Can it really be beyond the compass of the human mind to at least regulate this constant cycle of conflict in the Middle East? Well, maybe it is – but here’s a suggestion for closure where the expenditure involved would seem to comprise mainly that of a few brain cells, a commodity we all have in plentiful supply.
This is a dry, almost antiseptic solution, perhaps a bit ‘clinical’ in its approach to the subject. It’s a formula-driven method which, somewhat perversely, derives an unexpected synergy from the very problem it seeks to address. Worked out by a German I met many years ago in Nurnburg. Very Germanic therefore, very direct – and, in its own fashion, arguably much more effective than many peace proposals floated in the past, proposals which have now long since sunk without trace.
Monitor events in the region, sample and evaluate those incidents involving violence and/or intolerance, even the quite minor ones. Place on record that which occurs and make a determination/estimation as to whether this side or that is deemed responsible. For instance, something happens; it was violent; it seemed deliberate; people were hurt; property was damaged – so on and so forth. This was judged at the time to be Israeli in origin – or it was Palestinian inspired. Can include a default option too – ‘perpetrated by person or persons unknown’ – if circumstances so dictate. Collate all this information and await the next sequence of bombs, bullets, whatever, that happens along. Do likewise with these and continue monitoring.
At some stage – a time limit, a points cut-off – the sampling process terminates and one of the entries thus catalogued is then randomly selected. Penalise the offending party here by conferring full ownership and title of some nominal area of land on its opposite number. One square kilometre should more than suffice, the transfer of which is formally recognised by the rest of the world – also acting as guarantor – even if only in the moral and legal sense. One of the much maligned UN resolutions perhaps?
The sampling process then re-engages and, assuming the violence continues unabated, a further parcel of land is thereby delineated and assigned to whoever. The area this covers would then be some 2 sq. km. Subsequent infractions might trigger another penalty; 4 sq. km. After that, it’s 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256 sq. km. . . . . . . . A natural progression; soon ramps up to some very serious real estate indeed.
The dynamic of the whole situation now changes markedly. Israelis, through violence and the like, would be seen to be promoting, even ratifying the Palestinian cause while, similarly, Palestinians might well be perceived as carrying forward and cementing the dream of a permanent Jewish homeland; prospects guaranteed to give even the most militant in either camp considerable pause for thought. ‘He brought home the other side’s bacon for them’ – quite possibly the least coveted obituary of martyr, soldier and politician alike. Very salutary though if a permanent end to these hostilities is ever to emerge from the present fog of contention.
Now, back there in Nurnburg, I felt that, as a theory, the concept had some small merit but little practical value. And I said as much to my German companion, detailing what I felt to be major obstacles in its path.
1. Too biased. The Israelis might go for it – the novelty alone makes it an idea worth exploring. Not so the Palestinians -and with some justification. Yes, this might lock down the violence – and appreciably so – but to what end? To preserve the status quo? To stifle any movement towards change or progress? Not entirely a welcome outcome where Palestinian interests are concerned.
The answer, apparently, is to acknowledge the objection and offer to take the system ‘off-line’ for one or two months. In that time slot, the whole question might readily be referred back to the field of battle – if calmer counsels have not prevailed in the interval.
2. Too easily sabotaged. Disaffected elements in both groups could easily overload the process, manufacturing spurious claims and stage-managing acts of violence. A futile endeavour therefore and not worth the effort.
Any halfway decent sampling technique should be more than adequate to discourage such activities. Those seeking to choreograph events could find their efforts ineffective, or worse still, counterproductive.
3. Wouldn’t it be imperative to obtain at least tacit approval from both principals in this matter? Given the long-standing enmity between them, acceptance of so radical a departure from familiar norms and customs of warfare seems doubtful in the extreme.
Curiously enough, agreement on the issue need not be a mandatory requirement here. In fact, both parties could initially ignore the whole procedure and continue on much as before. However, there comes a time when the areas of land so designated must reach something of a critical mass. At such a point, one side or the other might very well decide to go with what’s on offer. Holding such clear and universal title to any major tract of this much disputed territory might prove progressively more and more difficult to resist. Thereafter, further violence becomes increasingly untenable. Fighting against a conventional enemy is all very well – but when that enemy is also a mathematical construct, the numbers themselves soon begin to outweigh all other considerations.
4. But who could – or should – debate, decide, pronounce on changes of such profound significance? Who would accept the awesome responsibility entailed in decisions of this magnitude?
We are all, it seems, as ever, still our brother’s keeper. It must fall to us, the world community – or representatives thereof – to perform the deed. And, with such godlike powers theirs to command, the expectation is that there would be no great shortage of volunteers.
Now whether all this has any relevance as to our view of the Middle East today is, of course, debatable. But it would be well to note that, in our various dealings with the Angel of Death, any increase in our choices here must certainly be welcomed. A template capable of ending once and for all, not just this business but also others of an equally intractable nature, would go a long way towards making some sense out of all that’s happened – even if only as an intellectual exercise.
And if, for some reason, it didn’t work out, some unforeseen flaw in the design perhaps, well then, we could at least console ourselves with the knowledge that, in the final analysis, ….. we can always blame the Germans!