For the past 50 years, Palestinians and Israelis have been subjected to the uniquely corrosive institution of belligerent occupation. For fully 25 of those years, they have been subjected to the almost equally scarring peace process that tried to end it. That’s not a flippant comment. The peace process managed to stimulate and intensify the centrifugal narratives on either side: it incentivized Hamas’s steady escalation in brutality, the corresponding — and, for peace prospects, devastating — Israeli public disillusionment, and the anxious race by the ideological settlement movement to expand Israeli settlement deep inside the West Bank in any way it could. It brought all the anxieties, terrors and resistance of a real peace — without delivering the sides any closer to reconciliation or resolution.
And that’s no accident. The peace process was forged by a class of individuals possessing an exceptionally well-developed capacity for selective blindness. Some Israeli leaders — Yitzhak Rabin, for instance — believed they could forge with PLO leader Yasser Arafat the sort of cold but dependable standoff Israel had maintained with each Egyptian dictator since Anwar Sadat. Other Israelis — Yossi Beilin is one example — believed they were negotiating a real reconciliation, apparently because they themselves yearned for it so intensely that they could not really fathom that it might not be reciprocated by the other side. Both of these sorts of Israelis were determined to ignore the domestic Palestinian discourse advanced by Arafat and others that resisted reconciliation, elevated the ideological rejection of Israel to the level of civic religion and openly glorified brutality against Israelis — and that was in the happy early years of Oslo peacemaking, the mid-1990s to which more than a few of today’s despairing progressives look for inspiration.
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