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There’s never been a better time to start building a shared future

No matter what happens next, we must ensure that things do not go back to the way they were. The way things were before this ‘wave,’ or ’round’ of violence was an occupation that is about to turn 50.

Palestinian protesters sit on top of the separation wall during clashes with Israel security forces in Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem, October 11, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Palestinian protesters sit on top of the separation wall during clashes with Israel security forces in Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem, October 11, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israelis have experienced suicide bombings, shootings, tractor attacks, vehicular attacks, and stabbings over the past decade. Palestinians have experienced massive military operations in the West Bank, the violent suppression of legitimate protest everywhere, discriminatory police brutality and societal racism inside Israel, and four wars in Gaza.

What’s taking place right now in Israel and Palestine is not new. It has been going on for years, albeit with lower frequency. Levels of hate and xenophobia are rising. The demonization of the Other is as high as it’s been in recent memory. And nobody, absolutely nobody, has any reason to be optimistic. The most hopeful things anybody can muster is that: a) it could be worse; b) maybe it will wind down; c) it could be worse.

And they are right. It has been worse and it could get even worse than it was in the past. Or things could wind down. Neither Israelis nor Palestinians have a leader or civil society figure who is offering anything other than escalation or a return to the situation of three weeks ago. And neither of those options is any good.

Israeli authorities understand there is little they can do to counter the spontaneous type of attacks being carried out against Israeli security forces and civilians alike. The country’s security chiefs have offered nothing but praise for the Palestinian leadership in recent days, saying that Abbas and the PA security forces are doing everything in their power to lower the flames — but also that their influence is limited among those individuals participating in protests and carrying out attacks. Hamas, too, is taking steps to ensure the violence doesn’t creep any more than it has into Gaza.

Israel’s political leadership, on the other hand, is dropping blame like cluster bombs anywhere it even smells a Muslim leader with a little bit of influence. Abbas is inciting. Hamas is inciting. Haneen Zoabi is inciting. Jordan is inciting. Even Erdogan is inciting.

Back in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is schedule to attend a memorial for Rehavam “Gandhi” Ze’evi on Tuesday (nicknamed for his Gandhi-like appearance, not non-violence). Ze’evi, best known for his advocacy of ethnically cleansing Palestine, was a radical right-wing politician assassinated by the PFLP in 2001. Nothing to see here, move along.

Many Israeli commentators, and plenty of regular citizens, are still asking whether this is the Third Intifada. Others are smart enough to note that it doesn’t really matter. What is taking place this week is the same thing that has been taking place since the 1970s. It is the same thing that will happen again and again, with varying frequency, until the occupation ends.

But what if this is something different? What if it’s the beginnings a civil war, as Noam Sheizaf suggested we’re seeing hints of? Would that mean we are entering a new phase of the conflict? One that, out of which a new paradigm for living together might rise from the smoke or, god forbid, the ashes of whatever comes next?

Let’s hope that’s not even the question. And yet we must also do everything to ensure that things do not go back to the way they were. The way things were before this “wave,” or “round” of violence was an occupation that is about to turn 50. It was a discriminatory regime for 1.6 million Palestinians living in Israel, an apartheid regime for 2.6 million Palestinians in the West Bank, and life under siege for 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza.

The future of three weeks ago was one in which Israeli parents could be certain their children will live through an intifada of their own, in which on their 18th birthday they will be sent to join an army whose primary mission is to keep another nation under its boot. It was a future full of fear of equality, fear that the other nation might one day slip out from under the boot, fear that the two peoples’ roles might one day be reversed.

No politically minded leader is going to start talking about building a future together this week — but a real leader would do just that. Maybe the two-state solution isn’t dead. Maybe a one-state reality is more undeniable than ever. There’s no better time to find out. The good news is we know exactly what to do first: start ending the occupation tonight.

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    1. Ben

      It’s enough to see how Netanyahu behaved in the Knesset yesterday. Yossi Verter:

      ‘Netanyahu is rattled from both the security and political perspectives. It’s hard to know which of the two matters to him more. His address to the Knesset yesterday reverberated with the results of recent polls indicating a collapse in his standing as “Mr. Security” relative to his two bitter rivals, Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman. It was entirely aimed at his political base, the electorate that gave him a fourth term as prime minister a mere seven months ago. It was a discouraging, depressing speech with nary an encouraging word, without a single statement of a diplomatic nature, and not even half a statement of good will toward the Palestinian leadership that, according to the army and the Shin Bet security service, is making quite an effort to calm things down.
      It was beneath the prime minister’s dignity to quote the words of two of the Knesset’s most extreme members from the lunatic fringe of the political map who are considered outcasts by their fellow MKs, and to accord them any weight. He did them a great service within their camp.’

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      And compare that to Rivlin’s ‘voice of sanity’, as reported by Verter:

      ‘President Reuven Rivlin spoke before Netanyahu, giving a speech you would expect from a president, and even more so from Rivlin, who from his first day has served as the moral, soothing, sane voice of Israel. “Particularly these days we need leadership on both sides that doesn’t lose its internal moral compass, even during a storm,” he said. Leadership, “that isn’t motivated by fear and does not encourage it. That isn’t led, but that leads. That increases trust between the two sides and not the hostility and alienation between them. That courageously seeks ways to cooperate, day after day.” Rivlin spoke emotionally, as if he had guessed, point by point, exactly what Netanyahu would say only moments later.’

      Reply to Comment
      • Jason Kidd

        Ben can hardly contain his glee at dead Israelis.

        Reply to Comment
      • Eliza

        Maybe. But all Rivlin wants it a kinder, gentler occupation. He holds the view that Israel should annex most of the W/B and offer Israeli citizenship to non-Jews who reside in the annexed areas (not enough of them to pose a demographic threat) and create autonomous zones for the majority of non-Jews in the W/B. I think he sees Gaza as another country, able to be held under siege indefinitely; essentially pretty much ignored.

        This plan splits the Palestinians into Israeli citizens, W/B bantustanians and Gaza prisoners. It completely ignores the Palestinians in refugee camps.

        I don’t think the likes of Rivlin are part of any solution. Israel just has to get worse before things can get better.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          As it is the Israeli Jewish public sends Rivlin hate mail because he uses soothing words and is not right wing enough. You are right about Rivlin and it having to get worse.

          Reply to Comment