A little history is in order to fully appreciate why I have come to this conclusion. Please bear with me just a bit as this history is a long one, over 3,000 years, but I will try to be brief in the summary.
The ongoing feud between Arabs (this includes the group of Arabs wrongly called Palestinians) and the Hebrews (called Jews) is an internal family fight between blood relatives that dates back to the first two offspring of both groups’ paternal progenitor, a man called Abraham. He had two sons, one by an Egyptian slave (yes, centuries before the Hebrews became slaves to the Egyptians, there were Egyptians who were slaves to certain wealthy Hebrews); his other son was from his legal wife and half-sister named Sarah (certain types of incest were acceptable norms during this early period of humanity). The son born to the slave was the oldest and his name was Ishmael. About thirteen years after he was born, Sarah, the legal wife of Abraham bore him a son who was named Isaac. As the legitimate heir of all of Abraham’s estate, fortune and name, Isaac became the legal first born even though he was much younger than his elder half-brother Ishmael. This, of course caused some friction in the family. The tension was mainly between Ishmael’s mother, Hagar, and Isaac’s mom, Sarah. According to some ancient stories the two boys pretty much got along as well as any brothers get along but the strife between the mothers became so great that Abraham was forced to make a decision that has, to this very day, caused great animosity between the offspring of both boys, namely the Arabs and the Jews. Abraham made the decision to remove Hagar and her son from his company forcing them to make their way alone in the deserts of the Sinai.
For those raised in the Western world all this seems quite strange and perhaps even a little ridiculous. Normally those living in, say the United States, tend to get over grudges rather quickly when compared to older parts of the globe. The blood feud is a rather bizarre concept not commonly held or even understood by those living or raised in America (unless your name is Hatfield and McCoy). The attitude after about a generation in the West tends to be “let bygones be bygones” and things move on and progress. However, in older cultures, particularly those in the Middle East, this is simply not the case. It is quite common for hurts, feuds, perceived wrongs and misgivings to last for generations and even centuries. In the case of the ill-will between Arabs and Jews it goes back at least three millennia or even longer.
It is very difficult for those outside of these cultures to grasp how this can happen or, in an age of scientific enlightenment, be allowed to continue. But, the fact of the matter is after that amount of time it is no longer just a belief held by two cultural societies, it is so ingrained that it is now a fixed part of their societal DNA. Even those members in each group who feel they have evolved beyond the influence of that sub-cellular pull on their thinking and rational are driven subconsciously by it. I'll give an example of this hidden drive a little later in the birth of the Zionist Movement in the late 19th and early 20th Century.
Another bit of history has to do with why this small area of the world we call Israel is so important to both groups. That too goes back to a time in ancient history. A time when covenant relationships were binding to the nth degree, something that has been totally lost and misunderstood by our so-called modern society. A little over 3,000 years ago, possibly even older, the creator of the Hebrew and Arab peoples was given a covenant promise from his G-d. This was the same G-d that had called out and guided this man, Abraham, from his homeland in what we now call Iraq and led him to the area called Canaan (later renamed Israel). According to the only extant written record of the period Abraham was given a promise of land ownership that would be extended to him and a particular lineage of his descendants. Those descendants would spring from the line of Isaac and his son Jacob and Jacob’s twelve sons. Ishmael was not forgotten and was promised wealth, kingship and a long line of descendants as well, only they would not inherit the lands promised to the line of Isaac and Jacob. Again, this was a binding covenant, something considered sacrosanct, beyond change, beyond criticism and inviolable.
Please bear with me as I continue with this brief history lesson. The first part of the promise was preambled with a blessing from G-d to Abraham because the old sage was willing to do whatever his G-d required, even give up his only son Isaac, if that was what G-d wanted. It stated that because of Abraham’s obedient faith “Your descendants will possess the cities of their enemies, and by your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed -- because you obeyed My order” (Bereshit 22:17-18). Now Abraham was concerned for his eldest son Ishmael because G-d had not mentioned him as the inheritor of the promise. G-d told Abraham not to worry over the boy or his mother. He would make Ishmael a great prince and founder of twelve princely tribes that would rule over the desert areas beginning in the area known as Pa’ran, an area in northeastern Sinai within the Aravah Valley. The land that was promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob included all the land of Canaan, which takes in all of the area currently known as Israel, including Gaza and the West Bank, it would also extend from the Wadi of Egypt all the way east to the banks of the Euphrates River. It would include Midian (known then as Keni), Jordan, Southern Syria (today known as the Golan Heights), lands currently called northwestern Iraq and Syria and southeastern Turkey, the lands once ruled by the Sumerians (Iraq and portions of modern day Iran), and most importantly an undivided Jerusalem (Bereshit 10). At no time in the entire history of Israel has all those lands been under the control of the Jewish people. The closest it ever came was under the rule of King Solomon, the son of King David who ruled for nearly 40 years in the 10th Century BCE.
By the 6th Century CE a new religion was created that encompassed nearly 98% of these descendants of Ishmael. It was called Islam. It took remnants of the Hebrew faith called Judaism and parts of its offspring Christianity, made it pliable to the nomadic tribal mentality of the Arab peoples making it just another mode of competition and division between blood brothers.
Now I know this is all pretty ancient stuff and many are likely wondering what this has to do with life in the region during the modern 21st Century. It has everything to do with it. This sibling rivalry goes so deep that nothing has been able to obliterate it from the genome of these two tribes. Not religion (which has actually fostered it), not science, not philosophy and not politics. How ingrained is this? In the early part of the 20th Century when the whole idea of finding a permanent home for the Jewish people was being taken seriously by most of the world the British Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, proposed creating a Jewish State in what was then known as the African country of Uganda. It was officially called the British Uganda Programme. The leader of the Zionist movement at the time, Theodor Herzl, soundly rejected the idea of a Jewish State anywhere other than what was then called “Palestine”. It should be noted here that the name Palestine was a designation for the Land of Israel given by the Romans under the reign of Tiberius Caesar. He gave it this name as an insult to the Jews because it meant Land of the Philistines, a warring race long wiped out by King David. The big question is why wasn’t Uganda or any other location outside of “Palestine” acceptable to Herzl and most members of the Zionist Movement between 1897 and 1917? Herzl and many in the movement were not overtly religious, in fact, the majority were assimilated Jews (non-religious, comfortable in non-Jewish society). Yet, they were adamant that the new Jewish State, when it becomes a reality, must be located in what was called “Palestine” or, The Holy Land. The reason for this has nothing to do with logic, rational thinking, religious bias, racism, or political agenda. It is heredity. Returning to the land of our fathers, the land promised by covenant to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is literally a part of every Jew's DNA. Even for those who never make it there to live or only remotely think about it the pull exists whenever one shuts out the noise of the world around them.
For the Jew it’s a matter of DNA and covenant. For the Arab its a matter of envy and hatred beginning all the way back to the enmity between Hagar against Sarah - Ishmael and Isaac. Both are deeper than any philosophy or treaty and will always run counter to any attempt for a lasting peace. It simply cannot and will not exist. For the Jew all that is required from the Arab is the willingness to accept the covenant given by G-d to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob which implies Israel’s right to exist within the boundaries promised. For the Arab what is required for them to fulfill their blood feud is the total annihilation of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. This is the foundational reason why a Two-State solution cannot and will not work. It is doomed to failure and the Western mindset will never be able comprehend or accept that, however, it is the reality of the state of affairs in that volatile region of the world.
"I consider the Jewish question neither a social nor a religious one, even though it sometimes takes these and other forms. It is a national question, and to solve it we must first of all establish it as an international political problem to be discussed and settled by the civilized nations of the world in council."
"We are a people — one people....We have sincerely tried everywhere to merge with the national communities in which we live, seeking only to preserve the faith of our fathers. It is not permitted us. In vain are we loyal patriots, sometimes super-loyal; in vain do we make the same sacrifices of life and property as our fellow citizens; in vain do we strive to enhance the fame of our native lands in the arts and sciences, or her wealth by trade and commerce. In our native lands where we have lived for centuries we are still decried as aliens, often by men whose ancestors had not yet come at a time when Jewish sighs had long been heard in the country..."
"Oppression and persecution cannot exterminate us. No nation on earth has endured such struggles and sufferings as we have. Jew-baiting has merely winnowed out our weaklings; the strong among us defiantly return to their own whenever persecution breaks out...Wherever we remain politically secure for any length of time, we assimilate. I think this is not praiseworthy..."
"Palestine is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State. We shall live at last as free men on our own soil, and in our own homes peacefully die. The world will be liberated by our freedom, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness. And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind." - Theodor Herzl (Der Judenstaat -1896)