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The End of Israel’s Illusion

The prevailing consensus among Israelis that Palestinian nationalism had been defeated – and thus that a political solution to the conflict was no longer necessary – lies in tatters. And even as the violence escalates, it has become clear to both sides that the era of glorious wars and victories is over.

TEL AVIV – The sudden eruption of war outside and inside Israel’s borders has shocked a complacent nation. Throughout Binyamin Netanyahu’s 12-year premiership, the Palestinian problem was buried and forgotten. The recent Abraham Accords, establishing diplomatic relations with four Arab states, seemed to weaken the Palestinian cause further. Now it has re-emerged with a vengeance.

Wars can be triggered by an isolated incident, but their cause is always deeper. In this case, the trigger, the eviction of Palestinians in favor of Israeli nationalists in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, touched all the sensitive nerves of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, its humiliating control of access to the Al-Aqsa mosque, the ever-present memory of the 1948 Nakba (the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians when Israel was founded), and the grievances of Israel’s Arab minority are all fueling the current flare-up.

It may be true that the contested real estate in Sheikh Jarrah did belong to a Jewish family before 1948. But Palestinians saw the incident as part of Israel’s unrelenting drive to “Judaize” Jerusalem, and a striking injustice, because the state of Israel was built partly on the abandoned properties of Palestinian refugees. While Jews are entitled to reclaim property they owned before Israel’s founding, Palestinians may not. Those facing eviction in Sheikh Jarrah cannot recover the homes in Jaffa and Haifa that they once owned.

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