Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Two State Solution: From Vapor to Concrete


Ditch the diplomats, start with philosophy, then let the engineers solve it.
When the parties are so stuck on the “little” they can’t get started on the “big,” much less figure out the rest of it, it's time to change the game.


First, what exactly does that word mean?

Well, this awkward term implies a new synergy between the three tools already in our kit when it comes to finally making headway with the Palestinian-Israel debacle. The idea here is to create a new, three pronged approach with components from our great, Twenty-First Century strengths: new philosophy, new diplomacy and new engineering.

Don’t quit now. We promise not to use that troubling term too often. However, the idea behind it is important.

The Three Legged Stool:

The stalemate in the middle eastern matter seems to have a different obstacle in each of those three areas.

First, the philosophical problem. The thinking to date has been one seeking a “fantastic breakthrough” originating from an astonishingly simple, painless tweeking of minute details. Should anyone of the parties have stumbled on that sort of solution, such a statesman or diplomat would have been instantly heralded as a “great modern thinker,” or even, “a 21st Century Gandhi.”

All those with the ambition of being heralded as such, well, haven’t been. None of those astonishingly brilliant solutions has materialized into anything more compelling than an ongoing toothache. We can’t say for certain that no fantastic solution exists, but history suggests that maybe we need to move on. The longer the thing remains static, the more hopeless it seems to be.

The First Leg: Philosophy

The premise here is that the promise of solving the dilemma won’t come from something “tweeky” and clever, but rather from something philosophical and shocking. There is already a landfill full of blood and misery from attempts in the past. Everything previously discarded is there -- except any progress.

The “philosophical component” is the adoption of a new realism. The inter party enmity is nothing superficial. The consequences are intolerably perpetual and serious. The cost in both money and almost everything else is outrageously extravagant. (Disagree? Throw in Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, the US economy...)

Cheap little attempts at solutions, attractive because they are cost effective, painless, unilateral or for some other specious reason, amount to little more than, of course, “lipstick on a pig.” This toothache needs a big, bold, confident kind of philosophical turning point to get things moving. The system needs a good shock.

The Second Leg: Diplomacy

The proposal submitted here considers diplomacy as a different priority than its present “lantern leader” status of the moment. The philosophical quandary has continued to shove diplomats into tantrum parties so intense that not even their proffered details can so much as catch the attention of the screamers. There have been a few exceptions, but those were more the product of exhaustion than any particular interest in moving toward a bright new day.

The diplomats need to stay at the ready, but in a back room for the moment. Their craft might actually, finally produce some startlingly tangible results in this scenario, but only when applied at the right time in the process. There are plenty of astonishing successes on the table, or, at least, there will be soon enough.

The Third Leg: Engineering

All engineering projects are a dutifully cautious mix of money and technology, two great strengths of modern culture which have been entirely omitted from any solutions to the Palestinian-Israeli question. Most operative money matters have amounted to relief shipments, illegal weapons business and naval blockades. The technology in play so far has been limited to homemade rockets, the formidable Israeli military machine and Masad’s equally formidable intelligence penetration capabilities.

Hardly the best and highest use of modern economic or technological assets.

Could modern engineering and a reallocation of costs already committed suggest a more positive approach? You bet! Could that application ever extend itself to an actual, compelling, on-the-ground, political, philosophical, diplomatic engineering solution?

The stage is set for a, you guessed it, NEOPHILODIPLONEERING PLAN!

A Quick Recap of the Present Dilemma:

One of the reasons that the “two state” idea has never generated much traction deals precisely with what the two states would look like if there ever were, actually, two states. Peace isn’t too likely so long as one of the two states is a perpetually isolated basket case where ships cannot dock and citizens cannot come and go as they please -- conditions which would be required for any sort of successful economy and culture.

Gaza is essentially a Warsaw ghetto with one side wet in the Mediterranean. The West Bank is a scrappy little spot hemmed in by Israel and Jordan, another ghetto with one side wet in the nearly dry Jordan River. Does Israel really intend to set the price of peace so high that its preconditions are that all its partners be desperate urchins surviving only by UN food relief? No paranoia can be great enough to ever propose that such a solution could eventually foster a calm, productive neighbor.

Philosophically, this may present an “unexamined maxim.” Philosophically, it’s time to reattach all thoughts to a solution, leaving old style minutia such as history and vengeance behind. Diplomatically, a cessation of rocket fire and uninterrupted relief shipments are hardly ambitions which are foundations of real accomplishments ten years from now. Too small, low return, too temporary. They may look appealing at the moment, but the situation calls for more. Much, much more. As for economic and technological efforts, well, no one has seemed very interested in the proposition that poor, starving, hopeless people almost automatically get desperate enough to fight.

The thing has gone on long enough that most observers simply conclude that the will for better days isn’t even there anymore with either party. To complicate matters, there are some really unpleasant players with a “dog in the fight.” Those with a “dog in the fight” continually try to convince the reasonable people in the world that everything is so complicated that no comprehensive or comprehensible solution is even imaginable, much less possible.

Who has a “dog in the fight?”

American politics, historically overweight already with Jewish lobby pac money, has always been able to “jump the polls” a point or two with chest beating epithets about defending Israel. Wing nut fundamentalists who are counting on a final explosion to signal the end of the world incessantly pump biblical evangelical drama into the mess. Oil companies and other resource extractors who yearn for an entirely controllable oil field along with various other bottom feeders who, for example, sell real estate to the Saudis seem to think that they appear a little more stable when they can be compared to Hezbollah, although the differences fade a bit in the larger picture of ruthlessness, greed and power avarice.

It seems that current efforts at resolving the conflict are “targeted” at overwhelming the violent factions. However, bombings and incursions appear to make little lasting difference. It is becoming dismally clear that these approaches will probably never produce the calm, prosperous results everyone claims to seek when they start them. Any effective new plan will need some other, more persuasive mechanism at its heart. Mature states in modern times realize that the Law of Threefoldness seriously questions the exclusive ideas of either dominating or surviving. With or without the philosophy, the ongoing record of such a pathetic, self-defeating mindset may be evidence enough.


The Israelis have already, for whatever reasons, done some serious “heavy lifting” on the philosophical shock side of the affair. Relinquishing control of Gaza, no matter how incomplete, was a shocking philosophical accommodation. One executed at a very high price.

This solution will require another such action, possibly at a lesser but still shocking price. One more contribution on the part of the Jewish state will be required.

In challenging moments all through history an interesting gambit of rulers and governments continues to reappear. When things started to get tough, they built roads! Following along those historical lines, this answer has more to do with civil engineering than numbed out, moribund philosophy or arcane, breakthrough style, ineffective diplomacy. It’s time for the State of Israel to build a road! One which will carry at its core a new philosophy and a new diplomacy, all mounted on the back of some great new 21st Century technology!

Details of Some New, Shocking Possibilities:

The new highway will run from the West Bank to Gaza, across Israel. The right of way territory, perhaps a mile wide, will be perpetually ceded to the United Nations. Somewhere along the route will be provisions for a city where Arabs and Jews can peacefully trade everything except offensive weapons. The Corridor Zone will be permanently manned by peace keeping troops with the authority to defend UN territory and monitor the goods transiting through the new territory.

We would be copying at least the more constructive parts of that old Soviet idea from Germany. The new arrangement wouldn’t be too dissimilar to the Berlin Corridor we had so much fun with during Eisenhower’s airlift. After everything is in place, the now isolated Palestinian states would be connected.

The new, unified Palestinian state would have a Mediterranean sea port in Gaza and a UN supervised trading city to share with Israel. The beginning of a viable Palestinian state would be at hand. The misery inducing hodgepodge of what presently exists there might seem less desirable to Palestinian nationalists. At least in the beginning, other Arab states in the region would find the new road an opportunity to reintegrate the Gaza population economically and socially.

Such a freeway would almost certainly separate Israel into northern and southern sections. Yet, having already “kissed the girlfriend” by embracing technology for the West Bank -- Gaza Corridor, the Israelis, never bashful about innovative progress, could certainly solve the problem with tunnels or some other approach.

Three Cross Country Alignments:

Where should the new Corridor Zone be placed? There are some general suggestions, but those involved will inevitably resolve all the exact details. One feature of the system acting in favor of the proposal is the proximity of everything. The length of the Corridor Zone, measured in actual miles, will probably be less than the distance from San Diego to Lahoya.

Route One: The Southern Border with Egypt

If this location were selected, Egypt might be willing to contribute half of the right of way. The international zone of the Corridor would begin its life as territory ceded over to UN sponsorship from two separate countries!

Running along the southern most part of the state of Israel would also place the new Corridor in territory with less than optimally valuable agricultural or industrial value.

Route Two: The Shortest Path Between Two Points

This route would be located at the shortest path between the West Bank and Gaza, of course, manipulated here and there when advantageous to Israel. This selection would consume some seriously valuable Israeli territory, but the limited length of the route might compensate for that. If this approach is chosen, the Palestinian - Israeli trade site might be a new city, one built in some favorable spot along the new highway.

Route Three: Include Jerusalem

Although unquestionably the most complicated choice, this approach really does solve several problems at once. Jerusalem would be ceded to the UN with the perpetual charter of open access to all. That holy city would become the new Berlin of the West Bank - Gaza Corridor Zone. It would also be the official site for Israeli Palestinian contact and commerce.

What a promising prospect! Maybe such a choice could end the wars fought over that place for good. All the religious people wishing to visit there would find the place much more civil under strict UN supervision. The International City status wouldn’t have to encompass the whole, sprawling place, either. So long as the principal religious areas and a suitable commercial facility were included, other matters could be worked out gradually.

Amazingly, maybe the best way to edge crazy, violent religion out of the mix is to inject it directly into the mix! Since zealot nut cases don’t want to cede Jerusalem to Jews or Palestinians (depending on which side they are standing...), maybe they can be persuaded to cede it to the UN. That is the job of the UN, working toward peace and prosperity without mindlessly creating new hordes of victims.

New Diplomacy After Solving the Incentive Problem:

Time to trot out all those diplomats who’ve been waiting in the back room. How could all this possibly work? Here is where the “shocking new philosophy” really comes home for dinner.

The diplomatic efforts to date have been misdirected. These diplomats have been sent into the maelstrom to negotiate with partners who lack the motivation to actually move forward. In Palestine, Hamas and Fatah constantly scrap about the destruction of the “800 pound gorilla” next door. In Israel progressives and conservatives are deadlocked over whether or not they should ever trust the Palestinians, even a little. All the outside players from the United States to Syria have been spending way too much time feeding the “dog they have in the fight.”

Diplomatic efforts have run into a brick wall. Unresolved philosophical problems have been able to sabotage every approach. “Small thinking” and violence has left the entire matter in constant turmoil. The fact is simple. People are much more likely to trust motivations than they are to trust people.

If the Corridor idea is immediately turned over to the diplomats, we can assume that they will immediately begin frenzied work on all the wrong things. In no time, the whole affair will probably start looking like aging dynamite in the parking lot of a firecracker factory again. That approach need not be taken.

Nope. It’s time for Israel to act unilaterally. Without any diplomatic consultation, thrash out the selected route, purchase the right of way and build the road bed. Of course, everyone will be watching.

Once that is completed, certainly amid all sorts of speculation as to the final purpose of such a giant undertaking, offer the whole works to the UN on the provision that some concrete “two state” solution progress be offered in return. The crazy appeal of Hamas might begin to fade rather quickly along with the sticks and stones chant of death to Israel. Mischievous Iran might find its trouble making ambitions staggered by a lack of interest. Motivations for peace and prosperity might start popping up all over the place. Even al Quaeda’s successful energy and recruitment parasitism might run into marketing problems.

Israel might find that the project has created sufficient incentive to barter for a real calm down in the region. When things taper off to an acceptable level of threat, lift the sea embargo. Put it all on the table. See if there isn’t enough incentive to work out the details once there is a real possibility of having a lasting arrangement of some kind. This is the proper use of diplomats.

A Much Brighter Future

Once things begin to take a turn for the better, all sorts of regional problems become solvable. The new, demilitarized Corridor will be wide enough for a high speed train. If West Bank commercial air carriers request it, a UN sponsored air corridor could be added above the highway route. Cooperation with this project might lead to advances in the relentless water and power problems in the region.

The cost, although substantial, would amount to far less than the recent wars with Hamas and Hezbollah. Maybe the United States could contribute now that we have a functioning State Department again. Israel’s public relation problem would certainly be laid aside once the plan gained traction.

Obama said it all. Governments are judged by what they build, not what they destroy.

For a comprehensive look at the Palestinian West Bank encompassing both history of current developments and an overview, Wiki is a good first choice:
For a similar look at the Gaza:
For a rundown on a few of the typical "dogs in the fight," take a look at the CIA Fact Book:

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