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Shrinking the Conflict: What Does the New Israel Mantra Really Mean?




JERUSALEM There is a new three-word concept that is rooted in the political and diplomatic discourse in Jerusalem: the contraction of conflict.

The idea is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be resolved in the near future, as the Israeli and Palestinian leaders are both too divided to resume peace negotiations, let alone reach a peace agreement. But Israel can work to reduce the impact of a century-long conflict on the Palestinians, making peace more likely.

If the conflict can not be resolved, the argument goes, it can at least be reduced.

The idea has gained momentum since Naftali Bennett replaced Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister in June. On the day he took office, he promised in a speech to Parliament to contribute to reducing friction and shrinking the conflict.

Two weeks later, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid vowed to minimize the conflict, in a meeting with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken.

The State Department does not use the term, but its officials channel logical concepts. They avoid calls for a resumption of negotiations, putting pressure on policies that ensure Palestinians and Israelis experience equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity and dignity, a wording Mr. Blinken used in May.

For his supporters, the shrinking of the conflict is a welcome change of paradigm after the peace process was interrupted during Mr Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure. Negotiations for the creation of a Palestinian state were concluded in 2014 and Mr. Netanyahu became more opposed to Palestinian sovereignty. Mr. Bennett also rejects the idea of ​​a Palestinian state, but his supporters argue that he is taking steps to improve the lives of Palestinians.

To its critics, the new mantra is simply a renaming of Israel’s decades-long approach to the Palestinians. They define it as a clever public relations strategy that obscures a long-standing goal of successive Israeli leaders, including Mr. Bennett, to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank, to establish and maintain an Israeli presence there. most difficult overthrow of the 54-year-old occupation.

The phrase was coined by Micah Goodman, an Israeli philosopher who is an unofficial adviser to Mr. Bennett.

For the past 12 years, we have been trapped in a false dichotomy, Mr. Goodman said in a recent interview. There were attempts to end the conflict, and when they failed, we chose to do nothing about the conflict.

There is another way, he argued, including articles on Atlantic and The New York Times. In the absence of a peace agreement and without withdrawing from the West Bank, the government can still take concrete steps to promote the independence and economic prosperity of Palestine.

Shrinking the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not resolve or end the conflict, Mr. Goodman wrote in The Times. It would contain it, it would reduce it. It would extend to the Palestinians their freedom of movement, their freedom to develop and their freedom to progress.

So far, the Bennett governments’ efforts to improve the status quo include a promise to provide 4G mobile internet to Palestinians in the West Bank; reduce the number of Israeli army attacks to nearly 40 percent of the West Bank administered by the Palestinian Authority; and potentially build nearly 900 new Palestinian homes in Israeli-run areas.

The Bennett government has also lent the Palestinian government $ 156 million to help it survive a financial crisis; allowed another 15,000 Palestinians to work in Israel; and vowed to fix the status of thousands of West Bank Palestinians who lack proper documentation. Public contact between Israeli and Palestinian officials has also grown since Mr Bennett took office, after years of minimal ties under Mr Netanyahu.

Explaining his approach in an interview with The Times in August, Mr. Bennett said: They are not going anywhere, they are not going anywhere were here together, stuck. But then what to do? Economy, economy, economy.

He said that if people have a good future, have a decent job, can provide their family with dignity and send their children to a good education, that would be more important than dealing with the usual things that got us nowhere.

For Mr. Goodman, these are welcome measures, but not exactly what he meant when he first wrote about conflict reduction in 2019.

Mr. Goodmans’s idea was not only to improve the quality of Palestinian life, but to expand Palestinian self-government. He proposed expanding the area of ​​jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, providing more land for Palestinian officials to allocate for construction projects. And he suggested setting up a network of patrolled Palestinian highways in the West Bank, allowing Palestinians to move without spending hours at Israeli checkpoints.

All of this, according to Mr. Goodman, can be achieved without turning to negotiations and addressing more contentious issues such as the future of Jerusalem, which is claimed by both sides as their capital.

It has been misunderstood by many reporters around the world that shrinking the conflict means making life easier and better for Palestinians, he said. I’m all about that. This is great. But that is not what lies at the heart of changing the conflict paradigm shift. The contraction of the conflict has to do with the rise of Palestinian self-government. It is about increasing Palestinian freedom to build, freedom of movement.

Mr. Bennetts critics argue that he is less interested in reducing the conflict than ignoring it.

In his speech to the United Nations on Monday, he never mentioned the Palestinians.

And while some of his policies show an attempt to reduce tensions in the West Bank, others perpetuate practices that have contributed, rather than reduced, conflict.

Governments plan to build nearly 900 new Palestinian homes, coupled with a proposal to build nearly three times as many Israeli homes in the occupied territories. Critics said expanding the settlement would make it much more difficult to create an imminent Palestinian state, making a peace deal even less likely.

The military has continued to use live ammunition during protests, clashes and confrontations. Since Mr. Bennett took office, 20 Palestinian civilians have been killed, more than three times as many as in equivalent periods in the last three years, according to the data. compiled by the United Nationswith

The Bennett government has also allowed Jewish public prayer at the Aqsa Mosque complex in Jerusalem, a policy that began secretly under Mr. Netanyahu and threatens a delicate arrangement aimed at maintaining peace in one of the most controversial countries in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. with

A recent Palestinian poll suggested that more than half of Palestinians are largely satisfied with the new policies aimed at making their lives easier, but a similar number also support armed resistance against the occupation.

Mairav ​​Zonszein, a Tel Aviv – based analyst for International Crisis Group, a research group, said Israel ‘s military presence in the West Bank makes it difficult to reduce conflict.

As Bennetts’ policy of shrinking the conflict with the Palestinians seeks to keep the West Bank calm by securing some of Israel’s most formidable restrictions on Palestinian livelihoods, Israel’s permanent occupation of the West Bank remains an obstacle to that goal, she said. You can not have peace or economic stability under occupation because the occupation prioritizes Israeli interests, resources and expansionism over everything else.

Jonathan Shamir contributed to the report.




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