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At the crossroads of conflict

New violence has made the two-state solution seem harder to reach than ever, but it is still the least bad vision for Palestinians and Israelis

Gush Etzion Junction is a big unkempt roundabout where two roads and several separate universes meet. To the north, the highway runs along the mountain ridge of the West Bank to Jerusalem. To the south, following an ancient route, it continues to Hebron and beyond. The east and west spokes lead to Israeli settlements and Palestinian villages. A new road sign on the eastern carriageway points to a nature reserve named a^ er three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian terrorists while hitchhiking in June 2014.

When I went to the junction on a wintry afternoon, some high school girls and a woman in a sweater-dress and beret were waiting to hitchhike north. Stickers on the nearby bus shelter warned hitchhikers to stand behind the concrete posts on the pavement. The posts are there to protect people from drivers who swerve onto the pavement to run them over—a common type of attack against Israelis by lone Palestinians in recent months.

There’s a petrol station and a supermarket on the west side of the junction. Security cameras are hung in groups from the lamp-posts outside, like the fruit of strange metallic date palms. At each of the roundabout’s four exits, I saw a pair of soldiers standing behind metre-high concrete cubes. They held assault rifles in their hands with the long magazines in, ready to respond to the next attack. On one of the cubes, someone had stencilled an advert in Arabic using spray paint: “DJ Re-Mash Music,” with a phone number. The worlds of everyday commerce and political violence touch and overlap here, as do the worlds of Israelis and Palestinians.

Between mid-September, when the latest wave of violence began, and mid-December, there were 109 attacks by Palestinians against Israelis in the West Bank and inside Israel. All, except for one, were carried out by individuals, or occasionally by pairs, acting on their own without the direction of the Palestinian militant organisations. Knives and cars were the usual weapons. The death toll included 19 Israelis and an American student—and at least 75 Palestinians were killed while attempting or carrying out attacks. Israeli human rights groups assert that soldiers and police have sometimes shot to kill even when the assailant was no longer a threat.

An Israeli soldier from an elite infantry unit stands guard at the Gush Etzion junction in the Israeli-occupied West Bank
© MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s February issue: Lawrence Summers questions Robert J Gordon’s thesis on the impact of the digital revolution, John Sawers, the former Chief of MI6, highlights how technology is making the work of spies harder and Frank Furedi examines the student movements demanding protection from the offensive and uncomfortable. Also in this issue: Gershom Gorenberg on Israel, Ben Judah on the complexity of London and Elizabeth Pisani on the impact of fake drugs. Plus Sam Tanenhaus on Obama’s gun control plans.
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