The Palestine Solution

15 01 2009

I look on at the tragedy unfolding in Gaza with a mixture of deep sorrow and outrage – as I imagine many others do as well. Sorrow that violence and suffering appear to have become not the exception, but the expected norm on both sides, although clearly the suffering disproportionately felt by the Palestinians. Outrage  that the elected leaders on both sides continue to let down their own people by perpetuating demonstrably flawed ideologies and policies.

It has gotten to the point where I believe many don’t even see a solution to Israel/Palestine conflict as a possibility any more. But there is a solution. In fact, there’s not just one solution, but hundreds, even thousands of solutions.

The caveat is that ‘solution’ here means a proposal whereby both sides can benefit, and over time come to live in peace.  An ‘objective solution’, if you will. Many have already been proposed. And there are undoubtedly many more left unexplored.

However, an ‘objective solution’ isn’t necessarily one that both sides will accept. And that’s the great tragedy. Obstinacy on both sides of the conflict are preventing any solution from sticking.

This means the solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict is not a material one. It’s a psychological one. Finding the solution isn’t just a matter of tweaking the variables, it’s a matter of convincing the players involved to accept it.

Yet, sadly, a Venn diagram representing the sets of proposals acceptable by Israelis and Palestinians don’t overlap.

But all is not lost. Summits might seem like more pointless tweaking of the variables. But summits do foster one essential ingredient to a psychological solution: trust. However, that’s only the first step. The next step is for the respective leaders to gain the trust of their own people, and convince them that the solution is good for them.

Only then will a solution stick. Any lasting solution cannot be purely top-down; it cannot begin and end at a summit. It must be bottom-up; it must come from the will of the people themselves.

So, while a solution might seem hopeless in light of recent developments, it’s never entirely hopeless. The Israel/Palestine conflict is fundamentally a psychological one. And psychology is malleable.

The only potential barrier to a psychological solution in my eyes is the role of religion in the conflict. Religion has a knack for galvanising thinking and stifling any possibility of change. We can only hope that humanity will prevail – after all, that’s what religion is supposed to promote.

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