The talking heads on TV can huff and puff on how the Middle Eastern crisis could be solved if only the Israelis and Palestinians would sit down and talk it out. They will never talk it out.
For fifty years both sides have heard why their side is right and the other side is wrong. Now even their children and grandchildren have been indoctrinated. There can be no solution through reasoning and understanding. Three generations know that God is on their side.
These two peoples may live side by side but it won’t be in friendship for generations at least. The best that can be hoped for is that they can live in peace or at least physical safety.
We, uninvolved spectators, can rationalize that anyone should be able to sit down and reach a fair and just solution. They can no more reach a satisfactory compromise than our right and left wing politics can, no more than the pro life and pro choice factions can. If there is to be any solution, both sides must get what they most want and both sides must give up something they really want to keep.
Israel wants physical security and the Palestinians want a nation of their own. Either side can keep this from happening but I believe that only Israel can cause it to happen. It physically controls the Palestinian areas and can maintain that control.
Not knowing all the details and ramifications of the Israeli and Palestinian dispute and not being responsible for living with any solution makes it easy for me to come up with Simple Solution #28 to solve the problem. Israel simply has to withdraw from the occupied areas and accept Palestine as a sovereign state. Jerusalem may have to become an international city permanently administered by the U.N.
Of course the devil is in the details. What would Israel get for this concession and what penalty would there be for Palestine if the fighting continues? Just as the Saudi prince has come up with a simple solution and says that now the ball is in Israel’s court, I think the Israelis could do the same if, via U.N. action, all nations would accept this one condition. If Israel is attacked it may attack back and any land it occupies will then be accepted by all nations as a permanent part of Israel. If no one intends to threaten Israel, then the condition will never be invoked. If they do, the potential penalty is known.
Israel can never accept the concept of “right of return” if it is to continue as a Jewish state and Palestine can never accept the new settlements that Israel has built in the west bank. These are very important, very sensitive points to both parties and should be mutually traded as part of the settlement.
Other details would have to be part of the settlement. Details such as: How would either side be prevented from reneging on its agreement in the future; What would constitute an attack and authorize Israel to counter attack; How deep could such a counterattack go; Would a military buildup constitute an attack and allow for a preemptive strike; etc.
The Israelis and the Palestinians don’t have to smile and shake hands. They don’t have to make believe that they’re happy or even satisfied with the final agreement. All they have to do is, like many divorced couples, accept the conditions and get on with their national lives.
For a perspective on these two antagonists, I recommend “Arab and Jew” by David Shipler, 1986. He was a reporter for the New York Times while he lived in Israel for five years during the early 80’s.
The book seems evenhanded. Both sides have rational arguments and both have dark sides. The Israelis were heavy handed with the Palestinians (sometimes very heavy handed) and the Palestinians were resentful of the Israelis occupation and quick to be offended by their treatment.