Morris turns to the origins of the one-state and two-state conceptions. It helps explain how the Israelis and Palestinians got themselves into this intractable conflict in the first place.

Issue: Mar-Apr 2009

Benny Morris, One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 256 pp., $26.00.


THE ARAB-ISRAELI conflict has preoccupied American presidents and administrations since the 1960s out of all proportion to its intrinsic importance, and this will be true, in all probability, in the years to come. The reasons are far from obvious, for the region is of no particular strategic or economic importance. As far as the number of victims is concerned, the conflict ranks quite low on the list of external and internal wars in recent decades. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims were killed in the Algerian civil war and the Iran-Iraq War, and many more still in Darfur, Somalia, the Philippines, Chechnya, Pakistan, Yemen, the Lebanese civil war and so on. The number of Israeli Jews killed during the last thirty years was also quite small.

So perhaps there is some other explanation for the heightened importance of the conflict. Isn't it true that Palestine and Jerusalem are key to the religions of both Muslims and Jews, hence the depth of the emotion? Then it is the perception that counts, not the number of victims. Not so fast. Jerusalem (or to be precise, one specific place in Jerusalem-the al-Aqsa mosque) appears only once in the Koran, and in any case the conflict predates the upsurge in Muslim fundamentalism.

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