The ‘conflict of narratives’ hoax wins the day.
You’ve got to hand it to Bibi – he is the master of micro-politics. What he lacks in vision he makes up for with details. He is also becoming very good at setting the media’s agenda, something he wasn’t able to do in either his first term or the first couple of years of his second term.
The “Jewish State” demand has effectively cornered Abbas into a familiar position: the Palestinians will reject a generous Israeli offer, without actually being offered anything. This has turned out to be the most incredible turn of events. Netanyahu refused the 1967 borders, refused to accept a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem and even refused a settlement freeze; according to reports, Kerry didn’t get a single concession out of Bibi. But if you listen to the international media, you’ll hear that the talks are about to break down due to Palestinian refusal over the “the Jewish State” hurdle.
Almost everything has been written about Netanyahu’s demand: how, by taking what was an insignificant detail in previous rounds of negotiations and turning it into the heart of the process, he has managed to erase the Palestinian recognition in the State of Israel (which was the Rabin government’s greatest achievement); how he pushed the internal debate inside Israel even further into the ethnic-chauvinistic sphere, ignoring the fact that Israel is already a de-facto bi-national state with a Palestinian minority of more than 20 percent; how he further delegitimized the democratic idea of “a state for all its citizens”; and how he has given an excuse for the American Jewish community to turn its back on the Palestinians and turn a blind eye to the occupation.
The media is not asking the most basic questions: aside from uttering the words “Palestinian state” – a term that becomes more elusive and hollow with each passing day – what exactly has Netanyahu agreed to? What will this state look like? Where does he envision the borders? Ever since he returned to office in 2009, Netanyahu has refused to say anything about everything that matters – borders, settlements, Jerusalem, the Gaza corridor. And he gets away with it.
Following Netanyahu’s footsteps, journalists and officials are now coming out with more talk of a “clash of narratives,” (to quote The New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren) which supposedly lies at the heart of the conflict. Again, this is pure ideological fiction – a hoax which appeals to intellectuals who love words and hate real politics – one that is meant to justify depriving the Palestinian people of their rights for a few more years, perhaps even decades.
This is not a conflict of narratives – not any more than any other conflict in the world is. First and foremost, this is a conflict over assets – in this case we are talking mostly about land. The narrative is strictly a byproduct of that conflict.
It is useful for Israelis and their supporters to speak of “a conflict of narratives” since it makes the two parties seem equally powerful, and some might even say that the Jewish narrative needs more support than the Palestinian one. But if you look at it as a fight over land, you notice that one side has been taking while the other has been losing for the past 120 years. There is no equality in this story whatsoever.
Even if you do not agree with the above view, something else should be said on the topic: it is nearly impossible to reconcile competing narratives. The logic of political compromise – like the two-state solution, or even the one-state option – is that you share the assets and hope that if both sides feel satisfied enough, with time the competing narratives will evolve in a way that they could complete, rather than compete with each other.
By demanding that Palestinians become Zionists – this is what accepting a Jewish state in Palestine means, no? – Netanyahu is not trying to raise “the core problem,” but rather prevent ever reaching a solution, thus allowing Israel to continue chipping away at the real core issue – land.