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Why the Middle East Conflict Never Ends

by rdf Mon Jan 5th, 2009 at 11:00:39 AM EST

The strife in the middle east has been going on, in its latest phase, for 60 years. Now when something goes on this long without being resolved there has to be a reason. The reason can usually be found by examining who stands to gain from the status quo.

I'll offer three hypothesis as to who these might be.


First there are what I call the "magic sand" people. These belong to all three of the monotheistic religions of the region: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. All claim that certain spots in the desert have special properties to them and their group is thus entitled to control over these regions. In some cases they all lay claim to exactly the same spots. They use historical evidence as justification for their positions, even though these claims are based upon conditions which existed over a 1000 or even 2000 years ago. Historical clams can't be allowed to trump everything that has happened since.

This group is very vocal and can be counted on to create civil unrest and perform acts of violence in pursuit of their cause, but they are tools of the other groups.

Second are the oligarchs who run all of the countries in the region. There are no functioning democracies in the region, although a few have elections and other democratic trappings. In addition, they all suffer from gross disparities of wealth.  Not only within a state, but between them. Egypt has no oil and is poor, Kuwait has too much oil and is obscenely rich.

I have some statistics on this which can be seen in the table at this link. Look at the column which list oil reserves per person to see the imbalance.

Another measure is the "Gini" Index which ranges from 0 for a perfectly equal society to 100. For comparison, Norway has the lowest at 25.8, the US at 40.8. There are only statistics for a few middle eastern states: Egypt 34.4, Yemen 33.4. The lack of data for the most unequal like Saudi Arabia and the Emirates is telling. The states where everyone is poor release statistics, those with the most extremes in wealth suppress them. International agencies, which could estimate this, seem reluctant to do so, since they don't want to offend our friends with the oil.

Third are the oil consuming states, principally the US and Europe. They have long pursued a policy of keeping the oil states economically, socially and politically underdeveloped. This is a variation of the banana republic strategy that was the norm for South America for much of the 19th Century. We support oligarchs because it is easier to do business with a small group of powerful individuals than to have to deal with messy democracies and the will of the people.

The oligarchs don't want the population noticing this and rising up to remedy the situation, so they create distractions. These distractions are the issue with Israel and the ethnic rivalries that never get resolved. This is where the magic sand people come in. By blaming everything that is wrong with the region on Israel it is not necessary to deal with the local injustices.

The US also has its proxy in Israel. It supplies it with arms and other materiel so that it can perform the type of destabilizing tactics that the US wants without the US having to get its hands dirty. Notice that all the fighting in the regions that has involved Israel has never been directed at toppling a major Arab political hierarchy and replacing it with democratic institutions.

In addition the Arab states have refused to allow the displaced Palestinians to resettle elsewhere in the region. They want to keep this group bottled up and angry generation after generation so that there is a steady supply of foot soldiers.

There are no players with clean hands in this conflict.

The Jews in 1948 did some sort of land grab, whether this was done under a "mandate", whether it was fair, whether Arabs were forced out, fled from fear, or were duped into leaving by their leaders, is a historical question which seems impossible to answer fully. Whatever the circumstances, it happened. It was an injustice, but it wasn't the only injustice in history.

The Arabs who fled have been mistreated by fellow Arabs ever since. This is also an injustice, but it is a continuing one.

The Arabs who stayed in the region have also been mistreated. The ones in Israel proper somewhat less than those in the areas claimed by the Palestinians. These are currently being mistreated by both the Israelis and the radicals in their midst.

Solutions

Are any of the proposed "solutions" viable? It would seem not or they would have been implemented already.

To my mind the "two state" solution is the least viable option. The territories that the Palestinians would end up with are not big enough and don't have enough resources to provide for a decent standard of living. A divided state is also unworkable. Even if the free movement between Gaza and the West Bank became the norm this would still add gross inefficiencies to any economic development.

The desire of the magic sand people to have those in the opposing groups vanish from the region is, of course, also impossible. That some keep wishing for this just means that they have been programmed to avoid thinking about realistic solutions.

Stamping out opposition by military means has also proven a failure. This has been a failure not only between states, but within states as the recurring battles in Lebanon illustrate. One cannot solve problems of civic injustice by military means. One can cower a population as totalitarian states have done in many cases in the 20th Century, but the cost is high in terms of low economic development and blighted lives.

I suggest a new approach. Redressing the history of injustice by means of money.

All those who have suffered by being displaced, or being put into situations of economic constraint, should be compensated financially. This means, at a minimum, "Palestinians" living in camps throughout the region as well as those currently living in the disputed regions. The compensation should extend to the third generation of those affected. That is those who still under 20 years old as well as those who experienced displacement and hardship directly.

The compensation should be large enough that these families can establish themselves economically. I don't have an exact figure, but let's say somewhere in the neighborhood of $50-100 thousand per adult. This money would be paid out over a period of a few years via an international agency which would hold the funds in a special banking system set up for this purpose.

Those countries which are now keeping refugees bottled up or refusing to allow them to become full citizens would need to allow them to integrate into the general society, or move to countries in the region which would be willing to do so. For each case that was thus resolved the host country would also get some direct aid to assist in resettlement and integration.

The Palestinian areas would enter a new status. Gaza would become a "special administrative unit" of Egypt and the west bank of Jordan. This requires a bit of explanation.

The idea of sovereign states based upon cultural homogeneity has been a dominant trend over the past several hundred years. Regional difference in Europe were generally minimized to promote the idea of a nation. This can be seen in the consolidation in France, Italy, Germany and the UK. Cultural and language differences have been minimized and a national identity created in its place. The results have been fairly successful. Using this model has worked less well in other areas of the world, especially in Africa and the middle east. Arbitrary sovereign state borders were created by colonial powers with little regard to the ethnic groups within the regions. The results have not been good. There have been continual flareups of ethnic violence ever since.

I propose a new type of citizenship for groups in these regions. They maintain their sovereign-based citizenship, but also have a clan or ethnic group formal identity. This second identity permits them to participate in the administration of local affairs using traditional cultural mechanisms. We have a model of this in the US with American Indians. They are US citizens and, if they wish, they can participate in tribal affairs. The rules for such participation are up to the tribe and may involve living on the reservation or other criteria.

Many countries with large numbers of people living elsewhere also accommodate this by allowing them to continue to vote in local elections. In some cases they don't lose this right even if they obtain citizenship in their new place of residence. An example where such a dual identity could work to reduce friction is with the Kurds who are spread over three sovereign countries, but consider themselves as one people.

Ethnic groups with a strong cultural tradition want to preserve this and the primary focus for them has to do with education and local land disputes. There is no reason why these administrative tasks can't be handled locally.

So the "special administrative districts" I'm proposing for the Palestinians would be like this. If they chose to remain in their enclaves they can run their own local affairs. If they chose to minimize their cultural heritage and move into the larger society then they give up some of these special privileges.

Fears, such as those expressed by the King of Jordan, about his country's national character being overwhelmed by the increase of new citizens are a type of cultural racism. History has shown that immigrants integrate into the general society, almost completely by the third generation, if they are allowed to. If the US can accommodate people of widely differing backgrounds, Jordan can accept some who differ only slightly from the native population.

People who are granted full rights become just as patriotic as those who have lived their before. It is only when the governments continue to emphasize the differences that problems arise. So the Palestinians become dual citizens or not as they wish.

Chances for Success

Is any of this possible? As I said out the outset, the reason there has been no resolution to the issues is because there are strong forces who favor the status quo. Are they about to give up their privilege voluntarily? Will the west push for democratization of the region and take on the associated risks of having to deal with populations that want to trade their resources on their own terms, not ours? Will the military establishment be willing to stop selling unneeded, expensive and provocative armaments to the region and lose the revenue?

Will the local oligarchs be willing to cede control to the people? Will the hyper-wealthy oil states be willing to share their revenue more equally with their own population, and more importantly, with their impoverished neighbors?

Obviously the vested interests have the upper hand. Change has to happen from the bottom up. The people of the region have to demand a better deal. The first step in this is education. They have to learn that their interests are being ill served and who it is that is working against them. Focusing on the Israel/Palestinian conflict is a deliberate distraction and only education can explain this.

The west cannot force a solution on the region, even if it wanted to, but those interested in social equity and economic advancement can promote a better understanding of the issues and not fall into the trap of debating which side's moral failings are more egregious.

First comes education and the fostering of good will, then comes cooperation, then come the calls for social justice within the population. Then, and only then, can real solutions emerge.

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European Tribune - Why the Middle East Conflict Never Ends
Fears, such as those expressed by the King of Jordan, about his country's national character being overwhelmed by the increase of new citizens are a type of cultural racism. History has shown that immigrants integrate into the general society, almost completely by the third generation, if they are allowed to. If the US can accommodate people of widely differing backgrounds, Jordan can accept some who differ only slightly from the native population.

IIRC, in the 48-67 period Jordan politics was dominated by a palestinian/jordanian split. So I would guess it is history more then racism talking here. Also, there is a difference in absorbing immigrants and new territories complete with inhabitants. How would the US if it incorporated Mexico as a number of new states?

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by A swedish kind of death on Mon Jan 5th, 2009 at 12:07:14 PM EST
Yes, I was going to quote the Jordanian experience. The palestinians were expelled becasue they were destabilizing Jordanian politics with demands for a perpetual military conflict with Israel; something that was not in Jordan's interest, politically or economically.

So finally they accepted that if the palestinians refused to assimilate and become Jordanian, instead continuing to agitate over their own foreign concerns, then they couldn't be in Jordan.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jan 5th, 2009 at 03:45:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
First, one has to define what one means by Jordan's "interests". The King has interests, but are they same as the population at large?

Second, Jordan is one of the places without oil, which means that it is on the losing end of the current arbitrary arrangement of sovereign states.

Third, difficulties with integration is why I'm suggesting a new type of "special administrative district" for the west bank.

Finally, Palestinian hopes from then have been modified by years of new experience, all of them bad for their cause. The new generation may not be as wedded to impossible aims as was the prior one.

Cultivating moderates and educating people to be more cosmopolitan may not solve everything, but can be a step on the way.

A century ago Italians and Irish immigrants to the US were regarded with suspicion (especially since most were Roman Catholics), but they are now "real" Americans along with the English protestants who preceded them. Place and environment change affiliations as time progresses.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Mon Jan 5th, 2009 at 04:02:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but the irish and italians were trying to become americans. They weren't trying to make the US wage war on the english to the detriment of American society.

So it's no surprise they became accepted. the palestinians didn't seek acceptance as Jordanians, they wanted to co-opt jordan into their war.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jan 5th, 2009 at 04:50:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Palestinians and the Jordanians are more closely related than your analogy makes it sound. In addition, the Palestinians came to Jordan as refugees.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 5th, 2009 at 04:58:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, 2 million refugees on a population that was about the same size, or smaller. Comparisons to integration in the US are really... well, an advanced form of cultural myopia.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 04:07:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a bit more problematic in Jordan in that the last time around, the Palestinians tried to kill the king.

BBC ON THIS DAY | 9 | 1970: King Hussein escapes gunman's bullet

Following the 1967 war with Israel, Jordan lost the West Bank of the Jordan River. Thousands of Palestinian refugees fled into Jordan, swelling the refugee population to two million.

From their new base in Jordan, Yasser Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organisation began launching military operations against Israel, drawing bloody reprisals that killed and injured Jordanians.

Feelings of anger among Palestinians have been exacerbated by King Hussein's involvement in Middle East peace moves which have involved talks with Israel.

The leader of Al Fatah, the largest of the Palestinian guerrilla groups, has said any Arab Head of State trying to reach a peaceful settlement with Israel will be murdered.


Jordan doesn't want the West Bank. What would it do with it?
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 04:02:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, people should note that the West Bank was under Jordanian control and therefore the Palestinians were technically internal refugees. They didn't come from outside though they did "swell the refugee population" in a reduced geographical area.

The legal claims on the West Bank are a little more complex than that, though. This is the Middle East after all:

Allied powers allocated the area to the British Mandate of Palestine. The 1948 Arab-Israeli War saw the establishment of Israel in parts of the former Mandate, while the West Bank was captured and annexed by Jordan. The 1949 Armistice Agreements defined its interim boundary. From 1948 until 1967, the area was under Jordanian rule, and Jordan did not officially relinquish its claim to the area until 1988. Jordan's claim was never recognized by the international community, with the exception of the United Kingdom. The West Bank was captured by Israel during the Six-Day War in June, 1967. With the exception of East Jerusalem, the West Bank was not annexed by Israel.
(Source: Wikipedia)

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 04:24:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Palestinians were "external" refugees in Lebanon and we saw how that ended.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 06:45:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Theres at least one faction of Israeli Magic sand people who are of the opinion that all of the West bank should fall within the boundaries of Israel.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 09:51:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What you propose will never come to pass, the amount of money to be given away will never be given. It is far easier to spend the money on armnaments and war than on reparations and peace.

So we have a choice between the single state and the two state solution. The israelis are terrified of the single state solution and know in their hearts that sooner or later they will have to accept the 67 borders and a two-state. Their problem is that they don't know how to get from where we are to where everyone knows they will end up.

And the problem is the settlers. Most israelis would trade the 67 borders for peace tomorrow. But the settlers and likud and all the other myriad religious fanatics would rather die than give up the West bank and that's the real problem. Most israelis cannot bear the idea of jew killing jew as they know that the idea of Israel would die if there was a civil war. Yet, short of such a scenario, there is no way of evicting the settlers from the land they wish to give the palestinians.

So, the settlers, whatever  minority they are in the total israeli population, have a veto over the only sensible course of action. Because they are willing to have a civil war over the West bank and most israelis will not.

Nor is there a compromise territory, cos the water courses in the West Bank run from W - E and have been taken over by the settlers, so the bits that are left are both divided and waterless. It would make more sense to divide the whole area into two north and south, but that's not going to happen. It's the 67 border or nothing.

And right now, it's nothing. The israelis have chosen eternal war with the palestinians as a proxy for the internal divide they are terrified of confronting

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jan 5th, 2009 at 03:57:43 PM EST
This is so full of holes, smoke and mirrors, out of context and reality, that there is no place to start.

It's all about the Arab countries having to change, but apparently USAIsrael has no part, nor parcel to do a thing and take responsibility for the Palestinian Holocaust.  The far removed examples are distractions turning peoples and cultures into cheap theoretical formulas to be replicated.  Only for some.  On and on.

Another intellectual exercise of distorting and renaming excuses.  Are you prepared to be permanently exiled from 'your' land and country for $50-100K, be accepted into another country's little reservation, to start from zero?

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Mon Jan 5th, 2009 at 09:08:02 PM EST
That may be unfair to Robert, who always seems to post in good faith here.

I think it's not a solvable problem - at least not in any of the available frames. There are vested interests which find war much more amenable than peace would be, and even if - as usual - most of the local populations want peace, the leaders don't. Since rounding up the leaders and shipping them to Gitmo and/or the Hague isn't likely - here we are.

Besides, if someone blew up my relatives and starved them of food and medical attention I couldn't in all honesty say that I might not feel like killing them too. Violence will do that to people.

A modest proposal would be to move everyone out of the area and turn it into radioactive glass. With no more farcical claims to historical territoriality to argue over, everyone involved would have to start living in the 21st Century. Compensation could sweeten the deal. This would have the added benefit of making the heads of all of the Armaggedonites and fundies in the US explode - they'd have to find some other cranky and drugged-up biblical 'prophecy' to bounce up and down on.

Of course this isn't a practical solution, or even a humane one.

But it's frightening that it's likely to be more humane than any default alternative.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 12:57:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I stopped reading at some point when it was evident that this guy is proposing the South African Afrikaaner solution to the IP conflict: bantustans for the Palestinians living surrounded by IDF, presumably, while Israelis take the remaining land and presumably would just annex the Palestinian territories. The US pays off the 5 million Palestinian refugees and they change their ethnic identity into the country they happen to be. UNWRA disappears, an impediment. Jerusalem? And what about the bantustans? Palestinians become, as Blacks did in South Africa, cheap labor for Israel.

So it is Greater Israel uber alles; most Palestinians disappear.

If I were a Palestinian living in Britain, I'd give this puke the two finger sign; if I were living in the US, I'd give him the third finger.

Waste of time.


by shergald on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 03:17:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The nice thing about any discussions you ever get into is that you always read your own positions into other people's postings.

I proposed none of the things you mentioned. Apparently reading to the end to find out what the real point was is too much trouble for you since you already know all the answers.

Negativity is easy, but unproductive.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 03:36:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Pushing Apartheid is nothing less that a proZionist disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people.

You apparently never bothered to look up the political agendas vis a vis Palestine of the major Israeli political parties. If you had you would have found your proposal redundant and right out of the Labor and Kadima positions: no Palestinian state, bantustans will suffice. At least you did not push any Likud suggestions.

by shergald on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 10:13:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You should quote the parts where rdf supports bantustans... because I can't seem to find them.

The proposal is probably unworkable for other reasons (paying for resettlement is all well and fine, but 1) people would have to be willing to settle elsewhere, and 2) you'd have to find states willing to take the resettled people, neither of which is a trivial obstacle), but for the life of me I can't figure out where the bantustans come in.

I can't figure out why rdf seems to consider a reversion to the pre-67 Egyptian and Jordanian borders preferable to a Palestinian state, though. For one thing, neither Egypt nor Jordan currently want that, for a variety of mostly excellent reasons.

That said, it's not obvious that a Gaza exclave to a Palestinian state - let alone a sovereign state in Gaza - is sustainable, and I think that those of us who advocate a two-state solution would be wise to pay some thought to the fact that Gaza runs a serious risk of becoming a Kaliningrad writ small.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 11:33:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's try the opposite question: Did the Middle East conflict never start?

It is often remarked how bad the human tribal nature is. The following passage from Nassim Taleb's seems to illustrate the point. Or can we see something contrary to the common wisdon there?

For more than a millennium the eastern Mediterranean seaboard called [Mount Lebanon] had been able to accommodate at least a dozen different sects, ethnicities, and beliefs -- it worked like magic. [The] Levantine cities were mercantile in nature; people dealt with one another according to a clear protocol, preserving a peace conducive to commerce, and they socialized quite a bit across communities. This millennium of peace was interrupted only by small occasional friction within Moslem and Christian communities, rarely between Christians and Moslems. [The] mosaic of cultures and religions there was deemed an example of coexistence: Christians of all varieties (Maronites, Armenians, Greco-Syrian Byzantine Orthodox, even Byzantine Catholic, in addition to the few Roman Catholics left over from the Crusades); Moslems (Shiite and Sunni); Druzes; and a few Jews. It was taken for granted that people learned to be tolerant there [...]

Both sides of my family came from the Greco-Syrian community... [We] originate from the olive-growing area at the base of Mount Lebanon -- we chased the Maronite Christians into the mountains in the famous battle of Amioun, my ancestral village. Since the Arab invasion in the seventh century, we had been living in mercantile peace with the Moslems, with only some occasional harassment by the Lebanese Maronite Christians from the mountains. By some (literally) Byzantine arrangement between the Arab rulers and the Byzantine emperors, we managed to pay taxes to both sides and get protection from both. We thus managed to live in peace for more than a millennium almost devoid of bloodshed: our last true problem was the later troublemaking crusaders, not the Moslem Arabs [...]

By any standard the country called Lebanon, to which we found ourselves suddenly incorporated after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, in the early twentieth century, appeared to be a stable paradise; it was also cut in a way to be predominantly Christian. [The] Christians convinced themselves that they were at the origin and center of what is loosely called Western culture yet with a window on the East. [...]

The Lebanese "paradise" suddenly evaporated, after a few bullets and mortar shells. [In 1975,] after close to thirteen centuries of remarkable ethnic coexistence, a Black Swan, coming out of nowhere, transformed the place from heaven to hell. A fierce civil war began between Christians and Moslems, including the Palestinian refugees who took the Moslem side. It was brutal, since the combat zones were in the center of the town and most of the fighting took place in residential areas... [The] conflict lasted more than a decade and a half. [...]

Aside from the physical destruction (which turned out to be easy to reverse with a few motivated contractors, bribed politicians, and naïve bondholders), the war removed much of the crust of sophistication that had made the Levantine cities a continuous center of great intellectual refinement for three thousand years. Christians had been leaving the area since Ottoman times--those who moved to the West took Western first names and melded in. Their exodus accelerated. The number of cultured people dropped below some critical level. Suddenly the place became a vacuum [...]

Quite a remarkable transition - yet probably not the only example of long piece suddenly gone. On the other hand, knowing what is happening in the Middle East in the last decades, can we imagine that people there were not that stupidly violent for much longer times? That millennium-long Levantine peace is quite a reverse-time black swan from our perspective. What were the Levantines doing that whole millennium of piece, how did they manage their wicked human nature that peacefully for so long? What did force them to be so tribal again? Was it only differentials in birth rates? Or turning it around, what it takes to make a long-lasting peace?

by das monde on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 01:31:07 AM EST
You are ignoring the fact that no one in the region wants the solution that you propose. A two state solution is something on which there is only disagreement on the details.

Matthew Yglesias » Bolton in Fantasyland

For his latest offering, Bolton puts forward what he calls a "three state" approach to the Palestinian problem, in which "Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty." Matt Duss offers some response. Marc Lynch further observes that this idea is opposed by the government of Egypt, opposed by the government of Jordan, and opposed by the Palestinians. It's a total non-starter.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 04:16:38 AM EST
Sharing Jerusalem: the condominium solution by John V. Whitbeck - Common Ground News Service
Israelis concerned about their future might well look back at the vision for Jerusalem of Theodor Herzl, the founding father of Zionism: "We'll simply extraterritorialize Jerusalem, which will then belong to nobody and yet to everybody, the holy place common to the adherents of all faiths, the great condominium of culture and morality." Herzl's dream of a Jewish State was wildly impractical at the time, but it existed half a century later. Whether its people ever enjoy peace and security may well depend on whether they can grasp the visionary practicality of Herzl's own recognition that what neither people of the Holy Land could ever relinquish or renounce must therefore be shared.

President Yasser Arafat clearly recognized this principle when, in a speech delivered at Harvard University in 1995, he asked: " Why not Jerusalem as the capital of two states, with no Berlin Wall? United, open, coexistence, living together." The audience rose for a standing ovation.

If Herzl and Arafat could agree on the potential of the "condominium" solution, shouldn't this potential key to peace be explored and developed by those who still believe that peace is possible and who recognize that it is urgent?

This is the road I am going down.

A Jerusalem Partnership as a Condominium is one thing; an Israel Partnership covering all Israel, Gaza, West Bank etc is quite another.

The land would be held in perpetuity in the Joint Ownership of a "Custodian" entity.

Then within an "Open Corporate" partnership-based consensual protocol the bundle of rights of occupation, and the fruits of occupation, are shared by mutual agreement.

One of the desirable side effects is that there would be no further private freehold ownership or mortgage finance possible.

I don't know enough about Judaism to know whether or not it is (or was) believed (as it is under Islam) that absolute ownership of Land is God's alone?

 

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 07:09:43 AM EST
the issue of Jerusalem has always been  thorn in the side of possible solutions.

I really don't think a co-dominion would work for the simple fact that there are two unequal partners. The likelihood that the major partner will not be more indulgent towards transgression by their own is too high to be ignored. In an open access, the more powerful and belligerent player will win. just as the pike always wins in a pond.

I have come to the conclusion that Jerusalem should not be governed by any party with a vested interest in the site. So any group whose culture is predominantly Abrahammatic are disbarred. Personally I always thought the Dalai Lama should be invited to administer Jerusalm on behalf of all those of faith, favouring none of them. Failing that, Japan.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 07:39:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's true that a neutral "operating partner" would also be necessary in relation to dispute resolution and neutrality of governance.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 07:50:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's not forget that Zionism is nationalist movement in the mold of 19th Century European nationalisms. From a position of weakness in the British Mandate of Palestine it appeared as a separatist movement but ultimately it is essentialist and irredentist.
Faced with the prospect of remaining a minority in greater Palestine, the Jewish Agency Executive decided that partition was the only way out of the impasse.[6] The principle of partition was placed on the agenda of the Twentieth Zionist Congress. In a 15 July 1937 editorial, David Ben Gurion implied that partition could never be an acceptable long-term solution: 'The Jewish people have always regarded, and will continue to regard Palestine as a whole, as a single country which is theirs in a national sense and will become theirs once again. No Jew will accept partition as a just and rightful solution.'
(source: Wikipedia)

The project consists essentially of reversing the Diaspora and establishing a Jewish-only state in (initially a part, ultimately the whole) Palestine. That Zionism is incompatible with coexistence has been in full display since at least the 1930s. Thus, it is incompatible with a single-state solution unless the single state is Jewish only and Arabs are either expelled or given second-class status.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 07:29:01 AM EST
There are two parts to my essay.
The first is a conjecture on the forces which are trying to preserve the status quo. The second is some "unthinkable" ideas as to new approaches to take.

To my mind the important part is the first. I see nothing but all sides repeating the same claims over and over again, blindly. This is propaganda, not analysis.

So I think it is important to study the claims and see what is behind them and who gains from what arrangements. Once the forces are better understood then solutions become more plausible.

This is why I wrote my original essay and provided some data which I derived on the distribution of oil resources in the region and the lack of democracy.

I haven't seen much discussion about this (aside from Helen). Put simply, it's all about the oil. Before oil became an important commodity no one in the western world cared about the middle east, except for the occasional forays such as the crusades.

After the rise of the oil economy then the picture changed. Obfuscating this fundamental fact with religious, historical, cultural, political or other overlays only makes getting at the true motivations harder to uncover.

If someone has an alternative theory as to why the forces prefer chaos and dictatorships I'd like to hear them.

As to the proposals for what to do with "Palestine", the impossible often becomes reality. Who would have imagined the break up of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, let alone the USSR 30 years ago?

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 09:00:48 AM EST
Who would have imagined the break up of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, let alone the USSR 30 years ago?

I'm sure plenty of people could imagine - why, were busy plotting - the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1989.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 09:47:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One summer when I was a teenager I worked in a book warehouse where one of my fellow packers was a refugee from the Hungarian uprising of 1956. He had been a lawyer, but could get no related work in the US since the legal systems were so different.

From him I got the distinct impression that the situation in eastern Europe was hopeless and that Soviet domination would last as far as the eye could see. That was 1959. That things changed in the next 30 years is my point.

Why haven't things changed fundamentally in the 60 years since the creation of Israel? Is it because the oil is still flowing and supporting the oligarchs?

Perhaps if the Russian oil fields had been developed earlier the USSR never would have collapsed. An idea for someone else to speculate about.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 10:36:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why haven't things changed fundamentally in the 60 years since the creation of Israel? Is it because the oil is still flowing and supporting the oligarchs?

Even if the oil stopped flowing, it's likely that the Arabian peninsula and Eastern North Africa would be victims of massive hostile meddling from the major powers, because of their proximity to the Suez Canal. At least three different powers have direct strategic interests in the area: India, Russia and the EU - and the US, Iran and China have interests that are only marginally farther removed.

Everybody wants to control Suez - or at least make sure that nobody else controls it. And that's unlikely to change for the foreseeable future, because by geographic accident, it's a linchpin of global seaborne trade.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 11:41:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The discussion is dominated by utopians. Some want the Palestinians to vanish off the face of the earth, some the Israelis. Some avoid issues by coming up with proposals that will never be acceptable, I argue that is why they are proposed - to maintain the status quo.

Right now we have to areas administered by Israel: Gaza and the West Bank. Those in these areas don't like Israel and vice versa. These areas are not economically viable and are sustained by foreign aid.

They can't have their own military or foreign policy and there are severe restrictions on the type of development they can engage in.

All I'm suggesting is that the administration of these areas be turned over to fellow Arab states, who more closely match the social and demographic makeup of these residents.

Discussions of borders, Israeli settlers within the region, etc. are details, and people focus on them as yet another way to avoid discussing the larger principles involved.

Not mentioned by all the anti-Israeli commentators is the horrific conditions of Palestinian refugees kept in other states of the region. Neither is their any discussion of the economic and social discrimination practiced on their own populations. Sunni, Shia, Jews, Christians, Kurds, etc. are all mistreated in one place or another.

Show me an Arab state which has a democratic government, treats its citizens well and has a decent level of economic parity and development. If they can't provide for their own populations then where do they get the moral authority to criticize others.

This does not absolve the misdeeds of the west or any other state, two wrongs don't make a right, but lets be honest here, focusing on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is still a way to avoid the fundamental problems of the middle east.

Add in the religious and nationalistic jingoism and you have a situation which seems unfixable. Rehashing old arguments isn't going to lead to any progress.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 12:43:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Show me an Arab state which has a democratic government, treats its citizens well and has a decent level of economic parity and development. If they can't provide for their own populations then where do they get the moral authority to criticize others.

How many states of any type satisfy that requirement?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 12:46:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, yes, pretending that Palestine is The Gate and The Key to unlocking the many and more entangled geopolitical and regional interests in the Mideast is not a productive mode of thought.

However, at a bare minimum, any proposal to solve anything in Palestine and the immediate environs will need to address three questions:

  • Where do the refugees in the camps go? Nobody wants them, except - maybe - a future Palestinian state. Nobody knows where the refugees themselves want to go, because they're not being asked. Are we just going to designate a random patch of the Sahara, pipe in desalinated water from the Mediterranean and try to set up a state for them with or without their consent? Because unless that is your plan, you don't have anything resembling a coherent policy until and unless you have a lineup of states that are or should be willing to take the refugees and to which the refugees have any desire to go.

  • Would conditions for the Palestinians on the West Bank and in Gaza be better under Israeli sovereignty, Palestinian sovereignty or Jordanian (resp. Egyptian) sovereignty (who else is there, realistically, who can exercise sovereignty over the areas)? And the latter option is conditioned on the Egyptians and Jordanians not running away screaming when they hear of a plan that involves them sticking their heads into the hornets' nest... Here you need to show your math - hand waving about culture or religion is not a substitute for economic, strategic and political analysis.

  • What are you going to do with the Israeli settlements? Without either dismantling them or integrating them into Palestine/Jordan (or integrating the entire West Bank into Israel - but that would be effectively the same thing as dismantling the settlements...), the West Bank will be little more than a cruel parody of an American Indian reservation. And if you dismantle them or attempt to integrate them in any way that isn't outright Apartheid, how are you going to deal with the hissy fit that the settlers and various Israeli fundagelicals are gonna throw?

These are not trivial technical details that can be shoved under the carpet for later solution - they are the material and political linchpins of the Palestinian conflict. A proposal that doesn't at least attempt to address them is, with apologies to Wolfgang Pauli, not even wrong.

Undermining, eliminating or co-opting the colonial powers, the local oligarchs and the other shady characters who benefit from continued conflict is certainly a good idea. If for no other reason, then because undermining, eliminating or co-opting colonial powers is usually a good idea all on its own... But I am not convinced that this will do anything to actively resolve the conflict, although it might prevent gratuitous addition of fuel to the fire.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 02:02:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So you want to let the entire resolution be determined by a group of magic sand people? It is a given that there are irrational and unyielding people on both sides, but they cannot continue to block the desires of everyone else.

That they have so much apparent influence is because they are granted it by those who want to maintain the status quo.

As for those trapped as refugees in other Arab states, the new component that I'm suggesting is giving them a big pot of money. You would be surprised at how the prospect of having a group of people with money to spend alters the attitudes of local officials towards immigrants.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 02:58:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I'm perfectly prepared to strong-arm even a very large number of magic sand people. But there are underlying economic and political issues that cannot necessarily be solved simply by throwing money at the problem. If you don't have water, it doesn't matter how many euro you have. If you don't have a house, it doesn't matter how many euro you have. If you don't have citizenship somewhere, it doesn't matter how many euro you have.

The Palestinian population, both inside and outside Palestine, is currently confined to an area that cannot sustain their population in any but the most abject poverty. This can change in three ways:

  1. The population can collapse.

  2. Some or all of them can move somewhere else.

  3. Land can be appropriated for them in the immediate vicinity of their current location.

Deliberately triggering 1) would be a crime of unthinkable magnitude (this, by the way, seems to be Israel's strategy for Gaza). 2) requires that a place can be found to put them. And unless you're prepared to deport them, it requires that they're willing to move there. 3) requires that the people currently occupying the immediate vicinity are either persuaded or compelled to leave and go somewhere else (which creates a type 2) problem on its own).

These considerations have nothing to do with magic sand people and everything to do with physical facts on the ground.

So unless you're prepared to countenance genocide, you'll have to either

  1. Find a country (or a number of countries) who are sufficiently attractive to the Palestinians that all but the hardcore magic sand people would want to move there and who are willing to let them in.

  2. Find a place to put them where they can survive in reasonable conditions, and then deport them there.

  3. Entice the Israeli settlers to resettle in Israel proper (which can certainly support their numbers).

  4. Deport the Israeli settlers to Israel proper.

I personally favour attempting 3), and going with 4) if and when 3) fails. Because:

  1. The settler population is much smaller than the Palestinian population.

  2. The concentration of magic sand people is probably greater in the settler population than in the Palestinian population (since non-magic-sand Israeli have the option to live in Israel proper).

  3. There is an obvious place (Israel proper) to lure/force the settlers to relocate to.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.
by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 03:48:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All the displaced Palestinians are already living someplace else. Just look at the camps in Lebanon and the battle that took place there last year.

They don't have to go anywhere else if the local government would just let them integrate into the general population. They wouldn't make a substantially greater impact on the host country either, they already take up some land and use water. At most their resource use might increase slightly as their standard of living improved.

The money that they would be given would get spent in the local economies and could be used to improve the lot of people generally, even if indirectly. If a child was given enough money to pay for their total education then it would not be a drain on the local tax base to educate them.

The problem isn't demographics or resources it is strictly political. The oligarchs want to keep the refugees apart as a way to apply pressure and prevent a resolution of the issues.

I live in New York and I've seen wave after wave of people come to the area and adapt and many of them have much larger cultural differences than do the Palestinians and, say, the Lebanese.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 04:56:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is a variation of the banana republic strategy that was the norm for South America for much of the 19th Century.

20th?

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 09:49:08 AM EST
For what it's worth, your proposal is in line with my own unfocused musings.

After 60 years it is possible to make amends for all the wrongs done. But it might be possible to enable the Palestinians to live productively and with dignity in a stable civil society.

To do this of course would require boatloads of money both for the individuals themselves and the countries and regions in which they choose to live (however that might look).

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 12:45:09 PM EST
After 60 years it is impossible to make amends for all the wrongs done

Right?

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 12:46:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
<sigh>

Right.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 12:56:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, refugees might live productively and with dignity in the countries and regions where they find themselves, were not the preferred way to deal with refugees to pen them in camps in subhuman conditions so they won't overwhelm the local population competing for food, space and jobs.

That there are anywhere in the world third-generation refugees is one of the most baffling things to me. But in fact there should be structures in place to render refugee camps unnecessary in the first place. Host nations should allow refugees to live and work freely, and the question is how much it would cost the international community to compensate the host countries for it.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 12:50:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And let's start by accepting refugees and being nice to them in Europe.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misŤres
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 12:52:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Europe was doing a lot better in that department up to a couple of decades ago.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 12:57:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean Europe was nice enough to accept the bourgeoisies of troubled countries fleeing communist revolts so as to make a point in the Cold War ?

Let's restart being nice, anyway...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misŤres

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 03:24:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess the general underlying assumption is that the refugee condition is only temporary, which more often than not becomes a cruel farce (and nowhere is this more crass than in the case of the Palestinians). Generally speaking, aid policies need to recognize a point where the focus must be shifted from relief to resettlement, but that is probably a very hot potato politically.

Just as an exercise, I wonder what it would cost to make the Gazans Egyptian citizens (and not just at the proletariat level)?

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 01:12:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This chart shows US aid to Israel:

Imagine if the $2+ billion per year was used for humanitarian purposes instead.

Paying some sort redress to displaced persons isn't that much of financial burden when seen in this context.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Tue Jan 6th, 2009 at 01:52:05 PM EST
Shouldnt this chart go back a couple more years, as individual years, to where Bush I actually withheld aid to Israel, and actually got some level of reasonableness out of them? Now it's worked before, so why not try it again?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 09:57:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To answer to why it never ends one should first ask why it ever started, and kept restarting at every change of imperial suzerain of the region: that is Egypt,Babylon,Greece,Rome,Turkey Britain,and the almost inaugurated Third Reich emperor so dearly befriended by the Jerusalem Mufti. The present suzerain, the USA, has been the first one not to lose patience with the people of Moses. On the contrary it became their godfather, and made them the caretaker of its strategic interests in the region. Indeed an apocalyptical sign of change. Might it be the harbinger of doom either of the american role in the Middle East or of Israel, or both?


juliusso
by juliussodera (paologpensa@hotmail.com) on Thu Jan 8th, 2009 at 07:46:41 AM EST
Welcome to ET, juliussodera!

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Thu Jan 8th, 2009 at 08:36:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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