Shlomo Ben-Ami is a former Israeli foreign minister who negotiated with the Palestinians, under President Clinton’s mediation, at Camp David, and later led the Israeli delegation for the Taba talks. He now serves as the vice president of the Toledo International Centre for Peace and is the author of Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy.
It is the total and absolute nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has made it into such a protracted dispute. For it is not just a collision over territory, or a banal border dispute; it is a clash of rights and memory. The longing for the same landscapes, the mutually exclusive claims of ownership of land and religious sites and symbols, and the ethos of dispossession for which the two parties claim a monopoly make their national narratives practically irreconcilable with each other. Yet it is also a war of images, contrasted and demonized images, a struggle between two nationalist mythologies, both of them claiming the monopoly of justice and martyrdom.