Analysis of the Middle East Situation
Let us analyze the apparently intractable conflict in the Middle East, in which Israel and the Palestinians both lay claim to the same piece of land.
Israel and Palestine: Background
Both the Israelis and the Palestinians have valid arguments in support of their position, and each has, at different times, been able to gain world sympathy for its cause.
At the end of World War II, when the horrifying facts of the German effort to exterminate European Jewry became public knowledge, the need for a Jewish homeland was obvious. The Jews’ ancient claim to the land now called Israel was also recognized, and furthermore, Jews had been immigrating to Palestine in waves since the end of the 19th century.
However, that territory had not exactly lain empty since 70 A.D., when the Jews were exiled from the land en masse by Palestine’s Roman conquerors. Along with the remnant of Jews who remained and who could always be found there in small numbers, numerous nomadic Arabs passed through the country regularly in their travels, and many settled there permanently, to farm or graze sheep.
Legally, Palestine belonged to neither group. Having changed hands countless times throughout history, it had most recently been part of the Ottoman Empire. With the empire’s demise at the end of World War I, the League of Nations divided Palestine into territorial “mandates” with rather arbitrary borders – Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, Palestine – to be supervised and administered by England or France, with the ultimate goal of becoming self-sufficient, independent nations.
Syria, Lebanon and Jordan did eventually become independent Arab nations (in 1946, 1941, and 1946, respectively). But after World War II, the newly formed United Nations, hoping to find a safe haven for world Jewry, divided Palestine yet again, this time into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Arab nations, however, refused to accept that solution and launched a war against Israel in 1948, as soon as it had declared its independence. When the smoke cleared, the Israelis controlled a larger area than they had been officially given; and thousands of Palestinian Arabs, who had fled their homes or been forced out, were now refugees.
Three more wars over the next twenty-five years or so have only exacerbated the problem – particularly the Six-Day War in 1967, which ended in a rout with Israel occupying Jerusalem (which Jordan had claimed in the absence of a Palestinian state); Egypt’s Sinai desert; Syria’s Golan Heights; and the West Bank of the Jordan River, which comprised a large chunk of what the U.N. had designated as Arab Palestine in 1948.
The Sinai was returned to Egypt in 1979, after it signed a peace treaty with Israel. But the rest is still in dispute. In the meantime Israel populated the area with settlers and the conflict is stalemated here: the Israelis will not return the land without a peace treaty they can trust, and they can not return everything because of the settlements. The Palestinians, on the other hand, will not offer peace unless certain conditions are met that the Israelis believe will bring the demise of a Jewish state.
The problem seems to have no exit.
Is, want and should: the sequence is critical
A good analysis and a solution require that we first understand what is happening: what is the reality now? Second, based on what is, we articulate what we want to happen: what we wish to happen? Finally, by negotiating a compromise between what is and what we want, we can arrive at a decision: what should be done .
Very often, the actual sequence in making a decision is different: First, we decide what we want. Once we’ve finalized what we want, we proceed to finalize what we should do in light of what we want and we leave what is out of the equation; We completely ignore reality.
I suggest that in the Middle East, both sides have the wrong sequence of reasoning: both start their reasoning with what they want, and in light of that they decide what they should do. On both sides, reality takes a back seat.
The Palestinian approach
To focus on what one wants is typical of a nation – or any other form of organization – at the beginning of its life cycle. The Palestinians, just like the Jews in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Zionism began taking root, are a new nation and think like one. To build a nation they must start with what they want. Theodore Herzl, the “father” of Zionism, when he first began arguing in favor of an independent Jewish state, famously stated: “If you will it, it is no fairytale” – in other words, if you want it badly enough, you can make it happen. The Palestinians probably have their own slogan that makes the same point.
What do the Palestinians want? Apparently, that Israel will give the right of return to the millions of Palestinian refugees and Israel will de facto discontinue being a Jewish state and the aspirations of the Jewish people will not be realized to have a country of their own where, at least in their mind, they feel secure. And they want Israel to return to the 1967 borders which means un rooting hundreds of thousands of Israelis who now live beyond the 1967 borders.
There is no leader in Israel who has capi, all the coalesced authority and power and influence necessary to implement this solution. Israel is a democratic state and governments rise and fall with the vote of different parties. Any Israeli leader has to walk on a very tight rope as to what he can and can not do to remain in power.
What the Palestinians want will not happen. Six million Israelis are not going to disappear one day like a fog; they are not going to go back to their countries of origin or to the 1967 borders or live in a Palestinian state. And the Palestinians can not make the life of the Israelis so miserable and get them on their knees to agree to what the Palestinians want.
Intifada will not make the Israelis surrender. They have lived harder times. Jews have experienced the inquisition, Auschwitz and survived as a nation. The Jewish people are, I believe, the most adaptive nation in the world and in the history of mankind. They will adapt to the conventional terror as we see now. No terror whatsoever will make the Israelis leave the land of Israel.
The Israeli approach
Jews have experienced for over two thousand years persecution. The horrors of second word war are still in their memory. The “never again” slogan is not empty words. It is more like an oath for generations to come. They want to be a normal nation with their own country where they perceive they can protect themselves from the never ending enemies they have experienced over many generations.
What do the Israelis want? That a peace seeking leadership will emerge among the Palestinians who will denounce the refugees’ right of return, who will agree to several border adaptations to the 1967 borders ( or accept settlements of militant Israeli settlers in their midst) and that will sign a permanent peace agreement.
In short, this is what Barack offered in Camp David and that is what the Israelis claims is the most they can offer. This however is not even what the extreme Israeli right wants. What they want appears to be that the Palestinians will get absorbed by the Arab countries that surround Israel and simply stop to exist as a nation- seeking- entity.
It is clear that this is not going to happen. If Arafat could not do what the Israelis want , who else can emerge and be strong enough to do it and will survive?
And the Israeli can not make the life of the Palestinians so miserable that they will get on their knees and implement this solution. The more miserable is their life, the less is the chance that a peace seeking leadership will emerge and survive the mob.
Thus this solution, based on what Israel wants, is a dead end.
It is this sequence of sticking to what one wants by both sides and designing a strategy of what should be done based on ones wants, that is plaguing the potential of finding a solution to the problem.
Neither of what either of the parties wants is going to happen, no matter how many people will be killed or will sacrifice their lives. Neither of the parties either is going to do what they should do to solve the problem if they start with a non negotiable want . Thus, we are now left with the IS. What is going to happen? Not what the parties want, nor what the parties should do. What is that will be? The prediction assumes no intervention of external forces like United States forcing Israel to concede land . If left to themselves here is what the dynamics of the system might produce:
It will simply get worse and worse. Both parties will suffer more and more.
The change of what the parties want and should do will come when what is going on is going to be SO BAD that they will have to let go of their wants and a paradigm shift in thoughts will happen.
I am thinking of a nuclear explosion. Tactical nuclear devices are available and it is only a question of when will a dissident, non controllable group of Palestinians, supported by Bin Laden, or Iran or Pakistan, get possession of such a device. And it should not be difficult to recruit a suicide bomber who instead of wrapping twenty pounds of explosives around his waist will have a tactical nuclear device in his possession. And detonate it. In Tel Aviv or Haifa. And if thousands of Arabs perish too, it will be a collateral damage as far as the Palestinians are concerned. They have exploded already explosives in mixed Arab Israeli coffee shops and many Arabs perished there; Such collateral damage apparently is not a deterrent?
And the Israeli will retaliate and when hundreds of thousands will die, not just twenty here and thirty there, when a massive, shocking destruction, will shock the world to its foundations, when it will shake the foundations of the world’s perception of what is acceptable , capi will coalesce and a paradigm shift will happen and the sequence of reasoning will change from: want- should- is to: is- want- should. The parties will have to deal with reality.
And the reality is that they HAVE TO live together. They ARE neighbors sharing air and water that know of no man made boundaries whatsoever. The air has to be shared and be clean . And the same holds for water. A Palestinian state will be established, economic collaboration will be agreed on, freedom of movement of labor force and goods among the countries will be granted, the Palestinians will learn Hebrew and the Israeli Arabic and both will erase all hate and disrespect components from their educational systems and forbid hatred in their media. That is the only solution that can work.
But so far neither is ready to face this reality.
Both live in fear , not with faith. Both are at the beginning of their lifecycles and what one wants dominates ones reasoning. Accepting what is comes with maturity or unfortunately after a disaster . That is when a person lets go of ones wants and looks at reality first.
It appears that it takes a major crisis for humans to make a major change in direction. The bigger is the change that is needed for a solution, the bigger is the crisis that has to happen to cause the needed paradigm change in thinking and reasoning to happen.
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes