By Neve Gordon
"......Some of the changes; the most damaging of which are the ongoing expansion of the settlements and the hermetic closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, both of which have, in many respects, led to the rise of Hamas; are often discussed in the media and are rightly understood as hindering the possibility of Israelis and Palestinians reaching a peace agreement based on the two-state solution. The change that is hardly ever mentioned is the current lack of contact between ordinary Israelis (as opposed to soldiers and settlers) and Palestinians.
The separation barrier built deep inside Palestinian territories best symbolizes this change. One of its many devastating effects is the severance of practically all day-to-day contact between the two peoples. The younger generation on both sides of the Green Line no longer sees the 'other' as living, breathing beings but rather in stereotypical terms, which are often informed by prejudice and racist assumptions.
The alienation between Israeli Jews and Palestinians consequently serves the interests of all those who would like to portray the other side as a perpetual and mortal enemy.
The effects of this change should not be underestimated. Simply put, it seems that the younger (Jewish) generation within Israel is less likely than ever to support a leader who would have the courage to initiate a just peace agreement based on the full withdrawal to the 1967 borders, including the return of East Jerusalem, and some kind of creative solution for the Palestinian refugees.
Tragically, after 41 years of occupation the two-state solution seems to be more remote than ever before. Peace within the existing context, as Israeli peace activist and former Knesset member, Uri Avnery, has convincingly argued, is like surmounting an abyss. One cannot achieve it with short strides but only with a great leap. My students' reactions suggest that the gulf between the two peoples is only growing wider. "