Forget About Israeli-Palestinian “Peace”

Forget About Israeli-Palestinian “Peace”

At this point, a “long truce,” as in Bosnia, is the more feasible solution.


Here we go again. Another war between Israelis and Palestinians helps stir new discussion about reviving the “peace process” as officials, lawmakers, pundits, and think tankers come up with this or that plan to finally bring peace to the Holy Land.

Hey, this time, it will work. And if you just draw the border here, get rid of a few Jewish settlements there, exchange this territory for that territory, allow in Arab refugees, and find a way to divide Jerusalem and its holy sites, then Jews and Arabs would be living happily ever after in their shared territory.


There is, of course, that old reliable, the two-state solution. And if that doesn’t work, we’ll check out the one-state solution because isn’t it clear that Palestinian-Arabs and Israeli-Jews are ready to live together like French speakers and Flemish people in Belgium? But then, on second thought, things don’t look so great even there, either. So, how about a federation or a confederation? And in a bow to the spirit of globalization, we’ll add here that “they will sign a free-trade agreement.”

Perhaps the time has come to cease peace processing and fantasizing that, to paraphrase Isaiah, the two people “will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks,” that “nation will not lift up the sword against nation, and never again will they learn war.” 

Instead, we need to lower our expectations time when the Israelis have yet to recover from the horrors of October 7 and the massacre of more than 1,200 Israelis. Moreover, the Arabs are watching the destruction in Gaza and the death of 16,000 Palestinians. “Peace” has never been so far away.

The bottom line is that Israelis and Palestinians aren’t ready for great sulha or reconciliation between their two peoples. The best we can hope for is some form of a long truce, ending the war as opposed to what the Book of Judges described in the periods between wars: “So the land had rest forty years.”

From that perspective, a possible model that could help the United States and the rest of the international community to outline the end of the war in Gaza and, in the process, setting the stage for an Israeli-Palestinian truce is the 1995 Dayton Accords or The General Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

That agreement put an end to the three-and-a-half-year-long Bosnian War, resulting in a single sovereign state known as Bosnia and Herzegovina composed of two parts, the largely Serb-populated Republika Srpska and mainly Croat-Bosniak-populated Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  

The primary aim of the Dayton Agreement was to stop the war, and it was actually described as a temporary measure while a long-term peace plan would be developed, which it never did. It was the thirty-fifth attempt at a ceasefire between the warring parties, following thirty-four other failed attempts.

Indeed, the Dayton deal has halted the conflict, and there has not been a resurgence of violence since then, although some of the core differences between the sides that caused the conflict haven’t been resolved. It didn’t mark the beginning of an era of peace in the area, but then, with no open conflict or violence, what more could you ask for?

An international military presence, EUFOR Althea is responsible for overseeing compliance with aspects of the Dayton Agreement. And the general consensus is that without such enforcement, the deep-rooted tensions in the country would have resurfaced. From that perspective, this military enforcement helps cover the fractures that have yet to heal. Remove the EUFOR Althea forces, and the war will start again.

Yet, there has been non-open conflict or violence. Some refer to that as “negative peace” as opposed to “positive” one, the kind that Israelis and Palestinians could use today to ensure that their land would indeed calm for several years.

Dr. Leon Hadar is a contributing editor with The National Interest, a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) in Philadelphia, and a former research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. He has taught at American University in Washington, DC, and the University of Maryland, College Park. A columnist and blogger with Haaretz (Israel) and Washington correspondent for the Business Times of Singapore, he is a former United Nations bureau chief for the Jerusalem Post.