The Middle East: Solving and Appearing to Solve

The headline today on MSNBC drew my attention back to the middle east after an overnight rest from it. It says: Israel targets Hezbollah strongholds in Beirut, which is, of course, no surprise due to the course of this conflict. In the narrow sense, this conflict is following the pattern of many before it. There are numerous attacks by guerillas–in this case Hezbollah–on Israeli targets. Israel retaliates. The conflict escalates until the international community finally gets mobilized into some semblance of action, after which all sides agree to put a bandaid over the problem.

I’m not claiming to have a solution to the many problems of the middle east. One thing I do want to point out, however, is that only a very small number of people actually care to solve the problems, especially those involving the Palestinian people. What the world leaders want to do is to appear to provide a solution, hopefully one that will appear to work long enough for them to get people’s attention elsewhere. Other leaders are invested in having the problem there to distract from the very real problems of their own countries.

Let’s face it. A real solution to this problem is going to involve several things, many of which the Arab countries don’t want to support, and some of which Israel doesn’t want to support. The west, I’m sorry to say, seems to find any solution acceptable that keeps the violence off our TV screens. Palestinians can keep living in misery and dying, and Israelis can continue to live under constant threat and also die, just as long as they do it quietly and the supply of oil is not threatened.

  • Many Palestinians will never return to Palestine or live in Israel. They might as well plan to get assimilated wherever they are living. It’s nasty, but it’s a fact, and the sooner they start working on it, the sooner things will actually be solved.
  • Israelis need to give some on land–which they have–but also on rights and equal treatment of their Palestinian citizens. While it would not be practical for all Palestinians, both those displaced in the various wars and their descendants, to return to Palestine, those who can and do return need to be treated with dignity and respect.
  • Arab countries need to control terrorist activity within their boundaries. That’s going to be hard. It’s going to be unpopular. But none of this works without a stable legal framework.
  • The west, especially the United States, needs to recognize that we cannot impose western style democracy and western values on Arab countries. I’m not saying that they are too immature or stupid for it, as though I can arrogantly impose a goal on them of becoming just like us. What I’m saying is that they are different, they are them and we are us, and we should accept that.

The reason the problem is so intractable is that none of the parties are really ready to accept the elements that they need to accept. Palestinians do not want to give up the right, however impractical, of returning to Palestine, which they consider their home. Some Israelis and their Christian allies in the United States are anxious not to give up any of the “Biblical promised land,” and so oppose any land placed under the rule of the Palestinians. Other Israelis are not anxious to create a state in which the Palestinians are actually full citizens with equal rights, because in practice that is contrary to the Jewish state. In a Jewish state, non-Jews are not quite as equal as everyone else. Arab governments would generally prefer to keep their population’s anger focussed outward, and truly stepping on their terrorists would bring the anger on them. Further, many of them are in sympathy with the terrorists anyhow. The west, especially the United States doesn’t want to allow middle eastern countries to solve their own problems because they won’t solve them our way.

In this way, in one paragraph I destroy my previous one paragraph solution. The motivation simply isn’t there to actually solve these problems. In the meantime, Lebanon continues to burn because they cannot control the activities of what is effectively a foreign army in their territority.

Real peace won’t happen until all sides are willing to give something up, until peace becomes more important than the largely symbolic goals–this land versus that land and where precisely do we live.

I tend to think we generally get what we really want, and in this case peace hasn’t come to the top of the priority list. In the meantime, politicians can continue to claim to want it, but the rest of us should watch what the politicians actually accomplish, not what they claim.

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