Thursday, May 19th | 18 Iyyar 5782

October 13, 2013 2:45 pm

Hands Off: A New Approach to the Mideast Peace Process

avatar by Chas Newkey-Burden


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, and Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat. Photo: State Department.

Quick, gather round — I’ve found the solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

I do, at least, have an original suggestion toward that end, and that’s something that has proved just as elusive since 1948.

It’s a curious proposition, but it might just work: let’s make 2014 the year in which the world leaves the Israelis and Palestinians alone to resolve their differences.

I’m not suggesting we literally leave them to fight it out. Instead, I am suggesting that we allow them to discuss their differences, without us incessantly chipping in.

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For more than 65 years, the world has tried to solve this dispute and the only thing everyone can agree on is that the world has failed.

Little wonder — just look at the kind of people who stick their noses in. There are politicians whose primary motivation seems to be to distract their constituents from local concerns. Not on top of things in Bradford or Boston? Have a go at the Jews or posture against the Palestinians.

Then there are evangelical saviours, who wring their hands or wag their fingers as they wonder wistfully why we cannot just all get along better. What a novel idea!

We cannot forget the bored and boring activists, who fill their otherwise empty existences by trading boorish, well-worn arguments and always putting all of the blame for the stalemate on the opposing “side.”

Their hope is not so much to solve the conflict, as to impose their own narrow ideology on the two peoples — all from the comfort of their Western living-rooms, of course. As Alan Dershowitz observed, they are more Palestinian than the Palestinians, or more Israeli than the Israelis. What use are they?

And what about those who have made a career out of meddling from afar? Were peace to break out in the Middle East, how would these professional campaigners pay their mortgages?

We all stand in a circle, from which we bark our own nugget of advice: boycott, withdraw, settle, negotiate, stand firm, defend, attack!

If I ever found myself in deep trouble, and any of the above rabble showed up offering to help, I think I would prefer to take my chances and go it alone. Few people make their best decisions when they are being yelled at.

So why don’t we try leaving the Israelis and Palestinians to it? It’s the only thing we have yet to try.

The world would benefit either way. Politicians would be able to start repairing their own countries and communities. Activists would be able to clear out their attics, talk to their families, and catch up with old friends. Evangelicals would have more time to strum their acoustic guitars and sing Kumbaya.

If I sound as though I’m only semi-serious, that is because I am. Too many people have their egos, ideologies, and careers invested in this one, relatively small, conflict to be able to leave it alone. But, in reflecting on whether our input is of use, we can at least test the sincerity of our commitment.

The wise Chabad rabbi Yisroel Lew once explained to me a simple way to understand whether your motivation to help someone is sincere or not. Imagine, as you go to help someone, that you suddenly realize they do not need you. Would you be pleased for them, or would you be disappointed you were denied your chance to help? If the latter, then your motivation was probably insincere.

We can apply this sincerity test to our own involvement. Unless we are sure our motives are sound and our contribution needed, let’s give the Israelis and Palestinians some peace and quiet, so they can start working towards some peace and quiet of their own.

This article was originally published by The Jewish Chronicle.

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