Debate Forum Left: 5/31/11

Give them stability or give them … you know.

By Ben Tompkins

Benjamin Tomkins

I’m not sure how a case can be made that President Obama calling for an independent Palestinian state, which is founded on the principles of security and respect for Israel and well organized autonomy, can possibly result in a less stable situation than currently exists in the Middle East.

OK, stop. Hear me out.

I can hear what a lot of people are saying in their heads right now. “You can’t just roll back borders to 1967 and create a Palestinian state because it will create a national wildlife preserve for terrorist organizations and anti-Zionist movements right in Israel’s backyard. You can’t. Everybody knows that.”
Well… then I guess that’s it. Let’s get back to playing the endless, pointless game of dodge ball in the Holy Land, because until you’re willing to pull your head out and start talking reasonably about the compromises that need to be made to ensure lasting peace in the Middle East, you’re just propagating the status quo.

What I love about President Obama is that more so than any other leader I’ve listened to, he has an understanding of the fact that the same general principles that apply to effecting personal change are the same principles that apply for effecting change on an international scale. It just takes a lot longer to institute changes because of all the people involved.

But at the end of the day, although the scale of the horrors and atrocities committed and the length of time it’s been going on are much greater, Israel and Palestine are essentially two alcoholic neighbors arguing over a property line. Individually, they are pretty reasonable and easy to talk to, but as soon as they start talking about each other, it turns into the Hatfields and the McCoys. Objectivity: destroyed.

Now sitting on the outside, you, me and the rest of the world can see what needs to happen. Israel and the Palestine are both going to have to A) get some freaking rehab and admit they have a drinking problem, B) commit themselves to a peaceful vision and C) set themselves to the task of executing that vision in a mutually respectful way. Ultimately, the resolution really is that simple. If you can keep the goal in your head, then all the difficulties and conflicts that arise from the process will all pale in the light of the larger, shared vision of the future. The problem of executing that vision, obviously, is the fact that the people involved are violent, belligerent alcoholics who hate each other.

So how do we get past that? Cue Mr. President.

Step 1: What America and the international community [need to] state frankly is what everyone already knows. A lasting state will involve two states for two peoples.
There’s your vision. He goes on to articulate the conditions of this state. Condition, really. Israel must be guaranteed security. OK. Now that we’ve got a vision, we can direct all our energy towards getting Israel and Palestine to accept it and start working towards it.

Step 2: When do we start?
The same time an alcoholic should go to rehab. Right now. Perhaps the thing I respect most about President Obama is his commitment to addressing problems immediately. He did the same thing with health care. If you know it has to be done, get started.

Step 3: Details. Where is the logical place for a Palestinian state?
That would be the same place Palestinians already are. The West Bank and Gaza. The West Bank is already heavily populated with Palestinians and has areas that are already independently governed by the Palestinian National Authority. Why are they there now? Because that’s where the Palestinians lived before Israel occupied them during…

the Six Day War in 1967.

It makes perfect sense, and frankly, it has always has. If you’re committed to the reality that lasting peace will only come with a permanent Palestinian state, that’s where you plonk it down.

Now, are the massive issues to be overcome in the application of this vision? Of course. Hamas. Transition of power. Etc., etc., etc. But I can tell you when the moment of truth in the process will come. At some point, someone’s going to blow something up. When that happens, they’re going to have to make a choice. Do we stand together against the violence, or do we revert to the status quo? I suppose that, as President Obama said, is “ultimately up to them.” To be or not to be. Personally, I think the potential rewards of undertaking the process far outstrip the stability of the current, hateful drone of the status quo.

This can be done, it should be done, and establishing a Palestinian state around the pre-1967 borders would best ensure the region’s future stability.

Benjamin Tompkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, CO.  He hates stupidity, and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue.

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