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Friday, April 09, 2010

Israeli Peace?

If you're like me, you can't remember a time in your adult life when there wasn't talk about conflict in the Middle East, terrorism in Israel, and issues with the Palestinians. It's seemed that Israel has faced an ongoing, and perhaps unresolvable conflict with the Palestinians. This has resulted in much pain for people who live in that part of the world. For those of us who don't, I suspect it has caused much confusion.

Americans in general probably don't give much thought to what's going on in Israel. When Iraq lobbed SCUD missiles at Israel years ago, we probably thought it was rather interesting. But few of us common Americans probably saw any real significance in that act. If anything, we might have asked ourselves why the United States has to get involved in so many conflicts everywhere else.

I visited Israel on business a few years ago, and stayed over an extra weekend to explore and try to understand all that is Israel. I went to Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory, rode the buses, shopped in the markets, talked to locals and really learned a great deal. Perhaps the first lesson I had to learn though was on the ride from the airport in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The taxi driver asked if I wouldn't mind taking an alternate route because there were snipers on the freeway!

Clearly the ongoing conflict in Israel is costly to the Israeli's in more ways than one. It's also costing American taxpayers a lot of money. Since 1971 U.S. aid to Israel has averaged $2.6 billion each year. This money is used for military and other defense expenses. Israel is said to have the single most sophisticated (and powerful) military strength in the region --- thanks to the United States.

In recent years, the United States through its U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provides over $800 million a year in development aid to the West Bank and Gaza—more than USAID provides anywhere else in the world except Afghanistan and Pakistan. Do you know who lives in the West Bank and Gaza? The Palestinians who are fighting with Israel!

One of the questions I've always had is how Israel got into this mess in the first place. If you look at some history of both Israel and Palestine, a simple read on Wikipedia alone will leave you in dizzying confusion. See ( and ( respectively. On the whole, my own personal conclusion is that the United Nations implemented a "solution" which only the Jews agreed to at the time. It seems that the rest of the entire Middle East (the Arabs) vehemently disagreed with the U.N.'s initiative to carve out a Jewish state. And that problem has never been resolved.

Now some of the dispute issues are major and significant. Others are minor and frankly, stupid. But both sides seem to see the definition of peace as perhaps the absence of conflict. If the conflict goes away, for example, peace would ensue. Is that really true? Or does peace come about when we give up our right to be right, and are willing to let the other party be wrong?

There are Palestinian (Arabs) living in modern-day Israel. There are modern-day Jews living in Palestinian territory. It would seem that if both sides laid down their swords, each could be its own recognized state, allowing the people to live alongside each other ... Jews in Palestine and Arabs in Israel.

Ironically, this is how they live together in the U.S. today ... both side-by-side in the same state ... living peaceably with each other. Why is such a proposition not possible in the Middle East? Perhaps it's simply the principle of the matter. Perhaps it's because the U.N. didn't cast that sort of a vision in the first place. What was the original intent of the Jews? Was it to live side-by-side with the Arabs in the same state?

I don't have the answers to the questions when it comes to Israel. But I'm coming to the conclusion that Americans should care more about this than they do. It would seem to me that this conflict could ultimately escalate into the next world war. And then, of course, all Americans will care a great deal about it.

Unfortunately, it isn't clear to me that the U.S. has been on the right side of morality here. And that may explain why we are now funding both sides of the conflict. So what are we to do with that?

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