The collapse of the latest peace talks leaves Israel "in a real bind," but may also open a new way throughby Bronwen Maddox / June 19, 2014 / Leave a comment
Published in July 2014 issue of Prospect Magazine
US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) recently warned Israel that it risked becoming “an apartheid state” in its treatment of Palestinians. © AP/Getty
In early summer, the Golan Heights are covered with flowers; small scarlet poppies have seeded themselves among the flowering thorn bushes, and in the haze rising from the Sea of Galilee neat orchards of cherry trees are in full leaf. On the high plateau, which Israel seized from Syria in 1967, American tourists examine abandoned artillery posts. But below, the soft crump of shellfire is audible from Arab villages; Syrian fighters supporting the Assad regime in Damascus, just 50 minutes away along a road now choked with gunmen and checkpoints, are firing at rebels, holed up in houses and farms. Neither side is firing at Israel—beyond the occasional shell, apparently accidental—which sometimes meets with fire in return. But the soundtrack of constant violence is a reminder of the turmoil on all sides of Israel in the past three years, “since what we still optimistically call the Arab Spring,” said one British official, adding laconically, “and the Israelis, well, don’t.”
That turmoil is one new concern for Israel. Yet many argue that its most serious threat lies inside its borders, in the perpetual failure of its leaders and their Palestinian counterparts to forge a peace deal. Driving from the Heights back down to the coast, the signs of that deadlock are even more stark at night. Clusters of minarets, glowing with green lights at their peak, mark out the dense, twisting streets of Tulkarm and Qalqilya, Palestinian towns with a particularly militant history; jutting up against them are the slabs of Israel’s new settlements, the target of searing international criticism, their fresh concrete walls lit to a brilliant white by high road lights. Separating the Arab from the Jewish housing are the loops of the eight-metre high barrier wall, built by Israel partly to shield itself from Palestinian suicide bombers; it has become a worldwide symbol of the inability to find a way for the two populations to live peacefully together—or formally apart.