When I was doing my MA at CTS, I took a Christian Ethics course in which I prepared a presentation on the Israel-Palestine conflict. It was at that point that I decided to stop following the news related to that conflict on an ongoing basis, because it seemed clear to me that the same thing was going to keep happening over and over. My basis for thinking that is a perception that the only long-term stable solutions are either the two-state solution or just plain getting rid of all the Palestinians in the occupied territories. Given that no country seems willing to take them, including the neighboring Arab countries that are supposedly so outraged at their plight, the only way to implement option two would probably be to round them all up and murder them — and I think we can all hope that the weight of historical irony would be unbearable enough to take that option “off the table.”
One would think, then, that Israel would obviously opt for the two-state solution as its only long-term option — but that ignores the fact that the medium-term can last a long, long time. An inherently unstable situation can stabilize into what one might call a shitty equilibrium. In this case: Israel continues to lock down Gaza while seizing more and more land in the West Bank, and occasionally some group of Palestinians will do something antagonistic that Israel will use as a pretext for using military force. People will die, lives will be ruined — but fundamentally nothing can change, because Israel can’t just “take over” the occupied territories outright without facing three unthinkable options: an officially-recognized apartheid state, the loss of Israel’s Jewish character, or the above-mentioned “option two.”
Israeli politicians get to look tough, and both sides get to kick the two-state can further down the road — rinse and repeat.
There are many parallels to the shitty equilibrium that Israel is perpetuating, but I think that perhaps the most illuminating (albeit perhaps inflammatory) is North Korea. Just like Israel, it’s in an inherently unstable situation where the only two long-term options are unfavorable: either conquer South Korea (which is utterly impossible) or be dissolved into South Korea (hence dissolving the North Korean elite class). So what does North Korea do to buy itself more time? It occasionally responds to trumped up “provocations” with a show of force, in order to look tough and thus buy itself some degree of legitimacy among the long-suffering North Korean people. Perpetuating the unstable shitty equilibrium as long as possible is the direct goal of everything they do.
Of course, I’m not saying that Israel is in all ways parallel to North Korea — just that their foreign policy seems broadly similar. (One could even say that China and the U.S. play parallel roles in the two cases.)