A reader writes:

This reader unwittingly makes a very sharp analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian situation when he states:

"And as for the "right to live" line, one could just as easily say that Israel could have peace tomorrow if they recognized a Palestinian right to return. That position is not more politically viable than it would be for Hamas, as the duly elected government of the Palestinian authority, to lay down the gun without a settlement freeze or the territorial concessions needed to make a Palestinian state viable.  If Israel cannot even bring itself to give these concessions to the generally peaceful Palestinians of the West Bank; if Israel cannot even bring itself to stop settlements from being built in the West Bank, then what reason could Hamas possibly have for thinking that unilaterally forsaking the fight would lead to a real, respected sovereignty in Gaza?"

Things get a bit confused by his reference to Hamas in here, but it should be noted that three times in the past decade (twice in 2000, and then again in the fall of 2008), the PA was offered a Palestinian state by Israel, but rejected it because of, amongst other things, the lack of a "right of return".

So in other words, by recognizing Israel's "right to live" and laying down their arms, the Palestinians could have a peaceful existence and a state tomorrow, if they so wished.

By contrast, as your reader notes, Israel could have peace tomorrow "if they recognized a Palestinian right to return." As he/she also states, this would be not "politically viable" for Israel, as it would virtually guarantee a Jewish minority within the pre-1967 borders in a few years time.

To boil this down to its essence then: the Palestinians could have peace (and a state) today if they stopped fighting Israel and agreed to recognize its existence. The Israelis could have peace today only if they agreed to no longer exist. The mutual exclusivity of these two competing national desires is the root of the conflict, and any analysis of the situation needs to bear this in mind. All of the other ills of the situation, from the power of the fanatical settlers to the power of the fanatical Hamas are the symptoms, and not the cause, of this strikingly obvious fact.

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