If rejection of the other side’s national claims is one of the things that make this conflict so hard to end, the other is religion. The two are tied together. Hamas is a religious movement, and its formal creed is to reject the possibility of Jewish statehood not only because of Israel’s alleged sins but also because there is no place for a Jewish state in a Muslim land.
In Israel’s early life Zionism was a mainly secular movement and the dominant force on the other side was a secular Arab nationalism. Since 1967, however, religion, nationalism and hunger for Palestinians’ land have fused to create a powerful constituency in Israel dedicated to retaining control of the whole of Jerusalem and Judaism’s holy places on the West Bank. Israel’s system of proportional voting has given the settlers and zealots a chokehold over politics. Among Arabs secular
nationalism is meanwhile waning in the face of a powerful Islamic revival through the region. And a central dogma of the Islamists is that Israel is an implant that must be violently resisted and eventually destroyed.
One far-seeing Zionist, Vladimir
Jabotinsky, predicted in the 1930s not only that the Arabs would
oppose the swamping of Palestine with Jewish immigrants but also that “if we were Arabs, we would not accept it either”. In order to survive, the Jews would have to build an “iron wall” of military power until the Arabs accepted their state’s permanence. And this came to pass. Only after several costly wars did Egypt and later the PLO conclude that, since Israel could not be vanquished, they had better cut a deal. In Beirut in 2002 all the Arab states followed suit, offering Israel normal relations in return for its withdrawal from all the occupied territories, an opening which Israel was foolish to neglect.
The depressing thing about the rise of Hamas and the decline of the Fatah wing of the PLO is that it reverses this decades-long trend...if you take seriously what Hamas says in its charter...Some analysts take heart from Hamas’s offer of a 30-year truce if Israel returns to its 1967 borders. But it has never offered permanent recognition.
There is worse. On top of the return to rejection and the growing role of religion, a third new obstacle to peace is the apparent crumbling of Jabotinsky’s iron wall.
In Lebanon three years ago, and today in Gaza, Hizbullah and Hamas seem to have invented a new military doctrine. Israel has deterred its enemies mainly by relying on a mighty conventional army to react with much greater force to any provocation. But non-state actors are harder to deter. Hizbullah and Hamas, armed by Iran with
some modern weapons, can burrow inside the towns and villages of their own people while lobbing rockets at Israel’s. A state that yearns for a semblance of normality between its wars cannot let such attacks become routine. That is why today, as in the 1950s, Israel responds to pinpricks with punitive raids, each of which had the potential to flare into war. Israel’s operation in Gaza is designed not only to stop Hamas’s rockets but to shore up a doctrine on which Israel thinks its safety must still be based.
Ah, the name Jabotinsky doesn't mean much to you?
Here's the opening paragraphs of Seth Lipsky's Wall Street Journal 2001 piece on him:-
With the latest turn of events in the Middle East, people in and out of the administration are looking for new ways to think about the crisis. I recommend "The Jewish War Front" by Vladimir Jabotinsky. His name isn't widely known in America, and that's regrettable given that so much of what is happening today is animated by what he taught. There are those of us who reckon "The Jewish War Front" as the greatest piece of journalism in a century.
Jabotinsky was born in 1880 in Odessa, Ukraine, and became a newspaperman, a foreign correspondent and an early Zionist. And a particularly eloquent one. He was fluent in half a dozen languages; he relaxed by translating Dante's "Divine Comedy" into Hebrew. During World War I, his agitation prompted Britain to raise the first Jewish fighting unit in centuries, the Zion Mule Corp., which saw action at Gallipoli, and the Jewish Legion, which saw action in Palestine.
Between the world wars, he broke with the Zionist leadership. He was a partisan of free markets and military strength. He led what was called the Revisionist wing of the Zionist movement. It was a minority view, but one that had ardent followers. One of the things he did was found a military training organization for Jewish youths called Brit Trumpeldor, or Betar for short, named after Jabotinsky's hero, Joseph Trumpeldor.
Want to read more of Lipsky's piece?
For another iconoclastic article, "Jabotinskian-Liberal Approach To The Arab-Jewish Conflict" is here.