In the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, one of the main barriers to peace from the Israeli perspective is its unwillingness to compromise over occupied territory. The Israelis subscribe to the messianic belief that the territorial assets belong to them and as such, victory in the Arab-Israeli war fulfilled Jewish destiny (Bunton 2013). Having won the war, Israel gained the significant territory it could have traded in peace negotiations as designated in the Resolution 242 land-for-peace formula. Instead, it saw the victory as an opportunity to strengthen both politically and geographically. Its unwillingness to lose this power has resulted in long-standing conflict and disagreement.
Apart from territories, there is also the Palestinian refugee problem as a peace obstacle from the Israeli perspective. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has displaced thousands of Palestinians who have found themselves in bordering countries, and their population only continues to grow (Bunton 2013). To negotiate and discuss peace among the two nations, Israel would have to admit to causing the refugee situation and agree to the refugees’ return. However, accepting responsibility would jeopardize the state’s historical account upon which it bases its whole identity. It would also expose the nation to an actual existential threat – millions of largely Muslim Palestinians who might threaten its identity as a Jewish nation and undermine its very existence.
Barriers to Peace from the Palestinian perspective
The use of armed resistance by the Palestinians to fight the occupation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a major obstacle to peace among the two nations. According to Palestinians, it has always been clear that achieving independence can never solely rely on political approaches (Bunton 2013). As such, they have often incorporated armed struggle to attain their desired independence. Attacks by the Fatah, Hamas, and other militant groups have left several people dead. However, not all Palestinians support violence for independence. Such violence is not ideal in an environment where peace is to be sought and has often compromised the legitimacy of the Palestinian movement. The attacks have therefore proven to be a huge obstacle to peace in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The lack of unity, effective leadership and strategy among Palestinians hinders peaceful negotiations. The two major groups, Hamas and Fatah, are bitter rivals and often disagree on many issues (Bunton 2013). To achieve lasting peace, Palestine needs to be united for any agreement to be accepted by a large majority. The groups thus have to unite under strong leadership and a good strategy.
Bunton’s suggested possibilities for a lasting Palestinian-Israeli peace
Martin Bunton suggests two possibilities for peace besides a two-state solution. First, he proposes a shared state in which both the Jews and Arabs have equal rights (Bunton 2013). This would make it impossible for Israel to become an exclusively Jewish state. However, it is an idea that can be embraced since the alternative would result in the state losing its democracy. Second, he suggests a situation in which Israelis remain the controlling entity even with more Palestinians than Israelis. This scenario recognizes the Jews’ traumatic experiences throughout history, and as such, they can no longer be a minority (Bunton 2013). Still, the system would probably be nondemocratic and exclude Palestinians as Israel becomes an apartheid type of state.
Given the current situation, the latter option is most likely to occur. With a history of discrimination against Palestinians and violence backed by a stronger military, Israeli Jews are highly unlikely to share a nation with Palestinian Arabs. In fact, Ehud Barak, Israel’s former Prime Minister, once remarked that as long as Israel remains the ruling outfit, the state would eventually become “non-Jewish or nondemocratic” (Bunton 2013). As such, the Palestinians’ problems are only guaranteed to worsen.
Bunton, Martin. 2013. The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.