Finding a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be our top priority today. Sadly, the Bush Administration has stood idly by as the conflict worsens. The cycle of violence continues and no one is taking any initiative to try to end it. It is as if we have thrown in the towel. That’s unacceptable. We have too much at stake.
If we can bring the two sides together, the U.S. would be a huge benefactor. We pump in billions of dollars annually over there (well over $100 billion in the last 30 years). If the conflict were resolved, that would no longer be necessary.
Resolving the conflict would also eliminate the reasons for many who hate us now. We are hated by many, who see us not as brokers for peace, but as contributors to the problem. Therefore, putting an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would also be a tremendous step in our battle against terrorism.
Obviously, if we can get a grip on the terrorism problem then we will save billions, perhaps trillions of dollars. You don’t have to be an economist to see how costly our war on terror has been so far--- the impact on federal, state and local governmental budgets. The impact on our economy.
So, how do we bring the two sides together? Many say it’s impossible. I say we have to find a way.
First, we have to get tough. We set a date for all concerned parties to meet. They will show up if we insist on it. The leaders representing each side should be that particular side’s decision only. They probably won’t like that. We probably won’t like some of the individuals who would show up, either. Nevertheless, that’s the way it should be.
The other stipulation going in is that no one leaves the meeting place until an agreement is reached. That’s right --- no one leaves until it gets done. If it takes 5 days, 5 months, or a year, so be it.
I’m a firm believer in that if you set this condition, the job will get done. People might yell and scream at one another, but eventually, they’ll get tired of seeing each other. They will get past the stumbling blocks.
Of course, one side could pack it in and just leave. That would make the finger-pointers happy. The others could say they “agreed to stay,” and then “left.” The party leaving would then have to explain to the closely-watching world why they walked out. I just think the pressure would be too great, because if you say you are going to stay, and don’t, then you lose your credibility, and sympathy. All sides, if they’ve been conscientious about anything so far, they have been very conscientious about p.r..
Once a date and meeting place is set, our role then would be to prod, offer suggestions, and offer reasonable support for enforcing an agreement. The details of what is to be included territorially in a Palestinian state, the Palestinian refugee problem and Israeli security concerns must all be addressed in any final agreement. Our support would come in economic assistance to both sides (a worthwhile investment).
The U.N. would also likely have to play a role by maintaining a peace-keeping force in key border areas for an agreed upon length of time.
No matter what the agreement will look like, there will be people on both sides who won’t like it. The extremists will seek to destroy it. So, even when an agreement is finally reached, the Middle East must remain a focal point.
We must make a genuine attempt to bring about peace. The alternative is to follow a path that leads us to a place unknown with the only certainty being pain and suffering accompanying us as we travel.