The Israeli Palestinian conflict has flared up again, and it’s no wonder. Some problems simply don’t go away, they don’t have solutions — and this is one of them.
And to look for one is to fail: This road to peace is littered with crash and burns; ask any president since Eisenhower. Irreconcilable differences is a phrase that comes to mind, but it doesn’t do justice to the hatred and animosity involved. Simply stated, the two sides despise each other and, worse, are forced to live in close proximity to each other. And it’s not all the people on both sides hating each other — there’s enough apathy to go around — but there’s more than enough distrust and hatred to keep the passions raging.
How would we feel if our worst enemy lived next door, the one we believed took our land? What would we do?
For a time, I thought I was looking at it from both sides, but like everything else, there’s not just two sides; there are many more. Iran is now involved, and so is Russia and China, as well as most Arab nations. We are involved, and so are our main allies. “An enemy of my enemy is my friend” also applies: If you hate us, you side with the Arabs; if you hate the Arabs, you side with us. Simple.
My first recollection of the problem was one day 40 years ago (Oct. 6, 1981) when I noticed my dad was all upset, and I asked him what was ruffling his tail feathers. “Anwar Sadat has been assassinated,” he informed me. At the time, I had no clue who Sadat was. A sensible, charismatic Egyptian leader with a Nobel Peace Prize to his credit who signed a peace treaty with Israel and had visited the White House, among other things — and had earned the enmity of every jihadist in the Arab world for his efforts.
One would think a peace treaty would be a good thing, but not in this case. And to say “let them kill each other” is redundant, as they are going to do that whether we let them or not. We might as well accept the fact they’re in a full-time war, albeit sporadically in the news, be pragmatic and stand to one side. I know it’s not what we want to do, but fighting is what they have been doing for a long time, and I see no solution in the horizon, reasonable or otherwise.
The roots of the conflict: Although the Jewish aspiration to return to the Land of Israel has been part of their religious thought for more than a millennium, the present-day conflict can be traced back to the late 19th century, with the rise of two important national movements, mainly Zionism and Arab nationalism.
This was the time when the Jewish population of Europe, and to some degree the Middle East, began to actively discuss the reestablishment of the Jewish nation, largely as a solution to the widespread persecution of Jews, as well as growing antisemitism in Russia and Europe. The Zionist movement called for the establishment of a nation state for the Jewish people in Palestine, which would serve as a haven for the Jews of the world.
Zionists increasingly came to hold that this state should be in their historic homeland, which they referred to as the Land of Israel. Not surprisingly, the Palestinians wanted the same thing. This explains why the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is not so much about religion, as to who gets what little land there is and how that so-called “promised land” is managed.
It’s really a clash between nationalities: Israel vs. Palestine. Pigheadedness, of course, doesn’t help. To make matters worse, both sides argue that they have claims to the land going back centuries. And both have a plausible case.
It’s also a case of the tail wagging the dog. Less than 15 million people live between Israel and Palestine, and yet it involves nearly the whole world. The Jewish people obviously support their own, but a lot of people support the Palestinian cause because they think it unfair that Palestinians do not have a state of their own or full rights, while Israelis have both.
Escalation is the only foreseeable outcome that I see, and the big “what now” moment will come when Iran gets nuclear weapons. Israel, of course, has been doing whatever it takes to keep the Iranians from achieving this milestone, but eventually things are bound to change — they always do.
At that point, we’ll have a bigger problem in our hands and yearn for the good old days when all they could do was kill each other using conventional weapons.