Friday, January 4, 2013

I Solved The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict In Like 15 Minutes

An appropriately solemn image
for the subject matter
Now that President Obama is about to be sworn in for the second time, he needs a new Secretary of State to replace Hillary Clinton, who is of course on the lam, whereabouts unknown, to avoid testifying about the Benghazi incident. (Last punk rock band to rename itself "The Benghazi Incident" is a rotten egg.)

Just kidding. She's not on the lam, and I have no doubt that she will testify as soon as she's medically able. But she promised a couple of years ago that she would leave the State Department at the end of Obama's first term in order to get her first full night's sleep in about 20 years. If there were any doubt that she would follow through on that promise, the blood clot in her brain has put those doubts to rest (for the moment -- I wouldn't count her out for 2016.)

Which leaves a vacancy at the position of Head U.S. Diplomat. After Obama's first choice for the job, Susan Rice, was browbeaten into withdrawing her name, it now appears that former presidential candidate (and second cousin to Herman Munster) John Kerry will be drafted into duty.

The new Secretary of State, like all Secretaries of State, will spend 98% of his/her/its time trying to work out a peace agreement between the Jews and the Arabs, who have been at war over the right to live on the tiny strip of land currently called Israel, formerly called Palestine. It's been a long, bloody, terribly annoying conflict with no end in sight for as long as anyone can remember, and for reasons I don't completely (or even partially) understand, settling it always seems to be the top U.S. foreign policy priority (other than making sure we have enough oil) . 

With all the awful, intractable conflicts raging all over the world, why does this one occupy such special attention from the U.S. government? One, there are a lot of Jews in America and they feel some investment in what happens to their people, which after the horrors of the Holocaust, is certainly a respectable position. But let's be real -- it's more because there are a lot of dead serious fundamentalist speaking-in-tongues-type Christians in the American government, and it says somewhere in one of the Testaments (Old? New? New and Improved? Not sure) that Jesus won't come back unless the Holy Land is in the hands of the Jews, or something. (Raised without religion! Thanks again, Mom and Dad.)

Despite the fact that I don't really understand the origins of this conflict, don't grasp the current contours of the problem, have only the faintest comprehension of the motivations of either side, and am unable to stop my eyes from glazing over whenever I try to read up on it, it just so happens that I have a plan to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict. I put probably 15... no, make it 20... yes, 20 minutes (maybe more) of thought into this, and I don't see any logical reason why it wouldn't work. Although, I will stipulate that logical reason is the first thing to go in this argument.

Let me preface this by saying that if my proposal seems insensitive to the religious beliefs and goals of the Jews and the Arabs and the Christians, and moreover, woefully underinformed on the basic issues, that's because it is.

What little I know about this problem -- which like most Americans is however much I hear about it on NPR in the time it takes me to reach over and change the channel -- suggests that the most important thing for Jews (and by this I mean Israeli Jews, not all Jews everywhere) isn't just that they control the land -- it's that the Palestinians do not. The reverse is also true: the Palestinians want to win, but they ABSOLUTELY do not want to see the Jews win. (This dynamic is certainly nothing new -- we see it in American politics every day.) It's not that they are doing anything so super amazing on this Holy Land that they can't do anywhere else, it's that they shudder to imagine it being desecrated by their hated enemies.

All this bickering (if carpetbombing and ceaseless acts of brutal terrorism can be called bickering) over exactly where to draw the borders, whether part of Israel should be turned over to the Palestinians completely or whether they should just be allowed to live within Israel.... it's the wrong approach. These two are never going to stop fighting. The only way to make them stop is to physically separate them.

But if you do that, who gets the Holy Land?

The Arabs? No. Though to the completely disengaged, impartial observer the Palestinians look like the aggrieved party (they had a country and now they don't), their behavior has been, to put it mildly, less than gallant.

The Jews? Also no. Every time there's a cease-fire, and an agreement seems to be within sight, the Israeli government goes right back to provoking the other side with more settlements on the  ground the prospective agreements would give to the Palestinians, thus renewing the conflict.

When I was a kid and my brother and I would fight over what to watch on our TV, my mom always resolved it the same way: I don't care who was here first, you broke the lamp, you're making a ruckus, and I don't want to hear it -- both of you go to your rooms! However disappointed I might have been not to get to watch Three's Company, I could take comfort in knowing my brother was also not in there watching Heathcliff. (Holy God, did I hate Heathcliff.)

Nobody wins, so nobody loses! The obvious, simple solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict: Neither of them gets Israel. They both relocate to areas of similar size and similar climate.

This might seem ridiculous. How can we kick these people out of their ancestral homelands? I know I didn't appreciate it when I was forced at age 12 to move with my family from Cincinnati to Baltimore. I despaired over it and fought it every way I could. But it turned out that Baltimore was a WAY MORE INTERESTING PLACE TO LIVE than Cincinnati.  I think maybe both sides have contracted a little tunnel vision here. They've had their jaw clamped on the same bone for so long that they can't see the huge banquet around them. (If comparing a bloody generational battle to the death over exactly has the best grasp on God's eternal love to the concerns of children and dogs seems less than reverent, I'm willing to live with that complaint.)

I happen to work with a few people from Israel, and one of them once told me, in his thick Hebrew accent (by the way -- have you ever tried to do a Hebrew accent? It's impossible. I can do a Boston accent, I can do a Southern accent, I can do British, French, Russian... but after 10 years working closely with Israelis I can't even come close to duplicating their accent. End tangent) that he had an easy and (relatively) affordable solution to the problem:

"Give everyone plane tickets," he said.

"To where?" I asked.

"Anywhere," he almost shouted. "One-way. Just get them out of there. Ten minutes after they land, they'll realize they never want to go back." (He has put his money where his mouth is -- he splits his time between New York, Costa Rica, and Taiwan, opening restaurants and surfing and making me with I could costar in a body-switch movie with him.)

So we've got to send both the Jews and the Arabs somewhere else, somewhere they won't be displacing any other culture (we certainly don't want to start all over somewhere else) and with a similar climate, so they'll feel at home.

New Palestine. In the middle there.
Under my plan, the Arabs will be moved to the interior of Australia. It's a vast, dry expanse of land, and the population density is two people per square mile or less. More than enough room for New Palestine! Also, the origins of Colonial Australia -- it was a prison for the worst of Europe's worst -- make for a tidy symmetry, in light of some of the Palestinians' shenanigans (if an endless campaign of brutal improvised warfare with countless civilian casualties can be called shenanigans) over the years.

It was a little harder to figure out where to put New Israel. My first thought of course was Florida, as the tribe already has a pretty good foothold in the region, but there are too many people there to absorb a whole country of refugees emigrants. But then it hit me: if I have learned one thing about the Israeli people in my time working with them, it is that they like to party. So where could we put them with a similar climate to their homeland, and also happens to host the greatest party in the world?

Yes, the Jews will be relocated to the Black Rock Desert and the surrounding areas of North Central 
Nevada, where they will surely flourish and of course make absolutely ideal hosts for the Burning Man Arts Festival. (They'll also be in charge of cleaning up after Burning Man, which is their just desserts for their own mischief -- if violently moving the goalposts in a game with the highest possible stakes can be called mischief -- over the years.)

Black Rock City, Capital of New Israel

So what happens to Israel? It shouldn't just sit there vacant, so how about we give it to the Native Americans. Not a lot of buffalo in Israel, but I'm sure they will be able to make a go of it. 

So there you go: World Peace. You're welcome. Is there a ceremony for the Nobel Peace Prize, or will my plaque be mailed to me? 

Follow me on Twitter @alexcastle718.

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