Monday, July 17, 2006

World: U.S. should show leadership, and Israel should get out.

My kids were arguing about something. As usual, one was playing with something the other one “owned”; the owner saw that and decided to have it, snatched it away, and it escalated from there. As you’d expect. It doesn’t stop until there’s major hurt on both sides – or a parent intervenes. Sometimes both parents are drawn in.

In trying to unravel the knot, I often start with the older one, because she’s more advanced, and has better tools (for understanding and doing) at her grasp. I always explain to them in what way they’re each in the wrong. Despite “ownership”, it’s still not really the right thing to do to snatch something back. And that hitting is right out. Still, I have to repeat the message, because they’re only kids.

If it gets to the point where a parent has to intervene, it may cause upset for some time afterwards.

There’s no excuse for Israel to occupy the left bank, nor for their settlements in occupied territory. Israel has the strongest war-making capacity anywhere in the region, and has successfully defended itself on multiple fronts - without the slightest impact on its integrity as a state.

This situation has festered, and will keep festering. Why? Because Israel’s voters are too split to vote for a leadership that can do anything but fight. And Israel is bankrolled by the US, so has no particular financial incentive to resolve. And US politicians are beholden to the Jewish vote, and nobody has enough leadership or stature or will to separate support for the state of Israel from support for Zionism.

Israel can defend itself, and most (not all) of the antagonism and violence will just evaporate if Gaza and the Left Bank is evacuated. But there is nothing in sight to break the deadlock. (My freind Mark drew a powerful analogy: that they are like an intertwined helix. You cannot damage the other without damaging yourself.)

Surprisingly, a start was made by former Israel PM Ariel Sharon, who is now out of the picture. Not only did he get out of Gaza, but he took the Israeli settlements out too. Maybe our only hope is from someone else from the far right who sees sense. Nobody from the left could get away with it, because the right would rise up.

Why should we care? Because it brutalises us all. And the spillovers directly affect us – this conflict is directly responsible for the rise of Islam extremism (all other grievances added together wouldn’t create such a critical mass of ferment.) And if, like a few people, you only ever vote in your own financial interest, well this affects you too, because the latest escalations have detonated oil prices afresh.

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