It is impossible to “Shrink the Conflict”

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Palestinian laborers built new houses in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Bruchin near the Palestinian town of Nablus, Oct. 25th, 2021. (credit: Ariel Schalit / AP Photo)
The Israeli government cannot significantly improve Palestinian lives without granting them basic rights.

By Peter Beinart | Jewish Currents | Nov 11, 2021

Again and again over the past five decades, Israeli leaders have promised an enlightened, hands-off occupation that fosters prosperity among the Palestinians under their control. And, again and again, Palestinians have experienced despotism, land theft, and violence.

ON OCTOBER 22ND, Israel’s defense ministry outlawed six prominent Palestinian human rights groups. Two days later, Israel’s housing and construction ministry announced plans to build more than 1,300 new homes for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. The day after that, Israeli troops reportedly stood by as settlers attacked a member of Rabbis for Human Rights who was helping Palestinians gather olives—one of more than 58 attacks on Palestinians and their supporters during the October olive harvest. On October 26th, Israel’s public security minister banned a festival in an East Jerusalem church, thus signaling his intention to prohibit “almost all Palestinian cultural events in East Jerusalem,” according to Haaretz. Peace Now reports that since taking office in June, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s “government has actively worked to promote settlements and deepen the Israeli occupation of the [occupied] territories.”

To those familiar with Bennett’s vow to ensure a “reduction of friction and the shrinking of the conflict,” these developments might be surprising. “Shrinking the conflict,” a mantra Bennett borrowed from the Israeli writer Micah Goodman, has garnered a respectful hearing in the US press. Both The Atlantic and The New York Times have given Goodman space to argue that Israel can retain dominion over the West Bank yet “dramatically improve day-to-day life for everyone on the ground.” When Bennett’s government began implementing some of Goodman’s ideas earlier this fall, the Times labeled it a “major shift” in Israeli policy. This week, Democratic Representative Jake Auchincloss praised Bennett’s government for “trying to shrink that conflict, find other ways, other channels to work with their Palestinian neighbors,” which he called “a healthy first step.”

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