Perhaps quantum physics aside, two identical objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Witness Gaza.

Hamas wants a Palestinian state from the river (Jordan) to the sea (Mediterranean). The Israeli far-right wants a Greater Israel in that same space. Both engage in magical thinking guaranteed to continue violence. 

College campuses also produce magical thinking. Pro-Palestinian protestors espouse Palestinian freedom from the river to the sea. Where does Israel go? Supposedly critical thinkers, protestors view the situation with closed eyes. Start with condemnations of “Zionism.”

Said Bernard Avishai, Adjunct Professor of Business at Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Fareed Zakaria’s CNN show “GPS” last Sunday): “Israel is a country. It’s a home. It’s not a cause in the minds of American Jews.”

Israelis and Diaspora Jews freely question Jerusalem’s policies but not the nation’s existence. Concept became fact 76 years ago.

In a New Yorker online essay (“Shibboleth,” May 5), the British writer Zadie Smith challenged protestors’ magical thinking. Smith favors a ceasefire and wrote, “Hamas will not be ‘eliminated.’” But, re Avishai: “The more than seven million Jewish human beings who live in the gap between the river and the sea will not simply vanish because you think that they should. All of that is just rhetoric.”

Hamas’ latest episode of magical thinking took two forms. 

October 7 was a rallying cry for Iranian-backed groups like Hezbollah to rise up to destroy Israel. Didn’t happen. The slaughter also invited Israel to respond with great force so Hamas could win the world’s sympathy. Did. So far.

Hamas wants the war to end. Sure. It can regroup. But ceasefire proposals wane and ebb given little, if any, direct communication between the two sides. Last Sunday, Hamas rocketed an IDF base near the Kerem Shalom crossing where humanitarian goods flow from Israel into Rafah. Four Israeli soldiers were killed. Israel is now engaged in a so-far limited operation in Rafah.

The suffering of Gazans? According to Hamas, the more play Gazan misery gets in the media, the more chance the world will force Israel to disappear. You think? 

Bibi Netanyahu pretends to engage in magical thinking but exhibits steely realism. After war’s end, Bibi will be tossed out of office. His corruption trial will resume. Prison lurks. Let the war continue.

More magical thinking comes from an unlikely source. Tom Segev is one of Israel’s “New Historians,” who’ve written warts-and-all books. In a Foreign Affairs article, “Israel’s Forever War,” Segev recaps the dark side of Israel’s history. A two-state solution moving forward? “… any compromise is likely to be denounced by significant Israeli and Palestinian constituencies as a national and religious betrayal.” True. 

But Mystik Dan, an 18­-1 shot, won Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

Segev’s proposal: “… imaginative, resourceful, and compassionate management of the conflict between the two sides will be more crucial than ever… the United States and other leading powers must do more to ensure that Palestinians and Israelis can find a safer and more tolerable existence in a world without peace.”

Easy. They’ll put on top hats and wave magic wands.

“Management” of the conflict after the Palestinians refused partition in 1947 has brought us to this point. Israeli and Palestinian leaders need to cast aside magical thinking. Without two states, real blood will flow in ever greater quantities. 

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  1. Bruce Abramson on May 10, 2024 at 12:44 pm

    The Palestine movement was founded as an explicit negation of Zionism. The Palestinian position has always been that it is locked in a battle to the death. Such a conflict ends only when one side is dead and the other has bloody hands. The only way to defuse it is to complete the population exchange–as occurred every other time a captive nation (like the Jews) achieved self-determination–by resettling the Palestinians through the Muslim-majority world.

    Of course, a peaceful population transfer is wishful thinking that will never happen. So the pain and conflict will persist until one side wins and the other loses. I have preferences, not predictions.

    • David Perlstein on May 10, 2024 at 1:29 pm

      I agree, Bruce, that the Palestinians—and the Arab world in 1947-48—stood firmly against a Jewish state. Pity for the Palestinians, because they also could be celebrating their 76th anniversary as a nation. Israel will stand. But a population “exchange” won’t work. It wouldn’t be an exchange but an expulsion. Forced or pressured, it would, I fear, totally isolate Israel from the world and lead to grave consequences for Israel. I don’t predict what.

  2. David Newman on May 10, 2024 at 11:01 pm

    There are any number of impossible solutions, mostly involving wishful thinking that one people or the other can be made to disappear. Not going to happen. Both Jews and Palestinians have historic ties to the same real estate.

    As Sherlock Holmes said, “When you eliminate the impossible, what’s left, however impossible, is the solution.” What’s left for Israel and the Palestinians, however improbable, is two states.

    • David Perlstein on May 11, 2024 at 8:26 am

      David: you, Sherlock Holmes and I agree. What more does it take?

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