Waiting for their nation: Palestinians boys in Beit Sahour, during a St John Chrysostom Church pilgrimage to Israel and Palestine, January 2017.

By the grace of God, and because of this awful war, Israel and Palestine are on the verge of their Northern Ireland season of peace. Or so we must pray. As the settlement of the 30-year Irish troubles in 1998 demonstrated, people do eventually get tired of fighting. The suffering overwhelms them. They find a way to get their needs met without violence. They make a deal. They give something up, and they get something in return. Finally, the hatred eases, and the bloodshed ends. In the land of the Prince of Peace, this is the only way peace is possible, because whether they like it or not, neither Israel nor Palestine is going anywhere.

There’s no mystery about the persistence of Palestinian rage. Some 700,000 were displaced by the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Less than a lifetime later, most Palestinians still believe Israel doesn’t have the right to exist as a Jewish state. It would be odd if they felt otherwise. The catastrophe of a lost homeland can traumatize a people for generations.

You will sometimes hear activists say that Israel has the right to exist, but without the rest of the phrase — as a Jewish state. Which means that in some quarters, the argument about the legitimacy of Zionism, Jews’ right to a homeland in their ancestral lands, isn’t over. For some, the problem with Zionism is the potential disconnect between democracy and preserving religious and ethnic identity. For others, it’s anger at a 57-year military occupation that has disenfranchised Palestinians living on the West Bank.

For a few, it’s distaste for Israel. Call it prejudice. And for Hamas, it’s genocidal antisemitism. Those who criticize Israel’s brutal response to the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks must also reckon with the Hamas tactic of wrapping its tentacles around Gaza’s civilian population and institutions, exposing them to Israel’s counterinsurgency as shields and buffers. To achieve its nihilistic goal of obliterating a people, Hamas is willing to sacrifice innocent Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Yet dehumanizing rhetoric on the fringes of Israeli politics is sometimes reminiscent of Hamas’ language about Jews. On U.S. college campuses after Oct. 7, when pro-Palestinian demonstrators shouted “from the river to the sea,” Jews rightly reckoned it as genocidal. Yet Israel’s settler parties say the same thing. The settler movement is an expression of a strain in Zionism, opposed by most of Israel’s founders, including David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir, which insisted that Israel comprises all the land, yes, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Netanyahu’s far-right coalition, which embodies the dream of “greater Israel,” countenances settlers’ violent attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank. Some settler leaders say Palestinians can stay, as long as they don’t expect to vote. Others say they should just get out. Using the war as an excuse, Netanyahu has explicitly renounced Israel’s commitment to a Palestinian state.

So extremist Israeli settlers and Hamas have the exact same river-sea slogan on their bumperstickers. And they have turned the peace process into a demolition derby. For reasons too numerous to list, Israeli and Palestinian extremism — the nationhood deniers on both sides — has made it impossible to end the occupation and give Palestinians their homeland.

Today almost no one in the region thinks two states are possible. The complexities are indeed overwhelming. First, the settlements. Some 750,000 Israelis live on the occupied West Bank and in east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, beneficiaries of one failed peace initiative after another. Many, if not most, would have to leave, or Israel would have to give up other territory. Then security. With Hamas growing in popularity on the West Bank compared to the Palestinian Authority, Israelis, reeling from Hamas’ savagery, are entitled not to be sanguine about Palestinian self-government. Finally, political will. There appears to be none — because of the war, and because the extremists are still in the drivers’ seats.

But Israel as a Jewish state isn’t going anywhere. Palestine isn’t going anywhere. Think what is possible once everyone finally accepts that. If we want to avoid the next war, which would be even worse even than this one, there have to be two nations between the river and the sea, demanding the right to exist and recognizing one another, despite the radical settler parties, despite Hamas, despite the ambivalence of millions of Palestinians and Israelis. There have to be two nations, because there is no other way.

This will be a global project, requiring epic leadership. The United States will have to push Israel harder than it ever has. Arab nations will have to spend hundreds of billions to rebuild Gaza and build up the West Bank. Iran has to stop arming Hamas. Think the leverage we might had with Teheran if Trump, in an infamous act of ignorance and spite, hadn’t scuttled President Obama’s nuclear weapons deal.

With all that, no amount of outside pressure will help unless Israelis and Palestinians themselves decide that too many people have died. Unless they hear the cry for peace from the heart of God and the soul of humanity. Peace seemed out of reach in Northern Ireland. Until it wasn’t. Until they did what was impossible, but necessary. Until they decided to stop.