The recent exchange of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit for a thousand Palestinian prisoners in Israeli hands is regarded as a cautiously hopeful sign even by Israeli hawks, as it appears the only possible de-escalation from the absolute collapse of the peace process that was almost implicit in the Palestinian bid for full membership as a state in the United Nations. The Israeli Right was fiercely opposed to Palestinian statehood from 1948 until relatively recently, when it realized that the Palestinians could not be induced to leave territory Israel occupied after the 1967 war; could not be physically expelled, because neither domestic nor international opinion would tolerate such an outrage; and could not be assimilated, both because of natural Arab resistance, and because of the danger of Israel’s ceasing to be a Jewish state and homeland, which has always been its only raison d’être. (There were Israeli bi-nationalists, jolly progressives who wanted to share; Canaanites, i.e. complete secularists; and territorialists who had wispy dreams of settling in Uganda or Ethiopia — but none of them ever had any grasp of reality.)
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