The study of conflict resolution is prefaced on the notion that two parties in conflict desire a mutually acceptable resolution to end their dispute, however intractable it may be. The behavior by Israel and the Palestinians, however, suggests a different desired outcome. Whereas both talk about their desire to make peace, their actual actions on the ground demonstrate differently. Today, Israelis and Palestinians alike are defying essential principles of conflict resolution, serving to prolong, rather than conclude their festering conflict.
To achieve a resolution, parties in conflict must believe that continuing their dispute provides diminishing returns. That is, they must exhaust all possibilities to improve upon their positions and recognize that the situation of both sides can only be improved through compromise and cooperation. Recent developments indicate that neither Israel nor the Palestinians have come to this conclusion.
In fact, their behavior suggests the opposite. Today, each side has contributed to preservation of the status quo: Israel through settlement construction and arrogant intransigence in recognizing any merit to Palestinian positions; Palestinians through their refusal to return to the negotiating table and insistence on the right of return of the Palestinian refugees, which Israel will not accept. The status quo has become a political asset for each side, even at the risk of serving as a strategic liability for the future of both peoples. Furthermore, with short-term political considerations dominating the political discourse in Ramallah and Jerusalem, neither side has indicated any willingness to take the kind of calculated risk that will be necessary to resolve the conflicts. Without calculated risks, or efforts that begin to mitigate the conflict, it is impossible to move forward toward a resolution-and today in Israel-Palestine, there is neither. Furthermore, the cost of maintaining the conflict today is currently acceptable to both sides. The economy in Israel and the West Bank is thriving, and it is even improving in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas' relationship with Egypt is improving with the renewed open border. From each side's perspective, today's conflict is manageable in the immediate-term, even if both parties appear headed off a cliff in the not-too-distant future.