So maybe what is needed is a little unconventional wisdom.
Everything in the Middle East depends on perspective, and the perspective of the West may not be the perspective that is best.
Since spending more than a decade in Israel and Palestine, much of it in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and having watched the rise of Hamas and collapse of the Oslo peace process, I have never, since then, thought that the twin state solution would be adopted.
Instead I conclude the Israelis and Palestinians will, after long prevarication, agree to a unitary state with cantons, or strong regions, or to a confederation or Middle Eastern Economic Union, on the lines of the EU.
Of course a right wing Israeli government says it will never make a deal with Hamas, never agree to one state or a confederation, and never share Jerusalem.
But never say never in the land of miracles.
Despite a security clamp down in the West Bank by the Palestinian Administration Hamas still attracts nationalists in the West Bank alongside Islamic support and is not as extremist as projected by Israel and the West. The Hamas offer of a long truce to Israel in return for an end to the Gaza blockade is convergent with underlying Israeli positions to delay final political talks and consider economic cooperation.
If the PA attempts to hold half an election in the West Bank and not Gaza this will not reinforce Palestinian Unity and Hamas may hold a separate election in Gaza. It is Israel and the West which rejected the 2006 election results when Hamas won democratically in all of Palestine.
My unconventional wisdom that there will be no twin state solution cannot be explained simply by over-proximity to Palestinian or Israeli hospitality, although local knowledge was only arrived at through many lunches and dinners and discussions far into the night, often in unlikely places, in a society where people still hanker to sit out in the cold under the stars to get a clear view of things.
As my father-in-law would have found on the road from Gaza to Damascus with Allenby against the Turks, and as my mother-in-law found two decades later when she came ashore with Toscanini to help form the Palestine Orchestra.
And as my fathers’ fellow marine commandos would have also found in the desert air in Mandate Palestine where they fought the Irgun and the Stern Gang up to 1948, and in the Canal Zone in 1956 where they fired the final shots of the British Empire whilst fought to a standstill by Egyptian fedayeen, when the Anglo-French imperialists made their last stand in Egypt, with the support of Israel, but not that of the United States.
So when the US said it was time to go, they went.
Even as a British schoolboy in my colonial Mediterranean school, I understood the world was changing and we had had our day. The sun had set on the British Empire, just as every political hegemony comes to an end.
So how is it possible to see contemporary Israel and Palestine and reach such different conclusions from the conventional wisdom?
One cold night under the stars some Palestinians told me a story.
The elephant and the fly wanted to get married. But people were prejudiced against it, so they had to go and see a judge to settle the matter in court. The judge was inclined not to allow such an odd union. But eventually the elephant and the fly asked if they could come forward to the bench to relate a pertinent private matter, which would explain everything. The judge then surprisingly agreed to the unlikely marriage.
The reason of course, was that the fly had got the elephant pregnant.
On one level the elephant and the fly can be Israel and Palestine. And perversely it may be true that one day they will have to get married, especially if Israeli hardliners persistently reject all other solutions.
On another level the fly and the elephant could be the United States with declining power attempting to force movement upon an Israel which is not inclined to budge.
Of course you have to work out which is the elephant and which is the fly. And that is not always so obvious.
If I am right, their delayed but lovely bouncing baby may eventually be rather different from how a lot of people imagined. And it may be Hamas that helps decide to keep the family together, and not to support ultimate separation, but of course on different terms from now.
Dr. Terry Lacey
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