Values in Conflict: America, Israel, and the Palestinians (Case Study #8)


This case deals with the questions of moral choice posed for American policy makers by the evolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict from interstate conflict to intercommunal strife over four decades.

By no means is this "evolution" linear or complete. Nor do all the local parties accept the same definition of the struggle's current historical character, thereby adding to the diplomatic burdens of any third party mediator like the United States.

The case study begins in 1977 and continues to the present. This case emphasizes the difficulties inherent in the rival strategic and ethical claims and counterclaims of Israel and its adversaries. It recounts the efforts of Presidents Carter, Reagan, and Bush and their administrations as they grappled with what many scholars and practitioners insist is a "conflict of rights," a conflict of legitimate nationalisms in the same territory.

Although this interpretation is itself value-laden and controversial at one level, pitting Holocaust survivors against Arab residents in Palestine, it moves the struggle beyond the confines of routine interstate conflict susceptible to compromise. Paradoxically, this case shows that as this interpretation has gained adherence in the U.S. foreign policy-making establishment as an accommodation to realities on the ground, it has complicated the search for an agreeable settlement.

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