3 thoughts on “Israel-U.S.-Palestinian Talks a ‘Disappointment’ – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. So the talks between Condi and Messrs Abbas and Olmert have thrown up only the promise of yet more ‘talks.’ I can hardly wait for the sequel. Of course, jaw-jaw is invariably preferable to war-war but we all know that ‘talking,’ just by itself, won’t swing it, no way, never, not in a million years. What’s needed here is a repair mechanism with much better long term prospects.

    Tikun Olam: ‘to repair the world.’

    One school of thought has it that the Earth is already possessed of its own unique repair system, a vindication of the so-called Gaia philosophy. No matter what deleterious aspects emerge from the trials and tribulations so often visited upon the planet, its own inbuilt maintenance program will somehow rectify matters – eventually. Although it may involve the passage of centuries, even millennia, balance gets to be restored and the problems are either absorbed into the biosphere or purged from it.

    The depredations of mankind are, of course, a little more insistent and much more difficult to counteract. Here time is not always an ally. Matters can and do get worse before they get better. And ‘better’ is never guaranteed.

    It may well be axiomatic that every malfunctioning machine can be fixed, given enough time and resources. Over my many years as an engineer I’ve certainly fixed thousands of them, broken a fair few too it must be said. The World we inhabit today offers its own special challenge in this regard. We can either fix it or we can break it some more. Unfortunately there’s no instruction manual to hand, no circuit diagrams, no self-diagnostic software. Apparently we’re all having to make it up as we go along. Amazing really that we’ve survived this far.

    If that survival is to progress much further then maybe there is a need for our very own version of Gaia, – preferably one with a fast-track option. Then a real possibility of repair, even of improvement exists. ‘Purging’ our problems in all the various time-honoured ways has yet to produce any lasting solution. Unless you regard ‘talks’ about ‘talks’ as an end in itself.

    Maybe it’s time we looked towards ‘absorption’ as the more viable alternative.

    Can it really be beyond the compass of the human mind to at least regulate this constant cycle of carnage in the Middle East? 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 conflict. 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 – and 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 sides’ 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 magnitude? Who would accept the awesome responsibility entailed in decisions of this significance?

    We are all, it seems, as ever, still our brothers 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!

    John Yorke

  2. Holy Moley. That’s way too deep for me.

    Seems to me the failure of the talks was a foregone conclusion when the U.S., prior to their inception, endorsed Israel’s non-acceptance of the Palestinian unity government.

    We didn’t have to do this. Certainly the position of the Palestinian government now vis a vis peace with Israel is regressive compared with that of the earlier Fatah government. But the fact that there IS a unity governmnet, i.e. that the Palestinians can speak with one voice, means that there is a real negotiating partner that can speak for most, if not all, factions. Furthermore, we all know that there are moderate as well as radical voices within Hamas, and that the majority of the Palestinian people favor a two state solution with exchange of territory.

    A dedicated diplomat could find a lot to work with here. If we had taken the bold step of recognizing the Palestinian government – or found a formula in which recognition came in the context of progress at the negotiating table – we might have broken the impasse.

    Unfortunately, both the Bush and the Olmert governments are struggling to keep their heads above water, and it doesn’t look like either is going to make any bold moves – though you could also argue that bold moves are the only thing that could save them.

  3. Hello Andrew (and Richard),

    Thank you your comments. All very valid, of course, but are they ever likely to improve the situation substantially? It’s doubtful; certainly not over the short term.

    The old saying, ‘Talk is cheap’ holds doubly true when politicians do it. After all, it’s always the long-suffering taxpayer (i.e. you, me and several millions of others) who get to pick up the tab.

    I wouldn’t mind so much if only the results reflected some of that enormous outlay. But how often does that happen? Rarely, if ever.

    ‘Life is also cheap.’ It has to be for the ones doing the killing. That’s one of the ways they can justify it.

    Land, however, is never cheap. Even the most infertile, unpromising scrap of ground has its own intrinsic value to someone. Whether it’s global, national, economic or tribal, some sort of attachment or ownership is felt for even the smallest part of this planet.

    Tie that into the very first piece of mathematics we all encounter on our way into this world and you have a formula that guarantees the 100% cessation of violence in the Middle East. Quite an achievement in itself. It even holds out the promise of much more to come.

    The justification for conflict vanishes overnight and those engaged in it must then find some other means of pursuing their objectives.

    Of course, it you are prepared to leave all these matters in the hands of the politicians, you are free to do so.

    Just don’t expect any miracles too soon.


    John Yorke.

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