The latest conflict between Israelis and Palestinians had its own specific sparks. But just as important as those sparks is a larger reality: Both sides in the conflict are led by people who are relatively uninterested in compromise.
Many Israeli and Palestinian leaders have given up on the idea of lasting peace, such as a two-state solution in which Israel and a sovereign Palestine would coexist. They are instead pursuing versions of total victory. For Hamas, the militant group that rivals Fatah as the dominant Palestinian political party, that means the destruction of Israel. For Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel, it means a two-class society in which Palestinians are crowded into shrinking geographic areas and lack many basic rights.
The result is the worst fighting since 2014.
“It would seem as if the current round of violence emerged out of a complex series of events in Jerusalem,” Vox’s Zack Beauchamp wrote. “But in reality, these events were merely triggers for escalations made almost inevitable by the way the major parties have chosen to approach the conflict.”
I recognize that some readers are deeply versed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with strong views about it. And they may bristle at the above description as false equivalence. But I also know that most readers of this newsletter do not follow every turn in the Mideast and often find it bewildering. Today’s newsletter is mostly for them. It will lay out the basic arguments that the two sides are making. When you strip both down to their essence, they help to explain the situation.
to evict six Palestinian families from their East Jerusalem homes, where they have lived since the 1950s. The settlers have cited a 19th-century real-estate transaction to establish their ownership. Initial Israeli court rulings upheld the evictions, and the Supreme Court has yet to rule on the case.
It is just one example of how Israel has imposed control over places where Palestinians have lived for decades. As The Times’s Patrick Kingsley has written, “Israeli law allows Jews to reclaim ownership of land they vacated in 1948, but denies Palestinians the right to reclaim the properties they fled from in the same war.” Netanyahu and his allies believe that they can reduce the chances of a future Palestinian state by displacing Palestinians and expanding Jewish settlements. It’s a version of imperialism.
More broadly, the East Jerusalem case is an example of how Palestinians must endure frequent humiliation. They often cannot travel without enduring checkpoints and roadblocks. They can be denied Israeli citizenship. Their economy suffers from blockades. “The Israeli regime implements laws, practices and state violence designed to cement the supremacy of one group — Jews — over another — Palestinians,” B’Tselem, a human rights group, has written.
These inequities fuel Palestinian anger, which occasionally explodes. When it does, Israel’s military strength, financed partly by the U.S., allows it to inflict disproportionate damage. Over the past eight days, more than 200 Palestinians have died in the fighting, compared with at least 10 people in Israel.
Refaat Alareer, a professor in Gaza, has lost his brother, and his wife, Nusayba, has lost her grandfather, brother, sister and sister’s three children, all in Israeli attacks over recent years, as he explained in a Times Opinion piece. This toll, Alareer writes, makes him and his wife “a perfectly average Palestinian couple.”
a growing number of American progressives — see it as using military force to perpetuate a brutally unjust society. The best hope for change, many Palestinians believe, is pressure from Israel’s most important ally, the United States.