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The myth that Israel can continue to ‘manage the conflict’ with Palestinians lies in ruins

October 9, 2023 at 3:54 pm

People walk with the Palestinian flag as smoke rises near Israel-Gaza border in Gaza Strip, Gaza on October 07, 2023. [Abed Rahim Khatib – Anadolu Agency]

Operation Al-Aqsa Flood led by Hamas has shattered the myth that Israel’s occupation of Palestine can be managed in perpetuity without resolving the underlying cause of the cycle of violence that plagues the region. For years, the occupation state has pursued a policy of “managing the conflict” instead of seeking a just solution based on international law. This mindset defined every purported peace effort from the 1979 Camp David talks with Egypt through the 1993 Oslo Accords to the so-called Abraham Accords of 2020.

The guiding principle in every single case was always to manage, not solve, the conflict and in every single case the Palestinians were thrown under the bus. Despite outward appearances, the 1978 Camp David Accords established a pattern of conflict management at the expense of Palestinian rights that became Israel’s playbook. While the agreement focused on Egypt-Israel ties, it deferred the Palestinian issue with only vague references to “legitimate rights”. The five-year timeframe for Palestinian “autonomy” entrenched gradualism and endless process as substitutes for practical justice.

Camp David embodied Israel’s guiding principle across all subsequent so-called peace initiatives, perpetually managing rather than solving the conflict. The same was true with the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan, which focused primarily on normalising relations between Tel Aviv and Amman while deferring Palestinian statehood and the end of Israel’s occupation to an undefined time in the future.

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Again, with the aim of managing the conflict, the 1993 Oslo Accords deferred the core “final status” issues — Palestinian statehood, Israel’s illegal settlements, the legitimate return of refugees, borders and Jerusalem — to the future in exchange for Palestinian recognition of Israel and the establishment of an interim governing body — the Palestinian Authority (PA) — to administer Palestinian population centres in the West Bank and Gaza. The Accords included a five-year interim period (1993-1998) during which Israel and the Palestinians would negotiate these final status issues. That hasn’t happened, of course.

The law remains clear: settlements violate the Fourth Geneva Convention; the right of all refugees to return is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and UN General Assembly Resolution 194

Israel exploited Oslo’s interim autonomy to gain recognition, without intending to resolve final status issues as international law demands. The law remains clear: settlements violate the Fourth Geneva Convention blatantly; the right of all refugees (not just Palestinians) to return is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and UN General Assembly Resolution 194, and more. However, Israel twisted the Oslo framework to defer these issues indefinitely while entrenching its occupation.

Rather than comply with international consensus on refugees, borders, Jerusalem and settlements, Israel has relied on perpetual conflict management, pocketing Palestinian concessions while denying all rights and making no concessions whatsoever. With the law overwhelmingly favouring Palestinian claims, Israel used Oslo to sideline final status issues without the accountability that genuine conflict resolution requires. The apartheid state of Israel benefits from an unjust status quo regulated by interim agreements, not the justice mandated by international law and consensus. Oslo enabled conflict management in the face of clear legal rights and red lines.

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The Abraham Accords reflect the same conflict management approach that sacrifices Palestinian rights. In return for vague, easily reversed promises to halt settlement growth and land grabs temporarily — both are flagrant violations of international law — Israel retains its grip on the whole of historic Palestine. It imposes apartheid rule while reaping the benefits of normalisation with Gulf monarchies. The agreements entrench the unjust status quo, offering only empty gestures on settlements while ignoring the occupation of Palestine. They provide Israel with superficial gains without ending its systemic oppression of the Palestinians. Once again, Israel gets to avoid resolving the conflict without having to make meaningful concessions. Moreover, the Abraham Accords ensure permanent subjugation packaged as peace and progress, with Palestinians paying the price.

Saturday’s surprise attack by Hamas and other Resistance groups — it wasn’t so surprising to anyone who follows the daily violence and humiliation suffered by Palestinians — has once and for all shattered the false notion that Israel can continue to manage the conflict and ignore the root cause of the endless cycles of violence: its brutal military occupation.

With reports that over 700 people have been killed in Israel alone, it is incomprehensible to think that the Zionist state can continue with its conflict management model. The Palestinian death toll since Saturday is 493, with more than 2,750 wounded; both figures are expected to increase as Israel continues to bomb the overcrowded enclave. While loss and devastation on the Palestinian side is not unprecedented and has no impact in shifting Israel’s preference for conflict management over conflict resolution, the deadliest attack on the occupation state in its history exposes the utter failure of this approach.

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The doctrine of conflict management has long relied on the myth of invincible military supremacy. Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, though, has shattered this illusion. No amount of separation walls or military checkpoints can shield Israel from the consequences of the injustice and oppression to which it is subjecting the Palestinians. By striking at the heart of Israeli cities, Palestinians have demonstrated their capacity and resolve to penetrate the aura of invincibility cultivated by the occupation forces.

It is a fantasy to think that Israel can manage this inherently unjust system through force alone. Its false sense of security lies in ruins. This failure proves that conflicts rooted in denial of rights cannot be managed perpetually through coercion; violations of rights inevitably breed resistance. The apartheid state must confront its shattered myth of invincibility and reassess its untenable denial of justice. No state can secure its people without the freedom of those they subjugate.

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This message has been ignored by Israel time after time. Moreover, Arab countries that have normalised relations with Israel are not only complicit in the subjugation of the Palestinians, but they have also fuelled Israel’s sense of invincibility and reinforced the false logic that the occupation state can maintain the status quo indefinitely. By embracing Israel while ignoring its human rights abuses, the normalising Arab states countries have sent the dangerous message that Israel need not end its violations and denial of Palestinian rights.

The horrific violence in Gaza and the West Bank stems directly from this futile policy and shatters the lie that legitimate human rights can be deferred indefinitely. Israel and its allies must confront the fact that there is no tenable and acceptable status quo, only a system built on injustice. Conflict management as a policy is morally bankrupt and strategically foolish. The occupation must end. Only freedom and equal rights can break the cycle of violence, benefiting Palestinians and Israelis. The way forward is clear for those with the courage and clarity of vision to follow it.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.