In 1867, Samuel Clemens visited the land called Palestine. He found it to be a desolate place, with very few humans and with lands devoid of any useful purpose. In fact, his assessment was very insightful. Palestine at that time was not a nation, but simply a place holder for the Ottoman Empire, where nomads traversed through, going from one point to another in the Middle East. There were few cities and the area was lightly populated. An Ottoman census at that time put the population of the area at approximately 400,000 souls.
In fact, there never was a Palestinian state. The only self-governing state on that land was Israel itself before it was conquered, and up until 1948, the area was conquered and controlled by outside political actors, the last one being the British. So, if there never was a self-ruled country called Palestine, what is this conflict all about?
This conflict is mostly about religion. Sure, there are other factors like ethnic, national, and historical, but religion is the biggest stumbling block. Both of these religions are apocalyptic. Fundamentalists on the Islamic side believe that Jerusalem is the place where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, and therefore needs to be under Muslim control to protect its sanctity. Likewise, Jewish fundamentalists are avid in their claim for the city, stating that the city is sacred to them as the original capital of historic Israel, and home to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, both highly sanctified sites in Judaism. From both fundamentalist sides of this conflict, Jerusalem is indivisible.
We also have to explore the apocalyptic side of the conflict. Muslim fundamentalists believe that Israel and Palestine need to be under the control of Islam before the end of days. This is clearly stated in their Hadith, and implied in the Qur’an. Likewise, Jewish Fundamentalists believe that the biblical land of Israel needs to be completely restored before their Messiah comes. Once again, the nasty head of indivisibility rears its ugly head.
Israel in the past has been amenable to a 2-state solution, but the Palestinians have not been interested. Hamas has taken a hard line on this issue. However, I believe that the Palestinians are overstating their adamance on this issue. Jared Kushner is about to propose autonomy for the Palestinians, where economic concessions and self-governance will be offered them within the confines of the Jewish state itself. His thought is that since both the Israeli’s and the Palestinians want the same land, this would be a suitable compromise. This will have the full support of both Israel and the USA. However, Hamas is funded by Iran, a fundamentalist country hell bent on the total destruction of Israel. The plan, although given some support by Palestinians, has seen that same support fade with the announcement that the USA is building a new Embassy in Jerusalem.
Will cooler heads prevail, and give this new plan the attention it deserves? In my estimation, probably not. History looks to repeat itself with failure. There are just too many obstacles to overcome. Although fundamentalists on both sides are in the minority, their voices are loud and their actions can quickly turn violent. Additionally, with Iran in the mix, success seems even less likely.