Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

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alantoth
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

March 14, 2008

During the past six months we have seen an escalation of violence between Israel and the Hamas-controlled forces in the Gaza Strip. American-sponsored talks between Israel and the majority Fatah-controlled government in the West Bank have gone nowhere. Sadly, since at least the late 1930s, violence and failed negotiations have been more the rule than the exception in efforts to bring some sort of final status to the region.

Why has it not been possible to secure a lasting peace and a political settlement acceptable to both sides? I think there are three major reasons, which, taken together, produce a zero sum game between Israelis and Palestinians.

First, there is the weight of history. Both sides take history very seriously and believe it to be divinely directed. Both Israelis and Palestinians trace their "right" to the land back to Abraham. For both, the land is considered a divine patrimony and since it is God-given there is no reason to surrender any part of it to any other party. That which God has given is not negotiable.

Second, there has been an unwillingness to deal seriously with the issues that must be resolved if there is ever to be lasting peace in the region. There are five pressing issues:

· The city of Jerusalem, which both sides see as part of their divine patrimony.

· The borders of a future Palestinian state: most Palestinians would accept the 1967 borders, while Israel is reluctant to surrender that much territory.

· The "right of return" for Palestinians, on the one side, and Israeli settlements on the West Bank, on the other hand, are mutually exclusive stumbling blocks.

· The fallacy of moral superiority: both sides have used terrorism when they felt it served their purposes and, in the process, killed combatants and noncombatants alike.

· If Hamas is not included in the negotiations there will be no settlement.

Third, outside forces and patrons tend to reinforce the divisions between the two sides. Arab and other Muslim states support the Palestinians diplomatically and, most important, financially. Such support reinforces hard line Palestinians with little consideration of Israel's interests. But the most important and harmful support comes from the United States, both from governmental and nongovernmental organizations. Although U.S. administrations have tried to be more evenhanded over the past decade, they still afford Israel almost a blank check, which allows the Israeli government to act with a free hand in dealing with the critical issues. In addition, many fundamentalist Protestants in the U.S., in a misreading of Scripture, back Israel as divinely established--a position that successive Israeli governments have exploited to maintain an uncompromising position in dealing with the Palestinians.

If the next U.S. administration wants to try to succeed on this issue, where so many others have failed, it will have to come to grips with these issues and, in many cases, reverse positions Washington has held in the past. Whatever road a new administration decides to take, a just and stable solution will undoubtedly require years to achieve. A new administration could begin by finding ways to include Hamas in the process and to foster economic development in the Gaza Strip along with stronger Egyptian economic ties to Gaza. On the larger issues, the U.S. should use economic and other leverage to encourage the Palestinians to back away from the "right of return" in exchange for Israel's dismantling of its settlements on the West Bank. The U.S. should also support a two-state solution that conforms to the 1967 borders. Without these moves there is little hope that any significant progress will be made.

--Steven E. Meyer, Professor of Political Science
The National Defense University
(The views expressed here are those of the author alone.)

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JIMV
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

The answer is simple...we have civilization v barbarians and a good bit of the world is supporting the barbarians because not doing so effects oil prices and invites barbarian attack on them...

Its good v evil with a lot of folk siding with evil.

Corrected for crappy typing

alantoth
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

Unfortunately something of the barbarian exists in all of us which means, if we are trying, that part of being human means struggling against some of our worst inclinations.

Vikingstar
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

I suppose it doesn't matter if I point out that Hamas is a terrorist organization that has shown no inclination to cease being a terrorist organization...

Andrew Ian Dodge
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

Jew-hatred is a major component to the whole issue. There are people who simply cannot support Jews against anyone. Israel merely gives them a convenient cover for their hatred.

alantoth
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

[quote]I suppose it doesn't matter if I point out that Hamas is a terrorist organization that has shown no inclination to cease being a terrorist organization...[/quote]

It matters only if that is all you can see when you look at the actions of both sides.

[quote]Jew-hatred is a major component to the whole issue. There are people who simply cannot support Jews against anyone. Israel merely gives them a convenient cover for their hatred.[/quote]

I see a type of hatred for anyone who thinks justice to all should be the principle that guides policy and diplomacy in the Arab/Israeli conflict.

Andrew Ian Dodge
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

Hamas targets civilians and admits to it. Israel does not. Hamas believes in the complete annihilation of Israel and all Jews. Israel does not believe in the annihilation of all Palestinians. Hamas openly admires Hitler and thinks he made a "good start". Israel allows Palestinians to run for office and be members of the Keneset. You see any difference yet Alan?

pmconusa
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

This problem is difficult because the underlying issues are irreconcilable and will be as long as external forces are able to support both sides of the issues. Simply put, the Palestinians want their land back and the right to return.The Israelis do not want a Palestinian majority in their country that would make it impossible to govern. The U.S. has been supporting Israel to the tune of $billions of your and my tax dollars. The Arab States have been supporting the Palestinians. Who do you think is going to run out money first?

Andrew Ian Dodge
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

Well seeing as the Arab states rely on oil revenue. That'll run out first.

Vikingstar
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

Once again we have the attempt to apportion blame equally between Israel and the nations and peoples arrayed against it, which means that ultimately Israel will be the only one really blamed, because they are the only ones who as a society are capable of responding to a rational and moral argument.

Defending Hamas...it makes my brain hurt.

Economike
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

I suspect you're right, Vikingstar.

It's predictable in discussions about Israel that "being able to see both sides of a conflict" inevitably morphs into a presumption of moral equivalence.

Bruce Libby
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

And in all this is the fact that noone wants the Palestinians!

If all parties could be seated around a table and were asked who wants them
the sound of crickets and hands under the table would be quite telling.

Andrew Ian Dodge
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

Vikingstar...you are right. There is never more "moral relativity" than when some speak of Israel.

LMD
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

alan,
Here's a twist for you and the like-minded folks at CPJ -
Have you ever considered that American support of Israel actually translates to support for surrounding countries (read: those countries that wish to annihilate Israel)?

Perhaps if that "almost a blank check" (according to the author) given by "the U.S. administrations", "which allows the Israeli government to act with a free hand in dealing with the critical issues" (according to the author), was withdrawn or greatly reduced - it just might force Israel to unleash an unbridled self-defense against those who seek to destroy her.

Do you and yours really want to see Israel take care of herself in that manner?
She may indeed be annihilated in the end, but will certainly take down as many of her enemies as she is able in defending herself alone.

alantoth
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

To whom it may concern:

Selective application of worst-case examples proves nothing nor does it exonerate the guilty on either side. I can see the great thinkers assembling, now, to draw up their lists of how bad the other guy is and how good their side is. Daddy, Mommy its Johnny's fault, I'm innocent. It all reminds me of the thinking of children. Maybe if you hold your breath long enough good things will come your way.

Oh, and BTW, I will take the thoughtful analysis of someone like Steven E. Meyer any day of the week.

LMD
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

LMD's translation of alantoth's response:
Alan has taken his ball and gone home.

Mike G
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

What a diatribe by the neocons out there, civilized vs the barbarians, christians, hebrews vs islam?

The fact is that Israel has the upper hand in the situation and will do whatever they need to do to [b]ignore[/b] the Palestinian problem. Both governmental sides want no peace in the region, the people caught in the cross-fire want peace but the lunatics on both sides feed on the conflict.

Very similar to the lunacy of war that infects our society. What civilized country bombs other nation back to the stone age, what barbarous populations strike back with terror. Ying/Yang

When we pull our money out of the region they will better able to settle it, or not, I don't care to extend the inevitable with the status quo. US fern outlay

Vikingstar
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

[quote="alantoth"]To whom it may concern:

Selective application of worst-case examples proves nothing nor does it exonerate the guilty on either side. I can see the great thinkers assembling, now, to draw up their lists of how bad the other guy is and how good their side is. Daddy, Mommy its Johnny's fault, I'm innocent. It all reminds me of the thinking of children. Maybe if you hold your breath long enough good things will come your way.

Oh, and BTW, I will take the thoughtful analysis of someone like Steven E. Meyer any day of the week.[/quote]

If this was an accurate summation of the situation, you would have a point. Since, however, it is not an accurate summation of the situation, it has no relevence.

What is "thoughtful" about inviting unrepentant terrorists to sit at a table they've sworn to destroy?

alantoth
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

LMD

Thanks, that was a great response. I got a kick out of it. More so because its true. Meyer's opening piece struck me as analytically thorough. Responses to it brought out all the familiar names and, except for the self-congratulting "expertise," added nothing I haven't already heard. So, I'm figuring why should I waste my time responding other than what I said. Result, the ball is right here next to me and I am liking it.

Economike
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

alantoth -

Having dismissed your detractors as childish, why give up on them now?

If you think Steven Meyer's essay was "analytically thorough" why not express his ideas in your own words? If he makes sense to you, surely you ought to be able to frame your argument persuasively.

Granted, there are many who aren't susceptible to persuasion, but that's no excuse - in my view - for not making the effort.

LMD
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

"...except for the [u]self-congratulting "expertise," added nothing I haven't already heard.[/u] So, I'm figuring why should I waste my time responding other than what I said."

This strikes me as comical. Aren't you guilty of that which you accuse with this very claim?
In any event, why bother posting at all if that is the case? Or, why bother responding to anyone who disagrees with the POV you present?

Just put it up there, let it go and fizzle out on it's own accord. You can dribble away while we peasants amuse ouselves.

Or better yet, hang a 30' X 50' poster of yourself in the public square. Distribute copies of your speeches so that the unwashed hoi polloi can look up to your image as they (attempt as best they can) to read your analytical responses. I say "attempt" because Lord knows we little people haven't the edjumucation you do... :P

alantoth
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Economike

Thanks for the encouragement. You are probably right especially after the child's argument, though LMD had a great counter for that but, for now at least, Meyer's effort will have to do.

alantoth
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LMD

As Ronald Regan said to Jimmy Carter, "There you go again." Actually that was even better than your earlier comment. Keep up the good work.

LMD
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

Unfortunately, Jimmy Carter didn't take the humorous hint either...
Are you compiling data on us for a future CPJ article?

pmconusa
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

If you take Hamas and the radical Israelis out of the equation you will still have the problem I alluded to in my comment earlier in the thread. The Israelis have the powerful army and air force we financed and support and could wipe out the Palestinians whenever they want. The only thing preventing it is US, since we would not tolerate it, but we will look the other way when they want to build more settlements or remove a few more families to build their wall.

Like others in this thread I am biased, but on the side of the Palestinians, many of whom I know having lived in the Middle East for nearly 25 years. Some of them were the ones who lost their homes and farms to the Israelis in the 1940's. The tens of thousands in the refugee camps in Gaza and Lebanon attest to their displacement.

alantoth
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

[quote]Unfortunately, Jimmy Carter didn't take the humorous hint either... [/quote]

Ouch, that hurts.

[quote]Are you compiling data on us for a future CPJ article?[/quote]

Should I be?

alantoth
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

[quote]Defending Hamas...it makes my brain hurt.[/quote]

Has anyone wondered how Meyer's substantial piece could end up being reduced to defending Hamas? Is this a classic example of “finding what you look for” or am I reading something into it that isn’t there?

[quote]I suspect you're right, Vikingstar.

It's predictable in discussions about Israel that "being able to see both sides of a conflict" inevitably morphs into a presumption of moral equivalence.[/quote]

I suppose if you wanted to establish the moral superiority of a member of this conflict you could write up a list of all the good things you like about your favorite player and then post them. You could do the same thing with the bad you see on the other side and you’d have made your point. Its not that these things are irrelevant its just that this is no way to help resolve a conflict when there is plenty of negative stuff going on in both camps. Maybe there is something wrong with me but I just can’t get it in my mind that this is how a peacemaker is supposed to operate.

Economike
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

alantoth -

Approaching this topic without an assumption of moral equivalence between the Israeli and Palestinian positions doesn't equate to [i]wanting[/i] to establish moral superiority, does it?

An assumption of moral equivalence is a template that skews one's judgement. So is a template that assumes that the parties divide into good guys and bad guys.

alantoth
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

[quote][b]Vikingstar said:[/b]

Once again we have the attempt to apportion blame equally between Israel and the nations and peoples arrayed against it, which means that ultimately Israel will be the only one really blamed, because they are the only ones who as a society are capable of responding to a rational and moral argument.

Defending Hamas...it makes my brain hurt.

[b]Economike chimed in with:[/b]
I suspect you're right, Vikingstar.

It's predictable in discussions about Israel that "being able to see both sides of a conflict" inevitably morphs into a presumption of moral equivalence

[b]And then came Economike’s disclaimers[/b]

alantoth -

Approaching this topic without an assumption of moral equivalence between the Israeli and Palestinian positions doesn't equate to [i]wanting[/i] to establish moral superiority, does it?

An assumption of moral equivalence is a template that skews one's judgement. So is a template that assumes that the parties divide into good guys and bad guys.[/quote]

Economike
You’re parsing words. Am I to assume you didn’t want to climb on the “moral superiority” train when you toadied up to Vikingstar's "head-hurting" lament.

Moral equivalence might be a starting point for some but does one have to start there to see the things Meyer has pointed out?

What’s curious to me is how some critics of Meyer quickly jump to the conclusion that his is an argument from “moral equivalence” just because he is able to see the wrong being done by both parties. Unless he presents himself as something akin to a Christian or secular Zionist he will, in the eyes of such critics, be arguing from “moral equivalence.” I am glad such people have not been given any authority to try to negotiate an end to the conflict.

Economike
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Israel and Palestine: Why Is This Issue So Difficult?

[quote]You’re parsing words. Am I to assume you didn’t want to climb on the “moral superiority” train when you toadied up to Vikingstar's "head-hurting" lament. [/quote]

alantoth -

I hope I'm not parsing words. I think there's a difference between beginning an examination of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a presumption of moral equivalence and being prepared to draw conclusions about relative moral superiority when they're found. I'll climb on that "moral superiority" train if it's headed in the right direction.

I think Vikingstar has a good point. If conceding moral legitimacy to the grandiose claims of victimhood used by Hamas to pursue its aims of tyrannizing the Palestinians and, secondarily, of extinguishing Israel is the price of remaining "analytically thorough" I'll pass. A four-year-old having a hissy fit in the candy aisle may present a behavior problem, but it doesn't having moral standing. I apologize for sounding dismissive and righteous.

Here's Meyer -
[quote]But the most important and harmful support comes from the United States, both from governmental and nongovernmental organiations. Although U.S. administrations have tried to be more evenhanded over the past decade, they still afford Israel almost a blank check, which allows the Israeli government to act with a free hand in dealing with the critical issues.[/quote]

Case in point. Decent people can't let the Israelis muddle through their own governance, can they? Without any explanation, Meyer's viewpoint begins with the assumption that Israel's "free hand" ought to be constrained from dealing with "critical issues." I don't think this is analytical or thorough.

alantoth
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[b]Economike said:[/b]
[quote]I hope I'm not parsing words. I think there's a difference between beginning an examination of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a presumption of moral equivalence and being prepared to draw conclusions about relative moral superiority when they're found. I'll climb on that "moral superiority" train if it's headed in the right direction.

I think Vikingstar has a good point. If conceding moral legitimacy to the grandiose claims of victimhood used by Hamas to pursue its aims of tyrannizing the Palestinians and, secondarily, of extinguishing Israel is the price of remaining "analytically thorough" I'll pass. A four-year-old having a hissy fit in the candy aisle may present a behavior problem, but it doesn't having moral standing. I apologize for sounding dismissive and righteous. [/quote]

[b]If you are going to use Meyer to argue for you why not also include the Meyer quote below:[/b]

[i]The fallacy of moral superiority: both sides have used terrorism when they felt it served their purposes and, in the process, killed combatants and noncombatants alike.

If Hamas is not included in the negotiations there will be no settlement.[/i]

[b]Here's the Meyer quote you chose to use hoping, I guess, to later damn him with it:[/b]

[quote]
[i]But the most important and harmful support comes from the United States, both from governmental and nongovernmental organiations. Although U.S. administrations have tried to be more evenhanded over the past decade, they still afford Israel almost a blank check, which allows the Israeli government to act with a free hand in dealing with the critical issues.[/i]

[b]You then followed with IMV a weak damning attempt: [/b]

Quote: Case in point. Decent people can't let the Israelis muddle through their own governance, can they? Without any explanation, Meyer's viewpoint begins with the assumption that Israel's "free hand" ought to be constrained from dealing with "critical issues." I don't think this is analytical or thorough.[/quote]

Of course, you could be right here depending on what you mean by constraining Israel on “critical issues." Do you suppose Meyer is thinking of road paving and property taxes? My guess would be, probably not. If it’s what he refers to as Israel’s part in terrorism then a silent, hands-off U.S. robs it of any credibility in brokering a peace agreement. So I'm wondering: Is a hands-off approach on the latter "critical issue" what you mean by what decent people do?

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