It may be supposed that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians still want some form of equitable peace arrangement to exist between them. Yet 66 years or thereabouts have passed without so much as the faintest glimpse of anything like it, not even on the most distant horizon.
And now the umpteenth negotiating session is showing the usual signs of coming apart at the seams and the only option left for any of us is to stand by and watch while it happens.
Why hasn’t peace arrived on the scene well before now? What is taking so long and can anything be done to speed up a process so moribund that a slab in a morgue rather than a negotiation table seems a more fitting place upon which to find it?
The answer may be found in two common assessments:
1. Such has been the fundamental and diametrically opposed positions taken by each side that no power on earth can ever reconcile them to a future where they can coexist together in relative peace and harmony.
2. Everyone has grown accustomed to the status quo and the constant failure to make real headway in resolving the situation. So much so that any move away from it has become nothing but a forlorn hope, growing ever dimmer as one disappointing outcome gives way to the next.
And yet the powers-that-be would have it thus: If the combatants can just get together and, with a bit of give and take here and there, sort out their major differences, then all will be well and they can live happily ever after from thereon in.
The naivety of such a policy has been exposed time and time again. It simply does not work that way with human beings and it never will. As has been shown throughout our long and chequered history, most of us do not function well in an atmosphere of complete understanding and tolerance toward our fellow-man. We always need someone to blame, to hate when things go seriously wrong, to fight and rail against, to conquer and defeat. To deny this element in our nature is utter folly.
“To the last I grapple with thee; from Hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.” … Herman Melville, Moby Dick.
And this guy was annoyed by a mere sperm whale, though ‘monstrous big.’ Just imagine the intensity of that hatred if Moby Dick had been human instead. Now imagine what might be required to calm down and divert all that pent-up rage and simmering thirst for vengeance.
Give two groups of people a common enemy with which to fight and any long-term enmity between them is soon forgotten or very quickly placed on the proverbial back-burner. Then make sure that same enemy is their very own selves and you’ll be amazed at how quickly peace, in one form or another, descends upon all and sundry.
But how to make an enemy of oneself? Tricky, of course – but not so impossible that it can’t be done.
So, will newspaper headlines ever read ‘ Middle East conflict over: All outstanding issues transferred to permanent arbitration; hostilities end.’
I guess it still depends on who really wants to write tomorrow’s page.