Foreign Policy

What if we had to get it right?

What if we had to get it right? 

What if you and I agreed that the whole Israeli-Palestinian conflict actually needed to be solved? And by solved I mean a politically stable, humane, democratic and sustainable outcome was reached for both sides. What if there wasn’t a choice to just keep kicking it down the road? What would we do?

Well, we’d start with some questions. Like, what does it look like in the end? When we’ve gotten it right and a hundred years from now when we’re remembering with trepidation, the time before we fixed things, what was the thing we all agreed on and then saw through? Well, there’s good news. We’ve asked that question a bunch already. And we’ve come to a pretty strong global consensus. Right looks like a two state solution. One sovereign Israel. One sovereign Palestine.

Would we entertain challenges to the idea that the two state solution is the right one? Maybe. Are they politically stable, humane, democratic and sustainable challenges? Then yes. If they’re not, then no. 

But how do you and I know if they’re politically stable, humane, democratic and sustainable? Well, we can’t know for sure but investing in understanding if a solution might be politically stable, humane, democratic and sustainable is at least part of where we should spend our energy. Because right now we’re still stuck on whether we want politically stable, humane, democratic and sustainable or whether we want something else. And that’s a bad place to be.

More questions.

What if you and I support the two state solution but you don’t have confidence that one of the states can effectively govern itself because of deep political division and you believe they’re likely to descend into their own unstable quagmire that will destabilize everyone’s security? And what if you have a millennia of proof to back up that fear?

I’d tell you that you have a very real concern. Then I’d ask you the following: What would it take to help them succeed at governing themselves? How could we help?

What if you don’t believe that one side has any claim to exist at all the region it exists in? Well, I’d ask you if you have a time machine. And since you don’t, you either need to change that belief, which you probably won’t, or the rest of the world needs to minimize your impact on the solution. Which is fine, because your solution isn’t likely to meet the standard of politically stable, humane, democratic and sustainable anyway.

What if you don’t give a rip about the other side? Because over the last decade they’ve fired 11,000 rockets blindly into your neighborhood killing dozens of your people, including women and children. And they would do more of it if they could. So, one state, two state, who cares, you just want to be safe. And if that takes driving them out of their homes and displacing them, then so be it. Because perhaps you believe that maybe if they want compassion and humane treatment, then they ought not to have fired rockets over the wall. What if, no matter how hard you tried, you just couldn’t bring yourself to care about them?

Well, I won’t ask you to. I get it. I have my own bunch of people I struggle to care about because of what they’ve done to me and mine. But I’d ask you this instead. How long do you think that you can hold the next border in place? And at what cost? And then what after that?

What if you are a Jewish American whose family came to America after generations of oppression, displacement, subjugation and genocide? And you view Israel, the great exporter of technology and ideas and the beacon of organization, productivity and service to be more than a nation and an ally. You view its very existence to be an expression of your cultural identity of perseverance, intellect and industry. You view Israel to be the realization of a dream thousands of years in the making. And you believe it is your duty to protect it as if it were your very own land. Perhaps even beyond the best interests of America.

Then I would agree with you with every fiber of my being. But I would ask you, in the long run, how sustainable is displacing more Palestinians? Or subjugating them? I’d ask you, to answer as honestly as you can, are you really safer? How about the children of Israelis twenty years from now?  Or theirs twenty years later? Are we getting it right for them?

But what if you don’t want to answer these questions? What if you care about the issue, just not these questions? Well, then I’d ask you another. Do you really want to get it right? Is a politically stable, humane, democratic and sustainable outcome what you seek? Or is this just politics. Is the question, “Do you stand with Israel?” just like, are you pro-life or pro-choice? Do you support gun control, or the Second Amendment? Are they blue or black lives that matter?  Whose worse, a democrat or a republican?

Those are questions that have no answer. Because they’re not designed for an answer. They’re designed for a debate that can stay around forever so that someone can gain or keep power. And in America, we have the luxury to argue those debates from our arm chairs over social media in the peace and stability that comes from living the safest, most stable society the world has ever seen. The question of how to solve the Israeli-Palestinian impasse is not one of them though.

It’s real. And it’s one of the fulcrums for which global stability hinges on. And we appear to be embarking on a great journey of the politics of Israeli-Palestinian conflict again when perhaps many of us thought the one up-side to our impending administrative change in Washington was a departure from politics as usual.

Maybe next time I guess.  Let’s all hope it doesn’t blow up on this watch.