One of the fallacies engendered by the European story of the 20th century is that stories have endings. The Europeans had an absolutely ghastly 35 years starting in 1914, but then it was over and the world was mended. This teaches us that no matter how awful a conflict, it can be brought to an end and everyone will live happily ever after.
It does work that way, sometimes. But often it doesn't. The fear and hatred of Iran which we've been hearing is pervasive in Arab capitals has to do with all sorts of immediate considerations - and also with wounds which have been festering since the 7th century, or perhaps earlier.
Benny Morris thinks peace with the Palestinians is not possible, since the Palestinians mostly wish the Israelis gone, and even if it's only a sizable minority of them (which he doubts) the result will be the same: real peace will be unattainable.
I am not talking about the tactical problem posed by continued or discontinued Israeli construction in West Bank settlements, which will probably be resolved, after some bumps and hesitations. I am speaking of a basic, strategic impasse which, unfortunately, is far more cogent and telling than the ongoing “negotiations,” which are unlikely to lead to a peace treaty or even a “framework” agreement for a future peace accord. This unlikelihood stems from a set of obstacles that I see as insurmountable, given current political-ideological mindsets.Yehezkel Dror, in his early 80s perhaps the dean of Israel's political scientists, is less glum than Morris - marginally. While he thinks true peace with the Palestinians just might work, most of the scenarios he enumerates explain why it's not likely.
The first, the one that American and European officials never express and—if impolitely mentioned in their presence—turn away from in distaste, is that Palestinian political elites, of both the so-called “secular” and Islamist varieties, are dead set against partitioning the Land of Israel/Palestine with the Jews. They regard all of Palestine as their patrimony and believe that it will eventually be theirs. History, because of demography and the steady empowerment of the Arab and Islamic worlds and the West’s growing alienation from Israel, and because of Allah’s wishes, is, they believe, on their side. They do not want a permanent two-state solution, with a Palestinian Arab state co-existing alongside a (larger) Jewish state; they will not compromise on this core belief and do not believe, on moral or practical grounds, that they should.
This basic Palestinian rejectionism, amounting to a Weltanschauung, is routinely ignored or denied by most Western commentators and officials. To grant it means to admit that the Israeli-Arab conflict has no resolution apart from the complete victory of one side or the other (with the corollary of expulsion, or annihilation, by one side of the other)—which leaves leaders like President Barack Obama with nowhere realistic to go with regard to the conflict.
The Economist offers a fine analysis of the lack of democracy in the Arab world. One might wonder if it's a good thing or bad, the making of peace with non-democratic governments which lack popular legitimacy.
Bottom line: Israel needs to do what's good for Israel. Ruling over millions of Palestinians isn't good, so far as I can see, and maintaining a few hundred small Jewish settlements throughout territories even we know are not going to stay under our control forever is equally bad. Yet the reasonable assumption that no Palestinian leader can deliver true peace, even if he wished to do so, means that Israel cannot be generous and relaxed in what it's willing to give the Palestinians; it must maintain some assets the Palestinians cannot agree to our maintaining. Which means the possibility of reaching an agreement are even more limited than if we could expect true peace.