I took every MENA politics and history course my university offered after 9/11. One of my mentors was a lefty Jew who tried living in Israel. So that meant he lived on a kibbutz but also had to serve in the IDF. https://twitter.com/ruslantrad/status/1391638587226083329
I was a particular kind of ‘young and naive,’ believing if I learned as much as I could about the region’s politics, history, and culture I could be someone that could be someone trying to make that part of the world a better place.
I was serious enough about it that my parents blocked me from studying Arabic at American U in Cairo. So I never learned Arabic but absorded as much information as I could. I at least wanted to know who was right and who was wrong. Which side to pick.
This was after the 2nd Intifada. MENA looked like a broken place then but it’s 10x worse today.

This is what I learned:
First, the maps and the dates are important and point to how the situation was made unresolveable in 1947. Those borders for a State of Israel were indefensible. And their neighbors hated them so tried driving the Jews into the sea several times. Israel got bigger each time.
But looked at from the opposite direction, land Levantine Arabs lived on shrunk and shrunk. I say Levantine Arab because Palestinian as a national identity only emerged through this proccess of losing land.
One thing my ex-IDF mentor said, and I trust him on this, was that one must realize this part of the Levant was an Ottoman backwater. When diaspora Jews arrived and started fixing up the place, non-local Arabs started moving in the area b/c that’s what happens with econ growth
i.e., the very thing early Zionists settlers were doing was working: they were trying to make what we now call Israel and Palestine a place worth migrating too. And migrants came: Arab and Jewish. Some Palestinians have a long historical roots, but most probably do not.
The blue part was the original UN charter for the state of Israel. And from their PoV, every single Arab attacked their new state in 1948. In repelling them, they pushed them out of most of Jerusalem.
The Arabs - all of them (even units from places like Iraq) attacked again in 1967. Each time Israel won and got (a) more land, (b) more defensible borders, (c) entire places like Sinai that they could negotiate for peace.
After Camp David (‘78), the threat of another invasion lessened significantly. The Palestenians thus became (a) Arab war refugees stranded in Jordan and Lebanon after each failed attempt to destoy Israel, (b) the people still living inside these new borders.
From 1967 until roughly late 80’s, Israel’s primary reason for holding the West Bank was preventing an enemy invasion from cutting the country in half. And they got to keep Jerusalem.
Through the mid-80’s, my understanding was that the situation for Palestinians was… tolerable? Few, if any, security checkpoints. Both communities crossed invisible borders for commerce. But one was stateless and under soft-ish military occupation
Israelis were fine with that status quo. Palistinians weren’t. So we get the First Intifada in 1987. A total uprising. If you want people to blame, it’s that it took Palestinian polticial leadership a long time to strike “wipe the jews off the map” off their manifestos.
So for a long time, there were just three sides:

- evict the Palestinians, take their land
- evict the Jews, take their land
- Two State Solution

And in 1990 the unbelievable happened: and Israeli PM shook hands with Arafat…. and reached no agreement.
My mentor described Arafat as the kind of guy that “never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

But it basically went down like this: any future Palestinian state was going to basically disarmed and fragmented. Israel would still be controlling borders, for instance
There were a handful of summits and attempts to reach a deal. The Rabin got assassinated after signing the Oslo Accords in 1993. Oslo was basically a framework to talk about keep talking towards a two-state solution.
You can blame Israeli a lot because they’re the ones with power and could have done more. But things get unbearable again, negotiations are going nowhere, so Second Intifada starts in 2000.
So we go from Arafat leading the moderate Palestinians (PLO) nowhere. He even got 300k Palestinians evicted from Kuwait for siding with Saddam Hussein. So extremist hijack the agenda and are blowing up Jewish busses and cafes.
And then all the bombings stopped when Netanyahu started building walls around the West Bank. Then said the PLO was responsible for governing inside. By this time, Araffat was dead and replaced by Abbass. He’s 85, won’t hold elections, and Hamas took Gaza from the PLO.
And that’s how we get to now. The sorrounding Arab states effed by trying, and failing, to wipe Israel off the map too many times. They never cared for or wanted the refugees. Palestinian leadership was crap. There was a chance for peace with Rabin, but he was killed for it.
Then Netanyahu steps in when there’s almost daily suicide bomb attacks, throws up the walls, and… it worked. The ‘pro-peace’ parties in Israel have whithered away b/c he brought a very ugly type of peace (for Israelis).
What makes it such a viscious cycle is that it ‘works.’ Behind the walls, Palestinians are getting angrier and angrier. ‘Normal’ Israelis know they can never be peaceful neighbors.
They can even start knocking Palestian homes down for new settlements and not worry about getting killed. Hamas can fire their rockets, but the threat of Intifada is over. The boot is on the neck. And no one organization or leader represents Palestine anymore.
That’s why everyone stopped talking about ‘peace deals.’ Whatcha gonna get with Abbas and Netanyahu? Hamas isn’t going to any negotiation table. The only thing left, ppl like me are slowly realizing, is that Two State is dead.
The elephant in the room is that Zionism is incapitable with democracy. What seemed like a moral imperative - that Jews get their own state - after the Holocaust just doesn’t work with the demographics of West Bank + Gaza + Israel. https://twitter.com/comparativist/status/1391659932198391818
Make them all citizens in one state with universal suffrage and we’re either just past or very near the point where Palestinians, by sheer numbers, would win the first election and promptly rename the country ‘Palestine’ and IDK, Hamas takes command of the IDF.
All valid points. Read the whole thing. https://twitter.com/alon_levy/status/1391662014221766657
never thought of it through this lens, but. yes. point well made and taken. https://twitter.com/alon_levy/status/1391665588162924545
if there’s a point I’m trying to get at: the absolute worst people/groups on both the Israeli and Palestinian side benefit from the current status quo. 20-30 years ago there seemed to be almost a majority on each side that wanted a 2-state peace agreement to settle this https://twitter.com/inteldoge/status/1391667490875449344
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