities against our prisoners, and to turn to the struggle for the liberation of Palestine-all of Palestine. - PA Minister of Social Affairs Majida al-Masri (a moderate in PA terms), al-Hayat al-Jadida, March 9, 2012

Mr. Praline: That parrot is definitely deceased, and when I purchased it not half an hour ago, you assured me that its total lack of movement was due to it being tired and shagged out following a prolonged squawk.

Owner: Well, he's...ah...probably pining for the fjords.

Mr. Praline: Pining for the fjords?... Why did he fall flat on his back the moment I got him home?

Owner: The Norwegian Blue prefers keeping on its back!...

Mr. Praline: ....I discovered the only reason that it had been sitting on its perch in the first place was that it had been nailed there!

-Monty Python's Flying Circus, Dead Parrot Sketch

The key to understanding the Middle East is to recognize when things change. Alongside the "Arab Spring," the Turkish campaign to be a regional power, and Iran's drive to get nuclear weapons is another important development that is, internationally at least, the least recognized of all: Any hope for Israel-Palestinian or Arab- Israeli peace agreements ending the conflict is dead. There is no more "peace process;" or if you prefer, the possibility of a formal Israel- Palestinian peace that ends the conflict is dormant for a long historical era.

Western, especially European, political leaders, intellectuals, and journalists simply do not in most cases grasp this reality. A fantasy continues to direct their policies, writings, and much of the debate. Yet it is vital to understand that this is a fantasy, why that is so, and how policies should be adjusted in the face of these circumstances.

This article will examine the psychological and structural factors that, on one hand, make the "peace process" deceased and, on the other hand, inhibit recognition of that reality.


Even if it is not fully articulated, the narrative of the Israel-Palestinian conflict widely accepted in the West is prevalent largely because it is taken as corresponding with the historical experiences of Western states on other issues. A nationalist movement develops among a people ruled by others; they engage in political activity and violence, but the situation is eventually settled by giving them the state they crave.

Precisely, it is because they so passionately want a state of their own they are willing to make compromises to get it. A comprehensive treaty is signed and implemented, peace prevails, Nobel prizes are handed around to the architects of the agreement, and everyone lives happily ever after. This description is not meant to be sarcastic. This formula has indeed worked on many occasions and resolved many disputes. The problem is that it does not match the Israel- Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflict cases. To pretend otherwise requires statesmen, experts, and journalists to ignore huge swathes of facts and factors, thus ensuring both failure and an inability to understand the events actually taking place in the region.

In this model, the existing problem is due to a dispute over territory in which one side, Israel, has won, and the other side has lost. Yet both sides thus have a strong incentive to resolve the problem. Israel wants peace and an end to the conflict and terrorism, to secure its existence, and enjoy the benefits that would accrue as a result of having normal relations with its neighbors.

In parallel, the Palestinians are suffering from Israeli occupation, lower living standards, and violence. …

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