The Per­ma­nent Oc­cu­pa­tion?

FIFTY YEARS AF­TER IS­RAEL SEIZED CON­TROL OF THE WEST BANK, THE PALES­TINI­ANS MAY HAVE FI­NALLY LOST THEIR BID FOR IN­DE­PEN­DENCE

Newsweek - - NEWS - by Gregg Carl­strom

Fifty years af­ter Is­rael seized con­trol of the West Bank, the Pales­tini­ans may have fi­nally lost their bid for in­de­pen­dence.

IT WAS THE END OF RA­MADAN,

a few days be­fore Eid al-fitr, a time of feasts and fam­ily. But the house­wives shop­ping in a Gaza City mar­ket were buying just a few hand­fuls of veg­eta­bles and small pieces of meat. “No­body can use their re­frig­er­a­tors,” one ven­dor ex­plains; the power is out for much of the day, and food spoils quickly here. It was the start of a typ­i­cally harsh sum­mer, with day­time tem­per­a­tures in the 90s, and in one of­fice af­ter the next, politi­cians and pro­fes­sors apol­o­gized to vis­i­tors for the heat—their air con­di­tion­ers were use­less.

Af­ter three wars and a decade-long mil­i­tary block­ade, Gaza’s nearly 2 mil­lion peo­ple are fa­mil­iar with hard­ship. This sum­mer’s power cri­sis is merely the lat­est in a long list of short­ages of ev­ery­thing from drink­ing wa­ter and cook­ing gas to ce­ment and cars. But this time, one thing is dif­fer­ent: The prob­lem has been cre­ated by other Pales­tini­ans.

Un­til re­cently, Is­rael pro­vided Gaza with about half of its elec­tric­ity, paid for by the Pales­tinian Author­ity, the in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized body that gov­erns the West Bank. But in April, Mah­moud Ab­bas, the Pales­tinian pres­i­dent, de­cided to re­duce those pay­ments by 40 per­cent, and on June 11, at the re­quest of the PA, the Is­raeli se­cu­rity Cabinet ap­proved a com­men­su­rate cut in the sup­ply. Most Gazans received just four hours of elec­tric­ity at a time, fol­lowed by 12-hour black­outs; now, they get about two and a half hours at a stretch.

The re­duc­tion was partly an ef­fort to win fa­vor with Don­ald Trump. Ab­bas has been ea­ger to es­tab­lish a good re­la­tion­ship with the new Amer­i­can pres­i­dent, who has re­peat­edly said he wants to strike the “ul­ti­mate deal” be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans. Trump tasked his long­time cor­po­rate lawyer, Ja­son Green­blatt, and his son-in­law, Jared Kush­ner, with re­viv­ing the mori­bund peace process be­tween the two par­ties. Ab­bas hoped that im­pos­ing sanc­tions on Gaza, which is con­trolled by the mil­i­tant Is­lamist group Ha­mas, would boost his stand­ing. “He be­lieves this is his last chance for a two-state so­lu­tion,” says Salah al-bar­dawil, a mem­ber of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s polit­buro. “So he’s in a rush to show Trump that he’s against ter­ror­ism.”

But Trump’s ef­forts have al­ready col­lided with the real­i­ties on the ground: a hawk­ish gov­ern­ment in Jerusalem and a di­vided, un­pop­u­lar Pales­tinian lead­er­ship. Kush­ner made a quick trip to the re­gion in mid-june to meet with lead­ers on both sides. In the days be­fore and af­ter his visit, Is­rael an­nounced plans to build 7,000 new homes in oc­cu­pied East Jerusalem and broke ground on a new set­tle­ment in the West Bank, the first in more than two decades. Ara­bic me­dia re­ported that Kush­ner’s talks with Ab­bas were “dif­fi­cult,” and that Trump might aban­don the ef­fort. Even if he plows ahead, few ob­servers ex­pect him to suc­ceed.

By mid­sum­mer, the Pales­tini­ans were pub­licly frus­trated with what they viewed as the proIs­raeli slant of Trump’s top aides. But Ab­bas did not aban­don the elec­tric­ity cuts, nor his de­ci­sions to halt ship­ments of medicine to Gaza and re­duce the salaries of tens of thou­sands of civil ser­vants there. They were more than just geopo­lit­i­cal ploys; they were also parts of a lon­grun­ning in­ter­nal Pales­tinian bat­tle—one that now con­sumes more of their at­ten­tion than the fight against Is­rael.

As Samir al-ajla, a res­i­dent of east­ern Gaza, puts it: “I never thought the one mak­ing my life dif­fi­cult would be an­other Pales­tinian.”

BRO­KEN BONES AND SHAT­TERED DREAMS

THE PALES­TINI­ANS, liv­ing un­der oc­cu­pa­tion or scat­tered across the di­as­pora, have long been the weaker party in the con­flict with Is­rael. For decades, though, they were able to put up a costly fight. In the years af­ter the Six-day War in 1967, they did so from ex­ile in Beirut, Am­man and Tu­nis, a mil­i­tant cam­paign that caused chaos across the Arab world and even spilled into Europe. The cli­max came in the late 1980s, with the start of the first in­tifada, a home­grown move­ment of mass protests. Is­rael re­sponded with brute force, killing and wound­ing thou­sands of demon­stra­tors—what then–de­fense Min­is­ter Yitzhak Rabin called its “bro­ken bones” pol­icy. This drew sharp crit­i­cism from abroad and helped spur a diplo­matic process that cul­mi­nated in the mid-1990s with the Oslo Ac­cords,

which granted the Pales­tini­ans a mea­sure of self-gov­er­nance.

Oslo was meant to last for five years, an in­terim step to­ward a fi­nal peace agree­ment. But op­ti­mism soon col­lided with the sec­ond in­tifada, a grisly cam­paign of sui­cide bomb­ings that si­lenced the peace camp in Is­rael. From there, the Pales­tinian strat­egy di­verged. Ha­mas fought three wars. Young Pales­tini­ans car­ried out hun­dreds of lone wolf at­tacks in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Is­rael. The PA, mean­while, waged a diplo­matic bat­tle against Is­rael, join­ing the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court and win­ning recog­ni­tion from the United Na­tions and a num­ber of Euro­pean states.

Yet none of these moves forced Is­rael to make con­ces­sions. Over the past decade, Pales­tini­ans have killed about 200 Is­raelis, less than half the num­ber they killed in a sin­gle year, 2002, at the height of the sec­ond in­tifada. Law­mak­ers treat the vi­o­lence as in­evitable. Even at the peak of the last Gaza war, the largest pro-peace rally in Tel Aviv at­tracted a scant 5,000 pro­test­ers. Nearly half a mil­lion Is­raelis, by con­trast, turned out in the sum­mer of 2011 to protest the high cost of liv­ing. Mean­while, Ab­bas’s diplo­matic ef­forts haven’t amounted to much: Join­ing the In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion Against Dop­ing in Sport has not, it seems, placed any mean­ing­ful pres­sure on Is­rael.

In­stead, the Pales­tini­ans have spent the past 10 years fight­ing among them­selves. Both Ha­mas and its sec­u­lar ri­val Fatah run their ter­ri­to­ries like po­lice states, harassing and jail­ing jour­nal­ists, ac­tivists and even or­di­nary cit­i­zens who post mes­sages crit­i­cal of them on Face­book. (Most of the Pales­tini­ans in­ter­viewed for this story asked for anonymity—be­cause they fear their own gov­ern­ments.) A decade af­ter their man­dates to rule ex­pired, nei­ther side wants to hold elections. Far from achiev­ing a two-state so­lu­tion, they have cre­ated a three-state re­al­ity: two di­lap­i­dated statelets dom­i­nated by a strong, pros­per­ous Is­rael.

And though in the very long term, Is­rael’s sta­tus as a Jewish and demo­cratic state is still im­per­iled, five decades af­ter the oc­cu­pa­tion be­gan, the Pales­tinian na­tional move­ment has been largely de­feated. “I find it hard to say as a Pales­tinian, but we haven’t achieved any of our na­tional goals,” says Mkhaimer Abu Saada,

a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst in Gaza. “Our lead­er­ship has failed to achieve any­thing.”

MORTGAGING THE NEXT IN­TIFADA

IN APRIL, thou­sands of Pales­tinian pris­on­ers in Is­raeli jails started a hunger strike, the largest such mass demon­stra­tion in years. It was or­ga­nized by Mar­wan Bargh­outi, a prom­i­nent Fatah leader, to de­mand bet­ter con­di­tions: ex­tra fam­ily vis­its and ac­cess to pay phones. Is­rael vowed not to ne­go­ti­ate. At one point, the Is­raeli Prison Ser­vice set up a sting, plant­ing cook­ies and candy bars in­side Bargh­outi’s cell, then film­ing as he noshed in the bath­room. Yet the video did lit­tle to dent his pop­u­lar­ity—some Pales­tini­ans dis­missed it as a fake, oth­ers as a dirty trick.

As the protest wore on, Is­raeli of­fi­cials wor­ried that re­ports of sick or dy­ing in­mates would spark un­rest in the oc­cu­pied ter­ri­to­ries. The Pales­tini­ans had timed the cli­max of the hunger strike to co­in­cide with both Ra­madan, when ten­sions of­ten run high, and the 50th an­niver­sary of the oc­cu­pa­tion. So on May 27, af­ter lengthy ne­go­ti­a­tions, the de­tainees an­nounced a deal. They stopped their fast af­ter se­cur­ing a sec­ond monthly fam­ily visit. The fam­i­lies of pris­on­ers cel­e­brated on the streets of Ra­mal­lah, where Bargh­outi won praise for de­fend­ing the “dig­nity” of his fel­low in­mates. “You’d think we just lib­er­ated Jerusalem,” quipped one Pales­tinian jour­nal­ist.

But even this vic­tory was a de­feat for the PA. Un­til the sum­mer of 2016, pris­on­ers were en­ti­tled to two fam­ily vis­its. It wasn’t Is­rael that re­duced the num­ber. It was the Red Cross, which co­or­di­nates the trips and wanted to cut costs, mostly re­lated to bus­ing. The money to pay for the ex­tra visit will come from the Pales­tinian Author­ity, which is al­ready strug­gling to close an $800 mil­lion gap in its an­nual bud­get. Ab­bas had been pri­vately fum­ing about the hunger strike, fear­ing it would un­der­mine his ef­forts to in­gra­ti­ate him­self with Trump. On his visit to the re­gion in May, the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent un­ex­pect­edly can­celed a visit to the Church of the Na­tiv­ity in Beth­le­hem, fear­ing he would bump into a crowd of pris­on­ers’ moth­ers hold­ing a sit-in nearby. So the Pales­tinian pres­i­dent ponied up the cash.

Ab­bas, 82, took of­fice in 2005 for what was of­fi­cially a four-year term. He is still in power, with no plans to re­sign. He’s over­weight, a heavy smoker who has un­der­gone two heart surg­eries,

MORE THAN THREE-QUAR­TERS OF PALES­TINI­ANS FEEL THEIR GOV­ERN­MENT IS COR­RUPT.

yet has done al­most noth­ing to plan for a suc­ces­sor. Nor does he have many good choices. His deputy, Mah­moud Aloul, is a lit­tle-known ap­pa­ratchik cho­sen for his loy­alty. An­other con­tender, Jib­ril Ra­joub, is a for­mer se­cret po­lice chief more beloved by Is­raeli gen­er­als (for his work to ar­rest Is­lamists) than by Pales­tinian vot­ers. The most pop­u­lar can­di­date, Bargh­outi, is serv­ing five life sen­tences for or­ga­niz­ing deadly at­tacks dur­ing the sec­ond in­tifada.

Ab­bas is quick to fire and os­tra­cize any­one who be­comes too crit­i­cal, so his chal­lengers do not of­fer much pub­lic dis­sent. “We need Abu Mazen,” says Ra­joub, the No. 3 man in Fatah. “He’s the only one who can sign, or will sign, a [peace] deal. He’s im­por­tant to ev­ery­body, to Is­rael, to the U.S., and he’s still work­ing hard.” One im­por­tant group dis­agrees: his con­stituents. Two-thirds of them want him to re­sign. A slim ma­jor­ity also sup­ports dis­solv­ing the Pales­tinian Author­ity, widely viewed as lit­tle more than a sub­con­trac­tor for the Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion.

On May 13, the Pales­tini­ans held a much­hyped mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion in the West Bank. It was their first vote in five years, and of­fi­cials hoped it would gen­er­ate en­thu­si­asm. Pales­tini­ans weren’t in­ter­ested. Fatah ran al­most un­op­posed be­cause Ha­mas and other fac­tions de­cided to boy­cott the elec­tion, but the sec­u­lar group nonethe­less failed to win a ma­jor­ity in ma­jor cities like Hebron, where its can­di­dates picked up just seven of 15 seats. Turnout was a pal­try 53 per­cent com­pared with more than 70 per­cent in bal­lots a decade ago. “Pales­tini­ans

are no longer in­ter­ested in pol­i­tics,” says Abu Saada. “Why would they be?”

They have more press­ing con­cerns. More than three-quar­ters of Pales­tini­ans feel their gov­ern­ment is cor­rupt. Asked to name the big­gest prob­lem in so­ci­ety, a ma­jor­ity of re­spon­dents choose in­ter­nal ones: poverty, un­em­ploy­ment, cor­rup­tion and the po­lit­i­cal schism be­tween Ha­mas and Fatah. Just 27 per­cent say the oc­cu­pa­tion is their largest con­cern, ac­cord­ing to the Pales­tinian Cen­ter for Pol­icy and Sur­vey Re­search, the top poll­ster in the ter­ri­to­ries. The of­fi­cial un­em­ploy­ment rate in the West Bank is 16 per­cent, and roughly one in five fam­i­lies lives in poverty. (The ac­tual fig­ures are thought to be higher.) Yet the streets of Ra­mal­lah are lined with bill­boards ad­ver­tis­ing mil­lion-shekel apart­ments. A ten­u­ous mid­dle class has loaded up on con­sumer debt, which soared from $1.3 bil­lion in 2012 to $2.2 bil­lion just three years later. All of this has served to make Pales­tini­ans more risk-averse. The way a CEO of a ma­jor bank in Ra­mal­lah sees it: “You’re not go­ing to join an in­tifada when you have to make mort­gage pay­ments.”

THREE STATES, TWO PEO­PLES

AT FIRST GLANCE, the Erez cross­ing into Gaza could be an air­port ter­mi­nal; it’s a soar­ing struc­ture with glis­ten­ing win­dows and dozens of lanes to process trav­el­ers. On a typ­i­cal day, though, only one or two lanes are open, staffed by desul­tory bor­der guards flip­ping through pa­per­back nov­els. A war­ren of nar­row pas­sage­ways takes you to the PA’S Potemkin check­point on the other side (they have not ac­tu­ally con­trolled Gaza for a decade). And then, half a mile down a rut­ted road, you reach the real bor­der post, where the Ha­mas po­lice check your bags for smug­gled al­co­hol.

The Is­lamist group seized power in Gaza in 2007, af­ter a lengthy pe­riod of in­fight­ing that fol­lowed its vic­tory in leg­isla­tive elections the pre­vi­ous year. Since then, it has fought three wars against Is­rael. The most re­cent one, in the sum­mer of 2014, dragged on for 51 days, far longer than any­one ex­pected. It was dev­as­tat­ing for the Pales­tini­ans: Is­raeli bombs killed more than 2,200 peo­ple, left 100,000 home­less and de­stroyed the strip’s in­fras­truc­ture.

But Ha­mas kept fir­ing rock­ets un­til mo­ments be­fore the Au­gust 26 cease-fire. It counts the war as a vic­tory, not be­cause it achieved any of its strate­gic goals but sim­ply be­cause it sur­vived. The

group speaks the same way about the broader sit­u­a­tion in Gaza. Is­rael and Egypt’s 10-year block­ade has crip­pled the strip; most of its young in­hab­i­tants have never left the 140-square-mile ter­ri­tory. Yet it feels nor­mal in a way that the West Bank, with its vis­i­ble oc­cu­pa­tion, does not. There are no Is­raeli mil­i­tary pa­trols—no Is­raelis at all, just a hand­ful of skele­tal green­houses, the re­mains of set­tle­ments that once dot­ted the area. “The ex­pan­sion of set­tle­ments in the West Bank is be­cause of the holy se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion with Is­rael,” says Mah­moud Za­har, one of the co-founders of Ha­mas. “Since Ha­mas came to power in Gaza, Is­rael has not de­mol­ished a sin­gle home here.”

It is an ab­surd ar­gu­ment, of course—is­raeli jets and ar­tillery have rav­aged Gaza. Hang­ing on the wall of Za­har’s sa­lon, just yards from his chair, is a pho­to­graph of his son, killed in an Is­raeli airstrike on the fam­ily com­pound, which he has had to re­build three times. De­spite all of the hard­ships, though, Ha­mas claims it lib­er­ated Gaza from the oc­cu­pa­tion’s daily in­dig­ni­ties, and the group is loath to give up con­trol.

A grow­ing num­ber of Gazans, how­ever, don’t feel lib­er­ated. In pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions, the anger they once di­rected at Is­rael and Egypt is now aimed at their own lead­ers. They of­ten have these con­ver­sa­tions in the dark, ow­ing to the lack of elec­tric­ity. Tap wa­ter, when it is avail­able, is un­drink­able, brack­ish and pol­luted. About half of the pop­u­la­tion, and more than 60 per­cent of young peo­ple, are un­em­ployed—the high­est rate any­where, ac­cord­ing to the World Bank. More than 70 per­cent of Gazans rely on in­ter­na­tional aid to sur­vive. In a court­yard out­side Azhar Univer­sity, re­cent grad­u­ates ped­dle cheap snacks and cig­a­rettes to cur­rent stu­dents, who of­fer bleak pre­dic­tions about their own fu­tures: “I’ll be here with my own cart next year,” said one young man, a com­puter sci­ence stu­dent.

Ha­mas has al­ways been di­vided be­tween its hard-line mil­i­tary wing and its com­par­a­tively mod­er­ate po­lit­i­cal branch. The gulf has only widened in the three years since the last war. In early 2015, Ghazi Ha­mad, a prag­matic mem­ber of the Ha­mas polit­buro, penned an un­usual op-ed en­ti­tled “How and Why the Arabs Lost Pales­tine.” It was a rare act of self-crit­i­cism: Both Ha­mas and Fatah, he ar­gued, were con­sumed with their own nar­row in­ter­ests, fo­cused on pre­serv­ing their fief­doms rather than lib­er­at­ing Pales­tini­ans. “You will find that we dis­agree about ev­ery­thing, from the lib­er­a­tion or state­hood project to the most triv­ial of is­sues,”

Ha­mad wrote. “This has dragged us into drown­ing in the small de­tails.”

In some re­spects, the mil­i­tary men seem to be win­ning. Ha­mas spent the early part of 2017 shuf­fling its lead­ers, for the first time in more than a decade. The new leader in Gaza—ef­fec­tively the group’s No. 2 man—is Yahya Sin­war, a hard-liner who spent decades in an Is­raeli jail. He helped to set up a unit that hunted down sus­pected “col­lab­o­ra­tors” with Is­rael, and al­legedly killed some of them with his own hands. “He’s a hard man,” as one of his col­leagues puts it.

But Sin­war and his boss, Is­mail Haniyeh, are tak­ing con­trol of a move­ment that has re­cently shown what many an­a­lysts call an un­usual de­gree of will­ing­ness to com­pro­mise with Is­rael. In May, Ha­mas un­veiled a new pol­icy doc­u­ment meant to amend its 1988 found­ing char­ter. It dropped the worst anti-semitic lan­guage from the orig­i­nal, which spoke of a war against the Jews, and it sev­ered ties with the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. Per­haps most sig­nif­i­cantly, it ac­cepted the idea of a Pales­tinian state along the pre-1967 bor­ders, de­scrib­ing it as a for­mula ac­cepted by pub­lic con­sen­sus. It was not a com­plete re­ver­sal: The group still does not rec­og­nize Is­rael. Even some of the most hawk­ish Ha­mas lead­ers, though, rec­og­nize that a fourth war with Is­rael would likely end in catas­tro­phe. “They un­der­stand that the next at­tack on Gaza might end, for them, the Ha­mas gov­ern­ment in Gaza,” says Amos Gi­lad, an of­fi­cial at the Is­raeli De­fense Min­istry. “That’s very pos­si­ble.”

So there is a de­sire to avoid that next at­tack; there is se­ri­ous talk of sign­ing a lengthy cease­fire with Is­rael in ex­change for a sea­port, a step that would ef­fec­tively end the block­ade. Ha­mas has spent the past few years cozy­ing up to Mo­hammed Dahlan, a for­mer Fatah strong­man who was once its great­est neme­sis: His men were no­to­ri­ous for throw­ing Is­lamists off rooftops. He has since gone into ex­ile in the United Arab Emi­rates, af­ter run­ning afoul of Ab­bas, and he now serves as a sort of diplo­matic fixer for the Emi­rati royal fam­ily. Ha­mas be­lieves he can de­liver both eco­nomic in­vest­ment and po­lit­i­cal le­git­i­macy; his past trans­gres­sions are all but for­got­ten. “It was a dif­fi­cult time,” says Ahmed Yousef, a long­time mem­ber of Ha­mas. “He is rewrit­ing his his­tory, and Ha­mas has changed too.”

A sea­port, or any other mean­ing­ful steps to con­nect Gaza to the out­side world, would ce­ment a de facto three-state so­lu­tion. It seems the op­po­site of what Is­lamist groups like Ha­mas have spent decades fight­ing to achieve—and yet they are en­thu­si­as­tic about it. I ask Yousef whether his move­ment had sim­ply be­come a bearded ver­sion of Fatah. He chuck­les: “You could say that.”

MISMANAGING THE CON­FLICT

IN DE­CEM­BER, the Pales­tini­ans briefly had some­thing to cel­e­brate: The U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil passed a res­o­lu­tion that said Is­raeli set­tle­ments “have no le­gal va­lid­ity.” It was a part­ing shot from then–u.s. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama. Af­ter eight years of frus­tra­tion with Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, he de­cided to ab­stain rather than veto the mea­sure. “This is a move that no [U.S.] ad­min­is­tra­tion has dared to do for decades,” cheered Na­bil Shaath, a long­time Pales­tinian diplo­mat.

Maybe so, but it was an en­tirely sym­bolic act. Six months af­ter its pas­sage, there are no blue­hel­meted peace­keep­ers on the hills around Nablus. Is­rael ap­proved plans for 5,000 new set­tler

homes in the first few weeks af­ter Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion, and then an­other large batch in June, weeks af­ter the pres­i­dent vis­ited the re­gion. Nick­o­lay Mlade­nov, the top U.N. envoy to the re­gion, ad­mit­ted in June that Is­rael had ig­nored the res­o­lu­tion. “In fact…there has been [a] sub­stan­tial in­crease in set­tle­ment-re­lated an­nounce­ments,” he said.

Mean­ing­less as it was, the White House is un­likely to re­peat this ges­ture over the next few years. The U.S. has steered the “peace process” for more than two decades, since that sym­bolic mo­ment when four Is­raeli and Pales­tinian lead­ers shook hands and signed the Oslo Ac­cords on the White House lawn. (Three of them are now dead; only Ab­bas re­mains.) Ge­orge W. Bush had the An­napo­lis con­fer­ence and his “road map for peace.” Obama had his un­named ini­tia­tives, which also ended in fail­ure. It is too early to say how far Trump will trudge down the same road—whether he will con­vene a Mar-a-lago peace sum­mit or aban­don the process. But it was strik­ing that, in six pub­lic ap­pear­ances dur­ing his 25-hour visit to Is­rael and the West Bank this past spring, he didn’t once ut­ter the phrase “two-state so­lu­tion.” Many Pales­tini­ans saw it as a tacit ad­mis­sion that the peace process had failed.

“For decades, you had an Arab world, with U.S. lead­er­ship, that was in­ter­ested in main­tain­ing sta­bil­ity in the re­gion,” says Khalil Shikaki, the di­rec­tor of Pales­tine’s top poll­ster. “But the Amer­i­can role reached its peak in the early 1990s, and it’s been wan­ing ever since.”

For older Pales­tini­ans, the goal is still to cre­ate a Pales­tinian state along the pre-1967 bor­ders. The younger gen­er­a­tion sees this idea as hope­lessly out­dated. Decades of strug­gle, on the bat­tle­field and around the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble, failed to de­liver a state. Last year, for the first time, Shikaki found that sup­port for the two-state so­lu­tion had dipped be­low 50 per­cent. “Fatah has tried diplo­macy for 35 years, and here we have the so-called re­sis­tance move­ment,” says one young man from Shuja’iya, a neigh­bor­hood in east­ern Gaza that was hit hard dur­ing the 2014 war. “And what do we have? Noth­ing.”

In­stead, many now see their strug­gle as a civil rights move­ment: “Give us Is­raeli pass­ports,” they ar­gue, “and let us work in Tel Aviv and fly abroad from Ben-gu­rion air­port.” Even Pales­tini­ans who are com­mit­ted to two states ac­knowl­edge that the idea has an ex­pi­ra­tion date. “The two-state so­lu­tion is not a Pales­tinian de­mand,” says Husam Zum­lot, the Pales­tinian am­bas­sador in Wash­ing­ton. “It’s a Pales­tinian of­fer.”

By many es­ti­mates, Pales­tini­ans are now the ma­jor­ity be­tween the river and the sea. A civil rights strug­gle would have un­mis­tak­able echoes of the fight against apartheid. And a sin­gle state would likely never have a Jewish ma­jor­ity—an ar­gu­ment the Is­raeli cen­ter-left uses to push for a two-state so­lu­tion. But their warn­ings have done lit­tle to move pub­lic opin­ion.

In the United States, on the other hand, there are al­ready signs of such a shift. In a 2014 poll by the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion, 38 per­cent of Amer­i­cans sup­ported sanc­tion­ing Is­rael over its il­le­gal set­tle­ments. Two years later, the num­ber jumped to 46 per­cent. Within those fig­ures was a strik­ing par­ti­san gap. Demo­cratic sup­port for sanc­tions grew by a quar­ter, from 48 per­cent to 60 per­cent, while Repub­li­can sup­port stayed ba­si­cally flat. A ma­jor­ity of Democrats now be­lieve Is­rael has too much in­flu­ence over U.S. pol­icy. Less than 25 per­cent of Repub­li­cans agree, and the num­ber has dipped over the past few years.

Lib­eral Amer­i­can rab­bis who visit Jerusalem fret openly that their younger con­gre­gants no longer feel an at­tach­ment to Is­rael the way their par­ents did. The rift is only deep­ened by po­lit­i­cal and so­cial trends in­side of Is­rael, where the Jewish pop­u­la­tion has be­come more na­tion­al­is­tic and re­li­gious—a shift that alien­ates Jews in Amer­ica, a re­li­ably lib­eral bloc but also Is­rael’s best ad­vo­cate in Wash­ing­ton.

pho­to­graph by HEIDI LEVINE

MET­TLE DE­TEC­TION: Is­raeli bor­der po­lice in Jerusalem guard what Jews call the Tem­ple Mount and Mus­lims call the No­ble Sanc­tu­ary. Vi­o­lence has flared at the holy site.

+ OVER THE SAME ROOF: Is­raeli ac­tivists sit on a rooftop in the set­tle­ment of Ofra in the West Bank. An Is­raeli court said the house had been il­le­gally built on Pales­tinian land. Many Amer­i­cans now sup­port sanc­tion­ing Is­rael over il­le­gal set­tle­ments.

+ ARM WRESTLING: Obama was so frus­trated with Ne­tanyahu, right, that he didn't veto a U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion that said Is­raeli set­tle­ments “have no le­gal va­lid­ity.”

MOURN­ING IN JERUSALEM: A Jewish Is­raeli fa­ther with his chil­dren at the fu­neral for his wife, who was mur­dered by a Pales­tinian at­tacker. Nei­ther vi­o­lence nor diplo­macy has forced Is­rael to make con­ces­sions. +

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