October 10, 2010
Middle East Peace: Insoluble Doesn't Mean Unmanageable
The perennial push to solve the "'Palestinian'-Israeli problem" is predicated on a false premise: to wit, that the Arab-Jewish conflict on the territory of the former League of Nations Palestine Mandate is genuinely susceptible to resolution in this generation. Well, it isn't. But surely, you knew that -- or, by now, suspected it. (Still -- don't breathe just yet; there's more.)
Indeed, not only will it not be solved in the present generation -- but it very probably won't be solved in our lifetimes -- or, altogether quite possibly, at any time during this century. Sorry. Don't shoot the messenger -- I don't presume to "make" the news, only to report it. (Okay, now you can breathe.)
Of course, we could discuss the reasons for the insolubility of the problem for this era -- as well as the question of whether it was ever indeed in the cards for it to have been soluble in any earlier one. However, as reliably fascinating and endlessly absorbing as I find historical excursions and speculations, my purpose in simply and flatly stating the reality now -- in all its uncluttered starkness -- lies, frankly, elsewhere.
For the moment, suffice it to say that as long as the stated objective of the self-styled "Palestinians" is sovereignty over the unincorporated heartland ("West Bank") provinces, the problem will remain unsolved -- despite what anybody says, and regardless of how anybody maneuvers. This is because sovereignty is more than a status -- sovereignty is also a tool, an instrumentality.
In the hands of an enemy, sovereignty is a weapon.
And the Palestinian Arabs, as a collective, are not going to cease to be enemies of the Israelis anytime soon. What they've been teaching their kids in school about Jews -- for several generations now -- would curl your hair (unless it's already curly -- in which case, it'd straighten it, rest assured). If the vile and venomous indoctrination ended tomorrow morning (and it won't, in any case), the moral, emotional, and spiritual damage right up until now from that systematically protracted mind-poisoning alone would be irreversible for at least the next forty years. You don't turn that stuff off like the garden sprinkler...
Under international law, sovereignty permits government a latitude forbidden to non-state entities/organizations. For example, a state can invite foreign soldiers (and the toys they like to play with) onto its own soil to make it easier to get up close and personal with its new, or old, neighbors -- should the occasion just happen to present itself. Know what I mean? Not a damned thing the neighbors can do about such cordiality (or its acceptance by the invitee) from the standpoint of law.
What's more (just in case anybody's thinking this way), there's absolutely no such thing as a "demilitarized state" -- not in the real world, where it amounts to an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. (Think "kosher pork chop." Got the picture?)
Recall the unconcealed contempt in Stalin's memorable reply to the observation that the Pope was, after all, like himself, a chief of state: "How many divisions has he got?" No individual leader, and no body of leadership, is going to hear himself, or itself, formally recognized as the legitimate representative or governing structure of a sovereign state and not insist on direct access to, and control over, an armed establishment to enforce that state's ultimate prerogatives.
And such an expectation would be entirely understandable under those circumstances.
Moreover, and let's have no illusions about this: Even an entity that began its diplomatic existence as a "demilitarized" state would most certainly not remain so. Once it were recognized as a state, there would be no stopping its "graduation to prime time," paper promises to the contrary notwithstanding. We mustn't kid ourselves; life's never long enough to sweep up all the wreckage left in the wake of decisions made under the influence of wishful thinking. Desire makes a magnificent energizer, but she's a piss-poor counselor -- and a jaundiced judge.
But to our discussion: Even with the so-called "West Bank" -- which constitutes hardly just the bank of a river, but rather the central provinces, the heartland, of the country -- Israel is geographically tiny. You could take that entire land mass (including the heartland territories), and drop it whole into Lake Michigan -- and it would sink out of sight, without a trace.
California has counties bigger than that.
With "Palestinian" sovereignty replacing Israeli sovereignty over those heartland provinces, mechanized enemy armor could cross the remaining nine miles (15 km) from the edge of the West Bank to the Mediterranean -- and cut the country in two -- in a matter of minutes.
The San Francisco Bay Bridge is 8.4 miles long. (How long did it take you, last time you crossed it?)
The distance between NYC's LaGuardia and JFK airports is 10.67 miles.
The distance to the Israeli coastal town of Netanya from the northern West Bank Arab town of Tulkarm is nine miles.
That's why so many Palestinian Arab suicide bombers who chose Netanya as the point from which to "shuffle off this mortal coil" -- in their quest to make a permanent date with 72 virgins -- got their start in Tulkarm. Just down the road apiece.
In 1998, before he became president, then-Governor George W. Bush had occasion to visit the State of Israel and to personally view her aforenoted nine-mile-long strategic waist from the vantage point of an airborne helicopter. His take: "Why, in Texas, we've got some driveways that're longer than that."
Who needs to be a military tactician to comprehend the problem? (And that's not the half of it, trust me.)
Furthermore, no engraved sheet of parchment -- yea, verily, even emblazoned with copious protestations of friendship and signed, sealed, and witnessed over hugs, kisses, handshakes, and steaming glassfuls of muddy Turkish coffee -- is going to neutralize the inevitable danger to the Jewish microstate, the continual temptation to Arab (not to say Islamic) ambitions of such sovereignty.
And please don't try talking to me of international guarantees; save your breath for more constructive pursuits. Israel has an extensive, and agonizing, history of putting herself at risk in return for international guarantees -- which were subsequently ignored by her friends when her enemies attacked. And whenever she managed to turn the tables on the tormenters, then -- and only then -- the world stepped in: to prevent her from destroying the perpetrators. That only guaranteed that these "limited liability" aggressors would strike again -- as indeed they did, with clockwork reliability. And they will yet again.
As the saying goes, "With friends like these..." With all due respect to those who don't know the history -- for those who do, it hurts too much to remember it. To relive it is out of the question.
Without the formidable, independent, and unfettered physical capacity to look after its own security and well-being, the Third Jewish Commonwealth simply cannot subject itself to a foolish reliance on the shifting promises of a fickle world. Even brilliant Archimedes -- who averred that he could move the planet -- insisted that in order to complete his little engineering project, he'd have to have a place to stand on.
The simple, inescapable reality is that -- far from facilitating peace -- diplomatic recognition of Palestinian statehood anywhere west of the River Jordan would constitute an open invitation to war -- and war of hemispheric, or greater, dimensions. There. I've said it. (You saw it here first.)
But as sobering as that observation may be -- and I stand by it foursquare -- this wasn't my main point in writing today. We have, as I suggested earlier, yet bigger fish to fry. I've made the remark about sovereignty leading to war merely to specify what it is about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that stands most squarely athwart its possible resolution for (at least) the near and midterm future.
Since it's unlikely that the Palestinian Arabs will abandon the statehood endgame at any point during our lifetimes -- largely because much of the world is content to indulge them in that fatuous and malignant fantasy -- the conflict most assuredly won't go away during that period either, regardless of what anybody says, does, or thinks. And hoping that it will be thus resolved is myopic and escapist.
So what is the main point, then? Contrary to what certain politicians would have us believe, hope isn't always a good thing. ("What? I'm shocked. Shocked!")
Look, false hope is what a fisherman attaches to the hook he casts or dangles in the water: good perhaps for the angler, but lethal for the fish. True hope is a fine thing -- but what gives it value is the "true" in "true hope": the fact that it is a hope which rests secure in the bosom of reality.
False hope is not only not a good thing -- it's also a downright pernicious thing because it usurps the place in consciousness intended for true hope. It's the candy that spoils your appetite for food -- which might not be such a troublesome thing if the sweets could also take away your body's authentic need for nourishment. But they don't, and can't; the need remains, notwithstanding the suppressed awareness of it. Until false hope has been dispelled, there is no room for the real article.
Where am I going with this palaver? The Palestinian-Israeli struggle may not be solvable in our own day -- but that doesn't mean it isn't manageable in our day, so as to contain it until such time as it may be soluble. But the concretely good and the fancifully perfect are mutual, mortal, eternal foes.
The real problem -- as it appears to this residual denizen of the bleacher seats -- is that as long as we're compulsively hell-bent (some would suggest quite literally so) on resolving the conflict, we're most unlikely to be thinking in terms of managing it (certainly not at the same time). Give your kid dessert before dinner, and that'll probably be the end of his dinner.
Michael Zebulon was once the youngest Eagle Scout on the eastern seaboard. Actor, narrator, writer -- he remains an Eagle Scout (there are no "former" ones) but is no longer the youngest. Contact him at email@example.com.