Why have Israeli-Palestinian negotiations failed? The most common answer among the Israeli right focuses on “Palestinian rejectionism” or mistakes made by American facilitators. According to the narrative espoused by the center-left, Israel also hasn’t shown up to the negotiating table with clean hands — certainly not in the past decade. And yet, the fact that talks continue to fail without any correlation to the makeup of the leadership on either side (leaders representing different governments with different politics and approaches, operating under different international and regional circumstances), leaves much to be desired.
I’d like to propose an alternative framework, focusing on the dynamics and interests in the process, rather than the personalities and ideologies.
We already live in a one-state reality
The median age of the Jewish population in Israel is 32. The median age for non-Jewish Israeli citizens is 22.5, and the median age of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is 20. In other words, half the population between the river and the sea was born — or, at least, grew up — in the post-Oslo era. Only a small minority remember what things were like before the occupation began in 1967. We talk about the status quo as a temporary state of affairs, but it is actually the opposite: in a chaotic and volatile world, the occupation is a rare constant for most people in Israel-Palestine.
What does this reality look like on the ground? The Jewish and Palestinian populations are mixed together throughout the territory. Jews and Arabs live alongside one another in the West Bank, along the coastal plain, in the north and in the south of Israel, and of course in Jerusalem. And in each one of these areas, the State of Israel is sovereign. It controls every land and sea border, all of the airspace, the primary currency and the population registry — within the Green Line, in Jerusalem, in the West Bank, and for the most part, in Gaza as well. The State of Israel also exercises perhaps the most important ingredient of sovereignty — it enjoys a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence in the entire territory.Read More