For the Israelis, 1948 was a brave war of independence. For the Palestinians, is was a catastrophe, with 750,000 of them being forcibly ejected from their homes, their children and grandchildren making up the 5 million Palestinian refugees of today.
To Israel, Hamas is a jihadist terrorist organisation that wants to kill every Israeli and turn the whole region into an Islamic state. The stated aim of Hamas, on the other hand, is to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, and it has even expressed interest in a two-state solution.
But what are israel’s main objectives?
1. Israel wants security. This is understandable, given the lamentable history of antisemitic persecution, culminating in the Holocaust. Moreover, Israel is a de facto state, internationally recognised, (even though the price of this has been another state’s equivalent rights). Israel has the right to use proportionate means to protect itself.
2. Israel wants to be a democracy. It is interesting to note that the early architects of the Israeli state were not religious zealots, but democratic idealists (David Ben Gurian, for example, was a left-wing atheist). This democratic idealism survives today, even though it has come under increasing pressure from Zionist extremists.
3. Israel wants to be a Jewish state. Israel has always defined itself as the state of the Jewish people, but has signally failed to explain how it would protect and uphold the democratic and human rights of its Palestinian population (a 20% minority).
4. Israel wants more Palestinian land. It is this aspect which is most obviously driven by theological motives. If Israel (and its Christian Zionist supporters) believes that it has a God-given and inalienable right to all the land of Judea and Samaria, then the effective annexation by Israel of East Jerusalem and the West Bank becomes easier to understand, even if the theological rationale is deeply flawed.
Whatever the merits of this objectives (and the first two are legitimate, the last two problematic), it would seem that Israel cannot have them all. For example, how can Israel achieve security and democracy while favouring s one ethnic group over another and denying the human rights of the Palestinian minority?
There may have been too much water under the bridge (i.e. too much pain and violence on both sides) for Israelis and Palestinians to be able to live peaceably together in a single state. But perhaps some kind of federal system could be made to work. But that would require Israel to give up its ambition to be a Jewish state.
You can’t always have everything you want.
Based on this article by Jeremy Moodey.