Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Starting points for lasting peace

I have been hesitant to launch into the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, as I am in over my head. I am not knowledgeable enough to offer creative or practical solutions to the conflict, and my background knowledge of the entire situation is elementary and incomplete. But one Dem Bones' reader passed along a great NYT op-ed piece, by Scott Atran and Jeremy Ginges, that I thought was helpful. Atran and Ginges conducted a survey of 4,000 Israelis and Palestinians - including political heavyweights - and found one possible way in which to start peace negotiations.

Peaceful negotiations between Israel and Palestine are fraught with complexity, as both sides have legitimate grievances against the other. The anger on both sides is transcendent, real, and sacred. According to the writers, peaceful negotiations premised upon the rational calculations about quality of life miss the point; they are misguided Western understandings of what constitutes peaceful settlements. The two-state solution is a tough sell for both sides, as both have sacred beliefs that confound this solution. And to force a deal with huge economic incentives only fosters resentment, as neither side believes money can redress their greivances; you can't buy peace. Yet, according to the survey, when one side makes difficult symbolic gestures, the other side was more inclined to accept peace-making deals. For Israel it means to admit they were wrong in displacing civilians in the 1948 war, and for Palestine it means to recognize Israel's right to exist.


Darren Staley said...

I try to keep an open mind on this issue. I was critical of Israel's recent war in Lebanon and the even more recent incursion into Gaza.

That said, here is where it all breaks down:For Israel it means to admit they were wrong in displacing civilians in the 1948 war, and for Palestine it means to recognize Israel's right to exist."

Even if Israel made that concession and reset the borders to 1947, Palestine will never recognize Israel's right to exist on that land. Ever.

Keeping Jews off Arab soil trumps everything to them, even many of the moderates. Even if Palestine itself agrees to peace there will be no stopping terrorists from Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, etc from disrupting it with attacks.

This is not to say we should just give up. Israel needs to do everything they can to achieve peace, that way when attacks do occur, international opinion will be on their side.

As for the Arabs, it may take a generation to shift popular opinion on a willingness to share the land.

On their side, I say we give aid in exchange for peace. Food, water, clothing, infrastructure, education, especially education, medicine, etc..our tap is open so long as the peace is kept. One rocket comes from your country, you're cut off. It won't take long for the people to start turning against the terrorists.

As I finish this up, I realize that I have been mixing short term solutions and long term solutions while at the same time saying there is no solution.

It's not that I'm rambling. When it comes to this issue, the fact is there currently is no cure nor proven effective treatment. Drink plenty of liquids, get some rest, take a couple aspirin and we'll see where we are in the morning. Only then will we know whether we are dealing with a cold, the flu, or the pneumonic plague.

While I am using medical anaologies, I will end with one. Our approach to the Middle East peace process should follow the doctor's code: "first do no harm."

A Faithful Reader said...

The issue is indeed complex. It is deeper than religion, deeper than territory framed in the way both sides view the world. Both see history as just yesterday. 1947 was just yesterday -- the mayor of Jappa being carted out of his nice house on the sea shore to a shack in Gaza was yesterday. The murder of millions of European Jews for no reason except prejudice was just yesterday. But more to the point Abraham coming from Iraq and meeting the residences of Palestine at a local well was just yesterday. God leading Abraham to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil, but the sons of his son Ishmael inhabited the oil rich land was yesterday.

Former President Carter spoke today on NPR and said "no politician in the United States would ever speak against Israel and expect to be elected." He went on to say that peace is possible but it has to be profitable to both sides. Former President Carter has been to the Palestine/Israel many times and has brokered peace at many levels, so he speaks from experience.

So we are faced with the task of supporting Israel -- without compromising our National Ideal of freedom and peace for all.

The next question is did the Bush Administration's one sided support for Israel with nothing given to the other side, fowl the peace process for too many tomorrows?

The Obama Administration has the task of beginning the process of being a agent of peace in his first year, rather than - like the Bush Administration -- as an after thought in his last year. Let us all hope that the entire region will return to the road to peace under the new hope of the Obama Administration's commitment to change.