President Obama has said recently that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to go back to the 1967 borders with "mutually agreed upon swaps." Really?? Since when have these two parties "mutually agreed upon" anything? The mistake in my opinion is to think that the Palestinians and the Israelis are adult enough to sit down and negotiate and compromise and come up with a solution acceptable to both. It's not going to happen.
They are like two children arguing over a bunch of toys. Each child maintains that all the toys belong to him. Now an adult comes along and says, "Now children you must negotiate a solution in which each of you agrees to give up some of your toys. Go ahead now." What do you think will happen? They will continue to fight and haggle ad infinitum and this is exactly what the Israelis and the Palestinians have done. Left to their own devices they will never come to a solution. The solution to the two children fighting over their toys is not for an adult to encourage them to negotiate; it's for an adult to decide on a rational and fair solution and then say, "Children this is the way it's going to be whether you like it or not." Then both children are going to cry and complain and say the solution is unfair. But after a while they'll get used to it because they have no choice.
Everbody that has looked at the problem has agreed that a two state solution with a Palestinian state living side by side with the Israeli state is the best solution. But each side would rather pursue its own perceived interests than to accept a two state solution if it were to be left up to them. The Israelis say "We're not going to negotiate with the Palestinians unless they say Israel has a right to exist." What difference does it make what the Palestinians "say"? What if they said, "Oh yeah, we recognize the right of Israeli to exist", and then, after the peace treaty was signed, invaded Israel the next day. This is almost precisely what happened in the days leading up to World War II when the British PM Neville Chamberlain agreed to let Hitler annex the Czechoslovakian Sudetenland where many ethnic Germans were living in return for "peace in our time." Hitler promised to go no further in his territorial ambitions, but shortly thereafter invaded Poland which was the start of World War II. The point is that whatever the Palestinians say is not as important as coming up with a solution in which the Palestinians cannot harm Israel regardless of what they say because in the final analysis what they say means nothing just as what Hitler said about "going no further" meant nothing.
What is needed in the Israeli Palestinian situation is a strong adult who will enforce a fair and rational solution on both parties just as what is needed in the case of the two children who can't resolve the "who owns what toys" issue needs a strong adult to resolve it for them. The US is not that adult! The US gives an enormous amount of military aid to Israel. Obama's FY 2011 budget called for a record-breaking $3 billion in military aid to Israel. Netanyahu has said, "Israel has no better friend than America. And America has no better friend than Israel." Well, at least half that statement is true. Here is what activist Roi Maor who lives in Tel Aviv had to say:
The US has many better friends than Israel
"Israel has no better friend than America. And America has no better friend than Israel."
The first sentence is true. Indeed, it is probably an understatement. The US extends to Israel support and assistance which it provides to no other country in the world (perhaps not even to some parts of the US itself).
The second sentence is false. The US has plenty of better friends than Israel. There are countries in the world that have put their soldiers in harm’s way when the US was attacked on September 11th. Others have changed policies or offered diplomatic support despite the internal and external price they had to pay.
Certainly, they have done so for their own interests, or because the US had done the same for them. But both considerations apply to Israel as well. And yet, this country refuses to show any consideration for US interests, even when the price to pay is tiny.
The settlement freeze debacle and the ugly, and pointless, confrontation between Netanyahu and Obama over 1967 borders are just the most recent examples. Israel has repeatedly embarrassed the US, and undermined its initiatives and policies, for the last few decades, on issues ranging from human rights to nuclear disarmament. It backed down from selling US technologies to China only under monumental pressure, recruited spies in the US to get information the Americans would not share, and many other acts of ingratitude.
It is a well-known psychological phenomenon, that a person is often more bound to another by extending help rather than receiving it. The more you assist someone else, the more you feel committed to her, rather than the other way around. The US-Israel relationship is a perfect example of that.
Israel has no US miltary bases there while we station our troops in Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and other less friendly countries. You'd think that for $3 billion a year at least they would let the US have a base there! But the point is that, because of the unique US-Israeli relationship which has historically strongly favored the Israelis over the Palestinians, the US cannot be an honest broker in the denouement of the Israeli-Palestinian situation. The US has been Israel's enabler for far too long. It's as if we expected one of the children's mothers to decide which child got what toys. So who would be an honest, fair and objective broker then? Perhaps the EU which has shown much more equity and balance in its relationship with both parties. Therefore, what I propose is that a commission set up by the EU should decide on what the borders for the two state solution should be and then just say to both the Israelis and the Palestinians, "Hey, these are your borders period." This is similar to the situation in which a fair and relatively objective adult (not one of the kids' mothers) tells them 'this is who gets what' period, end of story. The kids will squawk, cry and scream just as the Israelis and Palestinians will do, but this is really the only way out of this morass.
Then the next component of the solution is to station an international peacekeeping force along the Palestinian/Israeli border tasked with protecting the territorial integrity of both countries. It should have the muscle to go after any offenders just as once the objective adult has decided on which kid gets what, she would have to enforce the solution. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves should be relatively demilitarized so that there is parity between them militarily and they should not enforce the borders. If that international peacekeeping/military force had to be kept in place for 100 years, it would still be cheaper than letting the conflict go on unabated because it would be the cornerstone of peace in the middle east and would do more to curb terrorism than any other action. And it would save the US some $3 billion a year because I would expect other countries to chip in. And while the US was at it, it might as well stop giving Pakistan $2 billion a year. Why does the US think it has to buy the friendship of countries where they're either unwelcome or not appreciated especially at a time in which the US is in a profound debt crisis?
As to the disposition of Jerusalem, it should be made an international city open to all parties and again protected by an international peacekeeping force. The Palestinians and the Israelis will both kick and scream at this solution but they both must - as children must - learn the lesson that it is more important to share than to carry on a raging conflict saying, "Mine. Mine. That toy is mine. God gave it to me." They both must learn that in the final analysis peace and cooperation is more important than ownership.