Problem Solvers

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"Problem Solvers"

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Jonathan Zasloff offers the futility argument with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

All those who insist that the United States should “solve” the problem should explain how. And if they can’t do that, then maybe they should take some quiet time.

I think that would be an appealing solution to a lot of people who have no real desire to try to sit in delicate judgment weighing the moral balance between a Hamas movement that seems indifferent to human life, and an Israeli government that’s lashing out brutally as part of a domestic political drama. But as long as Israel is by far the largest recipient of US foreign assistance funds and by an even larger margin the largest per capita recipient of US foreign assistance funds, then I don’t see how “quiet time” is a realistic option. Israel is not a poor country; our financial backing for them is not a humanitarian gesture the way that funds spent on Malawi or Guatemala might be. Our aid to Israel is a strategic commitment to an allied country in a troubled region of the world and a region where, among other things, the United States is concerned about the low esteem in which we are held by the local population.

Under the circumstances, throwing up our hands and saying “it’s too hard!” isn’t an option. We can decide we don’t want to be involved, which would mean unwinding the ties of collaboration and assistance between the US and Israel, or we can try to play a constructive role in bringing an end to the conflict. I’m not personally sure of how you do that. But I’m quite certain that the first step would be pressing Israel — hard — to stop expanding settlements in the West Bank and start dismantling them. To show to Palestinians interested in a two-state solution (perhaps including some Hamas people or perhaps not) that there’s credibility on the other side. I think Israelis wouldn’t welcome such action by us, but ultimately it would be in their own best interests. On the other hand, those who really do think the best thing for the United States is to just wash our hands of the whole mess have an obligation to really stand behind that belief and urge us to wash our hands of the situation. But just proclaiming a pox on both houses while in practice heavily subsidizing one side isn’t a viable option.

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