Friedman’s article reinforces an insight from Robert’s course, namely that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not solely or even mainly about these two groups of people, but about the larger religious and political movements invested, for various reasons, in the outcome of that conflict.
In a religious sense, the conflict is between Jews and Muslims over control of a land holy to both. It also involves Christians, who are tied by bonds of faith to the Jews and drawn to the holy land for our own reasons; in a less savory way, Christians also helped instigate the conflict by driving the Jews out of Christian Europe.
In a political sense, the conflict is about mastery of a significant plot of land bordering the Mediterranean and close to Suez. It is an arena where major powers exert influence, often through proxies. The United States has supported Israel staunchly for decades, motivated by a mixture of hard-headed pragmatism and idealism. The Soviet Union first backed Israel and then its Arab neighbors in an effort to contest the United States’s influence. Today lesser powers, including Russia and Iran, do the same by backing militias and terrorist groups in an attempt to evacuate the United States. Now China is attempting to woo various actors through the purchase of Israeli ports and diplomacy aimed at Iran and the Arab states.
This piece cautions against viewing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict myopically. We have to look at the many outside forces with a fighting interest in the outcome.