As another round ends you can argue that a new one begins. In a recent class I taught about the latest round of the conflict that led to Operation Protective Edge I asked the question, “When did this round begin?” The answers ranged from: with the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenage boys, with the death of the Arab boy, with Operation Brother’s Keeper, with the riots in the streets. However, I would argue that this most recent round began at the end of Pillar of Defense in 2012. For as soon as one round ends in the conflict raging in Israel and Gaza another one begins.
Of course it isn’t fighting or rockets per say, it is more planning, rearming, and holding ones breath for the fighting to begin again. The most damning component every time though of the new “round” is the world’s insistence on picking up negotiations from where they left off before the conflict became “hot” again. The willful desire on the part of the world to ignore the chapters of fighting as though they are blips on the maps that have not festered old wounds that have never closed overlooks the very real need for healing. The world cannot just pick up with the word peace as if war had not just finished, as if Oslo were alive and well. The 1990’s are two decades ago and has been on a road to ruin for most of that time; the landscape has changed and the politicians need to wake up to new realities. Israel being forced back to a negotiating table through economic blackmail and world support will not bring about peace, nor will negotiating with Hamas, a terrorist organization who is unwilling to now or ever recognize that Israel has a right to exist.
Nevertheless, that is exactly what the United States and the United Nations are expecting. The real question isn’t how to get people back to a table for talks that are ineffective but how to get two peoples across two borders to a point where they are able to coexist on the same planet as neighbors without experiencing another “round” of fighting.
Westerners are so idealistic in their world view that we think there is only one way to solve this problem and that is through peace. This idea of a cumbaya moment where all sides of the conflict will hold hands and agree not to kill each other anymore has overshadowed logic. Let’s be frank, this is completely and wholly unrealistic. It might be time for the world to wake up out of its childlike stupor and admit there are other ways for people to not kill each other. A better approach might be tolerant coexistence. Not tolerant as has become fashionable in the western liberal society where you are open minded of everyone’s differences, but tolerant in the old fashioned Joseph II; I will tolerate your existence and not hurt you kind. Is it ideal? No. Is it better than having a war every few years? Yes. In a world where military commanders are pessimists and diplomats are optimists we have to find the realists willing to pave new ground willing to accept that tolerance is not as good as peace, but is far better than war and is good enough and as a world we might have to live with good enough.