Beauty of Gray



Wednesday, March 20, 2002
 

Israel and Palestine


I haven’t posted anything on this subject before, because I didn’t feel that I had anything to add. It’s one of those cases where the conflict is actually fairly simple, it’s the resolution that’s tricky. And unless you have a novel idea for a solution, then pretty much everything that can be said has already been said, repeatedly. The discussion ends up quickly degenerating into an unproductive round of finger pointing, with each side blaming the other for atrocities, without making any progress.

For the record, before I get into my discussion, let me say that I mostly support Israel in the conflict. I think the decision to erect settlements in the occupied territories was wrong, and the settlers should be brought home as soon as possible, but for the most part think Israel has been dealing in good faith and is willing to sign a substantive peace agreement. On the other hand, the Palestinians (or at least their leadership), seems to have been negotiating in bad faith, cynically manipulating the peace process and public opinion, all the while continuing to accept, sanction, and support the horrible and despicable terrorist attacks on Israel.

But taking a step back and looking at how the situation could play out, it seems to me that there are really only three possible outcomes.

1. Maintaining the status quo—Israel maintains control of the disputed territory.
2. Sovereignity over Palestine territories is passed to a third party, most likely Jordan.
3. Control over Palestine is given to the Palestinians, and they form (or fail to form) their own state.

The first option is possible, but it hardly seems desirable for anyone involved. As long as Israel maintains control over the territories, it will provide an excuse for terrorism from the Palestinians and also serve as grounds for anti-Israeli propaganda among other Arab states and in the West. It’s also not a solution at all, merely a perpetuation of the current problem.

The second option is appealing to the US and Israel, since it pawns the problem of the Palestinians off onto someone else. What’s less clear is why someone else would want the Palestinians. Why would any country want to absorb a poverty stricken, violent, and dangerous minority that has nothing the offer economically? I’m also leery of this solution from a moral standpoint, since in the form it’s usually presented, one of the positive side effects is a brutal crackdown on the Palestinians by Jordan. So, basically, it’s a call for vicious oppression, but apparently this is OK since it wouldn’t damage US standing among other Arab nations? It’s getting someone else to do the dirty work that we feel it’s unacceptable, both morally and politically, to do ourselves.

Which brings us to the third option, which in my opinion is the only possible basis for a long term solution. There are two questions with this option. The first is whether there is any possible version of a Palestinian state, now or in the future, which would be better for Israel than the current occupation. And the second question is, if such a Palestinian state is possible, what is the best method to achieve that state, starting from the present situation?

The first question is the key to the current standoff. Israel believes that it’s security interests are best served by maintaining the occupation for now. To put it another way, they think the regular terrorist attacks on Israel are a lesser cost than what they’d face from a Palestinian state under Yasser Arafat on their border. This I’m not so sure of, although I’m really too far from the situation to be certain. But I don’t see that Palestine will ever be rich enough to seriously challenge Israel’s conventional armies. If they tried to set up artillery or rockets along the border, then Israel would have to take them out. This would keep hostilities going at a low level, but I’m not sure, if Israeli intervention was limited to that, whether there would be a ready supply of suicide bombers to attack Israel.

I think the argument here is different from that with al Qaeda, because there really is an immediate, tangible root cause here. Palestinian anger is fueled, not by vague things like poverty or cultural imperialism, but by the immediate experience of living under military occupation, and the regular deaths of Palestinians at Israeli hands, which are played up for PR purposes. If you take away these causes, then I think a lot of the terrorism would also go away. Palestinians would probably still hate Israelis, but they might not be so ready to kill themselves in a blaze of glory taking a few Israelis with them.

The other option, which appears to be what Israel is trying, is to topple Arafat from power, either by killing him or by attriting enough of his forces that he can no longer govern effectively. Then, in the aftermath, the more fluid situation might allow some solution to be reached. I can see two possibilities. The first would be a unilateral withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories (which would have to be accompanied by a withdrawal of settlers as well.) Then, hopefully the Palestinian factions would be too busy fighting amongst themselves to try anything, and by the time one took control, the new status quo would have taken root, and the only real issue would be Jerusalem. And while this might be a deal breaker in the conference room, I don’t know how strongly the average west bank Palestinian would feel about it, if the west bank itself was free and independent.

To me, this seems like the most promising option. The downside is that it prolongs the current hostilities until Arafat dies or is deposed, and who knows how long that would take. It would be nice for the US if some reasonable solution could be found more quickly. A similar unilateral withdrawal might work today, although Arafat is better situated to immediately start making demands for Jerusalem.

The second option would be to maintain the occupation but look the other way during the initial stages of the fight to succeed Arafat. Then, when the dust had begun to settle but the issue was still in doubt, Israel could strike a bargain with one of the factions, intervening on their side in the Palestinian Civil War in return for concessions such as control over Jerusalem and a cessation of terrorist activities. The problem with this solution is that it depends on the good faith of the Palestinians, and they would have no real reason to keep their word once they had achieved power.


Link posted by Doug Turnbull at 2:51 PM


 
March Madness


I’m back—I was off of posting for a while due a combination of too much work (bad) and too much basketball (good.) There are fewer games this weekend, but I’ll still probably be spending most of my time in front of a TV rather than in front of a monitors, just to warn the two dozen of you out there who might be checking the site.

Anyway, the first weekend of the NCAA was pretty much par for the course—meaning it was the best 4 days of sports in the year. Upsets, near upsets, a dizzying whirlwind of games at all times, and the added allure of the office pool.

Now, on the second weekend, the cream rises to the top, and 90% of the time the Cinderellas fade away and the big boys take the center stage. While my bracket is totally shot (only 5 of 16 teams correct), I do still have all 4 of my Final Four teams still playing. Those are, of course, the four teams which were clearly head and shoulders above the rest of the field—Maryland, Duke, Kansas, and Oklahoma. And these are still the teams to beat.

While anything could happen, of the four only Kansas and Oklahoma look to face serious challenges, and those are coming up in their third round games. My team, Illinois, while not as talented as Kansas, matches up very well with them. The Illini have the size and strength to play straight up in the frontcourt, and play good enough defense to slow down the Jayhawk attack. Frank Williams at POG in turn is a match-up problem for KU. I’d pick KU by 7, but Illinois might win 1 out of three times, so they have a definite shot at the upset.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma has to face a dangerous Arizona squad. While Arizona relies a lot on Freshmen, no coach is as good at developing young players and getting the most out of them early as Lute Olson. Oklahoma plays stifling defense, crashes the offensive glass, and grinds it out, while the ‘Cats play more of a perimeter oriented game. The key is whether Oklahoma can limit Gardner, and specifically how the refs call the game on the outside. Nobody gets the benefit of more incidental contact fouls than Gardner, because of his outside shooting and quickness. If Oklahoma is allowed to bump him off his drives, they should win. If it’s called tight, it will be a toss-up. But I’m sticking with my OU prediction.

Duke and Maryland, meanwhile, face no serious challengers. Indiana matches up reasonably well against Duke, but is simply outclassed on the basis of talent. Unless Indiana shoots incredibly from outside, Duke should win without too much trouble. Kentucky just doesn’t have the size inside to play against Maryland, much less deal with Dixon, the best shooting guard in the country. Kentucky relies too much on two players, and I think Maryland is a good enough team that they can shut them down. Or at least shut down Bogans, who has been inconsistent this year and will be guarded by Dixon.

I’ll stick with my original predictions, which is Duke, Maryland, KU, and Oklahoma, with Oklahoma beating Maryland in the final game.


Link posted by Doug Turnbull at 2:16 PM







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