What did past peace agreements look like? Are they still possible?
My problem with the Peace Agreements is that the conflict isn't something that can be solved with Geography.
The territorial disagreements stem from the way both sides feel about each other. There is a lot of hate and until this emotional conflict is resolved meaningfully nothing will really changes.
But very few policies anywhere on earth focus on how people feel. Its just not the way we're used to thinking.
Rory Sutherland has great videos on influencing people by changing their inner world : https://youtu.be/audakxABYUc?si=1vAZyZX2CvGMOeSy
I found this incredible insightful and thorough--thank you for your work on this, it adds so much detail to the relative sound bites I get from the Times each morning. Is this article part of a series you have plotted out? I see your teaser for the next article and I’m stoked for the one solution that hasn’t seen much discussion yet, but was wondering if you have the total table of contents for this whole Israel/Palestine saga in your Stack?
On footnote .11, for reading on this complex subject, the following books would be of help:
-One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate. Tom Segev (2013).
-The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited. Benny Morris (2004)
-Enemies and Neighbours: Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel, 1917-2017. Ian Black (2017)
Tomas, it's really helpful to see the nitty gritty of the two negotiations laid out so clearly in your usual excellent maps. It is frustrating and saddening to see how close they were to agreements. But my impression from listening to Arafat during and after Oslo and Camp David was that he was psychologically incapable of accepting Israel's existence and reaching any pragmatic agreement with them. I think he defined himself largely in terms of opposition to Israel, often violent, and couldn't make the mental transition to the bureaucratic mind set of day to day governance. I'm general revolutionary leaders don't make great administrators... Think Mao, Leni, Stalin, Castro, Ortega, Caesar, etc, not that Arafat was at their level. Arafat was the wrong person to lead the Palestinians to nationhood, tragically. Had he been committed to moving from opposition to nationhood, he would have seized the opportunity brokered by Clinton. Part of the Palestinian people's plight is that they have never had good leaders.
A great article. I’d like to add that the couple of thousand square km fought over during these negotiations are desert lands, shrubbery and arid, much like New Mexico and all of it could have been on sale for a couple of million dollars if religion and geopolitics didn’t intervene.
Do you ever read fiction for pleasure?
If yes, you could try reading China Mieville's "The city and the city".
It is an interesting (weird) take on two different peoples sharing a city.
Great article. I'm sympathetic to Arafat's view that the WB+Gaza already were a compromise from the UN proposed borders, so the Palestinians shouldn't have to compromise more, but you point out the difference was 1-3% of land. The flip side is that all land isn't equal, and land in the Negev doesn't have the same value as land in the West Bank.
It would be interesting to learn more about why Arabs left the cities of Jaffa and Acre. These were areas allocated to the proposed Arab state with fertile soil and water access. I read that the water supply in Acre was poisoned with typhoid as a way to get the Arab population to leave.
Thank you for putting this all in one place.
One important addition - the reason why Israeli left wing PM Barak lost his support and was replaced by Sharon is the Palestinians started the second intifada shortly after Barak became prime minister sabotaging the peace process again by making Israelis see them as untrustworthy and causing a right wing turn in Israel politics that is ongoing to this day.
I look forward to the next installment in the series!
Tomas, I just want to thank you, again, for your clear, objective discussion of the history and evolution of the Palestine-Israel conflict and the complex issues behind and surrounding it, and for making this series free. It's such timely and critical information. I'd urge anyone who can, and who is looking for a Substack worth supporting with a paid subscription, to consider this one.
Congratulations on all of these great pieces. A lot of credit due for the detailed and thoughtful work.
Ha! Always a good bet. At the level of the actual negotiators for Israel and Palestine at Oslo, it sounds like they did achieve a level of mutual trust. But this didn't extend to Arafat, Peres, and Rabin, or subsequently Arafat and Barak. Trust isn't absolutely necessary for a successful agreement if there are adequate enforcement mechanisms, but it helps. In the current situation there is no trust.
@Tomas Can you please move on??? There are so many more important topics that get neglected with this disproportionate focus on one never ending argument, conflict. Nothing has been resolved in decades & what's the probability of any meaningful impact with your series of articles on this issue (compared to your own series on Covid for example, or global warming or AI risks etc) ?
Just wanted to point out that it is rather paradoxical that Jews got their state, Israel, based on the premise of their "right to return" to what was, at some point in time, their land. But when the Palestinian people try to apply the same right, resistance from Israel is huge. It reminds me of some immigrants to the US who, after gaining legal status, advocate for a closed borders policy. "I got in, now close the door and do not let anybody else inside."
Also, I believe that both Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert were negotiating in good faith, meaning that they really wanted peace. Too bad that they did not have the support of the majority of Israelis. Whereas Sharon, Netanyahu, and most of the right wing Israeli prime ministers were/are not really interested in peace, but in a conflict as means of perpetuating their power. And the same can be said of current Palestinian leaders.
A friend of mine is a film producer in Israel. About ten years ago her cameraman - unbeknownst to her - flew a drone at 5 AM over the Temple Mount. I am pretty sure what he did was illegal, and 100 percent sure that if anything went wrong it would have incited some sort of international incident.
Is there any precedent that has a small geographic area be divided based on religion and the two groups live happily ever after, each in their own nation-state? Isn't the 2-state solution just a pretext for continuing war and suffering?
Also, aren't the so-called Cuban refugees in Florida demanding a right-of-return, and hasn't that distorted US policy, to the detriment of both the US and Cuba, for 60 years?