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Thursday, March 19, 2009

'Conflict management'

I always tell my kids that while it's nice to have a lot of friends, you don't have to be friends with everyone. But you do need to have one or two good friends that you can count on.

The United States used to be the friend that Israel could count on. Unfortunately, since the Obama administration took office, I am no longer sure that is the case. So we are on the lookout for friends we can count on. Based on this column, Canada comes to mind.
"Conflict management" recognizes that lasting and durable peace between Israel and the Palestinians is not plausible in the near future. The heady days of bilateralism that produced the Oslo Accords 15 years ago came undone with the second intifada of 2000. The heady days of unilateral-ism that produced the Gaza withdrawal in 2005 came undone with the Hamas coup and the recent Gaza War. If peace is not possible together, and peace is not possible alone, then peace remains only a dream.

Conflict management dispenses with dreams, and seeks, under the present circumstances, to make life safer and less aggravating for all parties, with the hope that maybe, just maybe, time and tranquility may produce conditions in which the seeds of peace may be planted. The government of Ariel Sharon itself embraced conflict management in response to the second intifada, most concretely --literally --in the building of the barrier between Israel and the West Bank.

Years ago, I referred to the barrier as a scar ripped across the face of this holy land. The image was precise. A scar is an ugly thing, but desirable if the alternative is a bleeding wound. No wound at all would be preferable, but that means peace. Conflict management is about closing wounds into scars. It's not pretty, but it is a step toward healing.

What does conflict management mean on the ground? (If you had a shekel for every time someone here says "on the ground" you would have many shekels.)

It means, for example, not having grand peace conferences, but working practically with Egypt to find a way to liberate Gaza's borders for legitimate trade while cutting off the flow of arms. It means finding a way for Palestinians to build homes legally, and Jewish settlements to grow organically, without producing the conflicts that lead to house demolitions or threats of violence.

It means finding ways to lessen the oppressive burden of checkpoints throughout the West Bank, which, in my conversations with Palestinians, are their number-one complaint about the Israeli military presence. The experience of the second intifada and of Gaza means that Israel will not be withdrawing from the West Bank, so it is a pressing need to balance security concerns with the basic freedom of people to move about in pursuit of their family, employment, medical and religious obligations.
Sounds good to me.


At 4:55 PM, Blogger Ashan said...

Israel should also cultivate its ties with India. Our mutual security needs unify us. They face a growing threat from that rogue Muslim state, Pakistan, that wishes to annihilate all Hindus and others.

At 6:13 PM, Blogger LB said...

Ashan - absolutely. Israel has already surpassed Russia in weapons sales to India, but India has much more to gain from Israel (infrastructure, medicine, even education, etc etc). And having a billion people behind us will be good.

At 7:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


...only makes sense when the source of the wounding is removed. Until then there will be a succession of new wounds, so healing the old wounds won't, by itself, result in good health. The only answer is to eliminate what is causing the problem, and in this case that is the "paleosinians."

At 8:47 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

"Conflict management" isn't as sexy a term as "peace process" but since reality can't be changed, one has to live with as it best as the circumstances allow.

That just what Israel is going to be doing, the rest of the world be damned.


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