A ll people hope for a life of peace. Where the differences arise are over the definition of peace and the ways of achieving it.
Even in the 100 Years War (temporary name) between the Jews and Arabs in Israel, everyone wants peace – and frustration over the lack of peace keeps on growing. This frustration stems from the supplanting of hope – a positive and natural entity for every human being – with expectation. Just as a person hopes to stay healthy and alive, he doesn’t give up hope even though he knows that he’ll die one day.
But the health and pharmaceutical industries, and commercialized academia, turn natural hope into artificial expectation. On a nearly daily basis, the media comes out with some report about a “new cure for cancer.” Consequently, anyone hearing this expects to be cured should he ever suffer the misfortune to get cancer. And then when the cure does not materialize, expectation is replaced by a desperate disappointment. This can then push the patient to reject all that medicine still has to offer, and instead go chasing after all kinds of charlatans and soothsayers, and alternative medicines that cannot offer him any real benefit.
The people behind the peace industry have done exactly the same thing to all lovers of peace. They converted hope into expectation. And as this expectation goes unfulfilled, people desperately seek solutions where there are none.
The frustration also derives from an erroneous diagnosis of the conflict.
The basic premise held by a majority of those engaged in seeking solutions to the Israeli-Arab conflict is that this is a territorial conflict. Two peoples fighting over one land. Thus, the proposed solutions are all based upon a division of the land.
Misdiagnosing the problem
It’s as if someone had a sore throat and high fever, and the doctor checks their throat and quickly diagnoses bacterial tonsillitis and prescribes some penicillin – because that usually solves the problem. But if the disease doesn’t clear up, the doctor will examine the patient again and prescribe another type of antibiotic, on the assumption that the bacteria in the patient’s throat are not susceptible to penicillin. This should do the trick. And if not, the doctor will go on trying a third, fourth and fifth type of antibiotic, indefinitely – until the patient finally kicks the bucket.
But a reasonable doctor should stop and think: Why? And the likely answer is: misdiagnosis. Because if it’s not a bacterial infection, there’s no use expecting antibiotics to cure the disease.
In our case, the supporters of dividing the land – who assume they are trying to resolve a territorial dispute – will not drop such efforts even after countless failures, and do not pause to reconsider their basic assumptions. They just keep trying one more formula, one more map, one more territorial division, in order to solve a conflict that isn’t what they think it is.
This war is a religious war. A clash between conflicting ideologies. Part of the “clash of civilizations” famously described by political scientist Samuel Huntington. And no border drawn on a map is going to solve such a conflict. Such wars have been going on for a thousand years in the Balkans, between Muslims and Christians. Such wars have been ongoing for 1,300 years between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims. Even a thousand geographical partitions won’t solve these conflicts.
The conflict is religious not only because of fundamentalist Islam, for whom the Land of Israel will forever be “waqf” land that every Muslim is commanded to liberate from the infidels who rule it. It is also a religious war because the Jewish people that returned to their homeland did so not by virtue of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the 1920 League of Nations mandate or the 1947 UN Resolution. Our right to the land, David Ben-Gurion stated before the 1936 Peel Commission, stems from the Bible.
You can call it a bilateral religious war. It does have territorial aspects, of course: it is a war for every hilltop and every home. But these are the symptoms, not the causes, of the disease.
Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The thousands of people involved in the “peace industry” – many of them genuine, but also many with a vested interest who’ve made this industry a source of livelihood, publicity and fame – are cultivating a messianic level of expectations among different groups of people.
And they do not want to reexamine, or are incapable of reexamining, what has become their life’s work. They propose that we try once again to divide the land. Even though all previous attempts ended with more bloodshed than the time before.
It is not the latest Knesset election, or the critical mass of Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, that has brought the two-state solution to an impasse. It was an illusion from the start. Tens of thousands of Jews, and God knows how many Arabs, have already paid for it with their lives.
Managing the conflict
Some of the most common diseases – like diabetes and hypertension – still have no cure. But they can be treated. If we cannot resolve the conflict, we can at least manage it – but only if we adjust our expectations accordingly. We can lower the flame, reduce the bloodshed.
Those who keep insisting upon the “two-state solution” should remember that the Palestinians already have a state. “Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan, and anyone who says otherwise is a traitor,” declared the late King Hussein. The Hashemite kingdom spans three-quarters of the “national home” that was promised to the Jewish people in the Balfour Declaration and given as a mandate to Britain for the establishment of this Jewish national home. Seventy percent of Jordanian citizens identify as Palestinians. The division of the land has already been done.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan – like most of the artificial products of post-World War I colonialism – is likely to get swept up in the storms of the “Arab Spring.” Then there will be a Palestinian state east of the Jordan River. Perhaps controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood or the Islamic State. But a Palestinian state, nonetheless.
Israel must apply its legal jurisdiction in Judea and Samaria. The Arabs who live in this territory will be residents of the Jewish state (Israel) and citizens of the Palestinian Arab state (Jordan) – as proposed by the 1947 UN Special Committee on Palestine. Differentiation between citizenship and residency. This may not be an ideal situation in the minds of those who recognize only a single, ultra-liberal form of democracy. But it is a formula that will ensure the existence of both Israel and a Palestinian state.
Certainly, the Palestinians would not achieve all their wishes by adopting such a formula. That can only be achieved when Israel is wiped off the map. But since we have other plans, perhaps they ought to try this medicine. Even if it does not bring peace – because religious wars tend not to end – it could bring many years of calm.
The writer is a Professor in Plastic Surgery and an expert in the treatment of burns. He is a retired brigadier general, served as commander of the IDF Medical Corps and was a member of the Knesset for 10 years in the National Union faction.