You either stop fighting over the Nintendo, or I’m going to disconnect it so neither of you can use it!
How many of us can recall this type of parental threat when, embroiled in the heat of a sibling battle, we just couldn’t seem to share and get along? From childhood, we’re taught that when two parties can’t cooperate and play nicely, the only way to solve the problem is to take away the source of the conflict.
Maybe it’s a lesson that needs to be applied to Israel and Palestine.
I’m sympathetic neither to the Israelis nor to the Palestinians. In my mind, both make valid points in their claims to the regions in dispute, but both have also committed atrocious and unspeakable acts of terror in their efforts to reclaim or control these territories.
But one failing both Israelis and Palestinians should admit is their shared inability to behave like rational adults and stop the unnecessary and tragic violence that has plagued the Middle East for decades.
It’s clear by now that for any number of reasons –poor leadership, religious hatred, the painful memory of historical wounds inflicted by the enemy –Israel and Palestine are not capable of brokering a peace between themselves. Nor are peace talks with a “third party mediator” the solution, not while Arafat’s suicide bombers continue their deadly work, and not while Sharon’s tanks and troops keep Palestinian civilians prisoners in their homes and places of worship.
As long as Israel occupies land the Palestinians consider theirs, Palestinians won’t rest easy and stop their attacks. Nor will Israel feel content quitting the occupied territories until they can be sure that someone can exercise the force necessary to stop Palestinian bombings. Thus a vicious cycle is born: neither side will give in first, which ultimately means that neither side will ever give in. As long as it’s left to Israel and Palestine, the violence will continue.
The answer, then, is for both to give in simultaneously –to someone else.
The solution required is the military occupation of the territories in question by a neutral third party. These forces need to be capable of controlling and combating the Palestinian terror attacks, but also need to make sure that Israeli forces get out and stay out of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and other regions. If a trusted third party could assure Israel of the security of its citizens while also easing the pressure on the Palestinians then, and perhaps only then, violence and tensions could ease enough to make negotiations a possibility.
Yesterday, President George W. Bush announced his intention to send Secretary of State Powell to the Middle East to encourage compliance with U.N. resolution 1402 and to attempt to broker a cease-fire and hopefully later, peace. But envoys and individual mediators have already tried and failed; one more won’t make a difference. Many are calling for Bush to take even more decisive action.
But sending U.S. troops to the region to act as this “third-party force” won’t work. The U.S. has already compromised itself too much in favor of Israel, and will never be trusted enough by the Palestinians and other Arab nations to effectively enforce this neutral, temporary occupation. The U.S. has the moral authority in its war on terror and should continue its battle against Bush’s correctly identified “axis of evil,” but sending occupying forces to Israel will only compromise this fight, not help it.
So who else can help?
The situation in the Mideast is a clear case for U.N. intervention if ever there was one. If President Bush has been criticized of late for his silence, what about Kofi Annan? Why should Bush be called upon to enforce the U.N.’s own resolution? It was the U.N. that helped create this situation in 1948, and now they must take the leading role in fixing it.
While they are far from perfect, secular, non-partisan United Nations troops are the best hope for providing a “neutral occupying force” that can bring the cease-fire required before any negotiations can begin. U.N. and E.U. officials can then continue their efforts at mediation, but only after they have secured the regions that will continue to compromise any peace efforts as long as they remain free for the Israelis and Palestinians to fight over. The U.N. is neither loyal to Israel nor to Palestine, but is instead, in theory at least, committed to peace. The idea of a temporary occupation may seem incompatible with peace in the short term, but if it brings an end to one of the world’s most violent situations in the long term, it will certainly be worth it.
Will this solution be ideal? Maybe not. But it would be a clear and constructive step, and this much is clear: as long as Israel and Palestine continue to show that they can’t cooperate in the land they co-inhabit, the land shouldn’t belong to either of them at all. All they need is a good “parent” to take it away until they can learn to share it nicely.
Meghan Clyne is a junior in Branford College.