A thoughtful autopsy of the failed two-state paradigm.
Having worked to promote peace within conflicts in Northern Ireland, South Africa and Iraq, O’Malley (Peace and Reconciliation/Univ. of Mass., Boston; Shades of Difference: Mac Maharaj and the Struggle for South Africa, 2007, etc.) carefully sifts through the intractable coexistence between the Palestinians and Israelis and finds both sides so traumatized by the “narrative” of their respective struggle that they are unable to view the other with respect or humanity—the beginning of true reconciliation. Both claiming to be legitimate owners of the same land, both smarting from historical injustice and both stoking their feelings of victimization, the two sides are “irreconcilable,” as they have proved through numerous failed discussions from the two Oslo Accords through recent talks held by Secretary of State John Kerry. In a work of impeccable research, featuring extensive footnotes and employing interviews of both Palestinians and Israelis, O’Malley addresses the sticking points on both sides that form the “addiction” by each to an “ethos of conflict”: the omission of the Islamist, Gaza-based Hamas from the peacemaking process, thus ignoring the “elephant in the room”; Israel’s refusal to allow Palestinian refugees or their descendants a “right to return” after the wars of 1947-1949; continued Israeli settlements by a ultraorthodox minority bent on “messianic zealotry”; a highly problematic economic sustainability in Palestine due to the “asymmetry of power” with Israel; and the “silently creeping, inexorably irreversible changes in Israel’s demographic profiles”—namely, fewer Jews and more Palestinians. O’Malley is not hopeful but rather disgusted that the two sides seem to be entrenched in their mutual hatred and absolutely unwilling to budge. To do so, he writes, requires establishing a “parity of esteem for each other’s narratives” and then perhaps a long cease-fire that would allow a new generation of leaders to step up.
Evenhanded, diplomatic, mutually respectful and enormously useful.