In examining the recent upsurge on deadly attacks on Israelis civilians, Jonathan Spyer notes that it is normal for such incidents tend to increase during Ramadan, though usually they take the form of street harassment or low-grade violence. He further notes that “this atmosphere of tension is neither incited nor controlled by any organized political or religious element,” but rather spreads in a loose fashion via social media. Finally, he argues that “this wave of attacks has no coherent political aim and is wedded to no identifiable political process.” In that way, he says, it reflects the “salient fact not only of Palestinian but also of broader Sunni politics in the Levant, Iraq, and the surrounding areas.”
Over the past two decades, every political project emerging from among this population has gone down to failure. The second intifada of 2000-04, the short-lived Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt of 2012-13, the 2012-18 Sunni Arab insurgency in Syria, and the Islamic State “caliphate” of 2014-19 are the most significant mass political efforts by Middle Eastern Sunni Arab populations in recent years. All were defeated.
The result of these failures has not, however, been the emergence of a more pragmatic politics. Rather, a sort of inchoate, largely formless, rejection of current arrangements is identifiable. This rejection produces periodic episodes of violence but seems unlikely to affect larger structures of power.
In the case of Israel and the Palestinian territories, a familiar pattern has emerged. The Jewish and Arab populations are at near demographic parity. Efforts at partition going back nearly a century have foundered on the consistent unwillingness on the Arab side to accept the division of the land as the final settlement of claims. As a result of this rejection, combined with the inability on the Arab side of reaching its goals by force, the conflict remains in a kind of chronic state: unresolved but subject to more or less successful management.
Might the power of shared religious symbols eventually prove sufficient to unite [the now deeply splintered Palestinians]? If so, the result will be the return of this conflict to its acute form.
In contrast to this record of failure stand the Gulf monarchies (with the exception of Qatar) and Morocco, which appear to have embraced a program of religious moderation and normalization with Israel.