Only geography allows for compromise

Part of the complexity of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is that it embodies historical, geographic and religious aspects and each one is related to the other. The geography is in some ways determined by history and religion, but, at the same time, history feeds the geographic nature of the conflict.

To a certain extent the historical and religious components of the conflict are created or at least exaggerated by politicians and for political reasons. This is typical in many conflicts where politicians will introduce factors that are used either as a means of instigation or to influence the public in this direction or that.

The fundamental nature of this conflict is political and is about land. It started to become a conflict when Jewish immigration went from a trickle to a flood and was encouraged and facilitated by the powers that were, especially in the wake of and as a result of World War II, and partly in order to solve the huge problems in Europe at the time.

External political factors always played a part, notably 20th century global power politics and its resulting regional interests, starting with the interests of Great Britain and France, and eventually ending with the US. The advent of the Cold War, and the competition over the Middle East between the Soviet Union at that time and the western bloc led by the US also contributed to creating and sustaining this conflict.

The conflict took on a legal dimension once the UN came up with General Assembly Resolution 181. This resolution on the one hand gave legitimacy to the creation of a Jewish state, and on the other created the dispute over whether, and if so how, geographically, to divide Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.

In the latest phase of the conflict, particularly since 1967, the geographic component of the conflict has started to be dominant. This is particularly so considering the continuous Israeli attempts to annex in different ways, but especially through settlement expansions, the little part of Palestine that remains under consideration to make up a Palestinian state, specifically the West Bank including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

While the passing of time is gradually reducing the significance of the historical dimension of the conflict in favor of geographical and legal aspects, the most recent period has brought back to the surface religious factors. The fierceness of the conflict in the last few years has allowed for an increase in the strength of the religious tendencies in both Israel and Palestine. The shift in the balance of power on this ideological level is immediately apparent. In Israel the right-wing ideological parties have been gaining strength and in Palestine the religious groups have at least doubled their support and capacities in all respects.

One of the reasons for this phenomenon is the failure to solve or even show progress toward a resolution of political, geographic and legal issues. The problem with the phenomenon is that the more religious and historical factors dominate the conflict the less chance we have of reaching a solution. The only ground for a possible solution is one based on a political/legal and geographical approach. International law assumes and allows for two states on the basis of the 1967 borders, regardless of any historical and religious considerations. Land, unlike religion or history, can be divided. The only alternative to a geographical solution is an endless struggle based on historical and religious narratives that will never allow for compromise.