Palestinian nationalism often seems a mirror-image of the Zionist project, but with this one crucial difference: Over the half century before the foundation of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement pre-built the institutions of a state. The Zionist movement built not only a proto-government and the elements of an army, but charitable institutions, educational institutions, even artistic institutions. The Jewish state, when it came, was voted by the UN. But it was in no sense a gift from anybody, let alone an international organization.

When it came, that state did not have the boundaries its most ardent supporters would have wished. Much of the Jewish homeland lay outside the Jewish state, and remains outside that state to this day. But the practice of realism defined the founding generation of the state fully as much as the ideal of self-reliance. They accepted less than they dreamed of in order to achieve at least something of what they aspired to…

I’ve spent the past week in the region. I was on holiday this time. I return with no special political insights, except just this one obvious to any vacationer: the terrible waste caused by this conflict, the stupid and pointless loss of human possibilities. There could be networks of peaceful commerce across the Middle East. There could be technological exchanges, electrical grids, a non-stop superhighway from Tel Aviv to Basra, daily shuttle flights from Jerusalem to Mecca. There’s no sensible reason for any of these things to be lacking, and yet lacking they all are.