Friday, November 12, 2004

Israelis and Palestinians

The following is my simplistic understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Am I missing anything?

Moderate Israelis just want the Palestinians to stop blowing them up.  Moderate Palestinians just want to be under some kind of functioning government that represents their interests.  (The Israeli government doesn't represent Palestinian interests, and the Palestinian Authority doesn't have the territory or the power to be a functional government.)  Both desires are legitimate, and at present nobody has what they want.  This is partly because of extremists who polarize everybody, destroying the possibility of big moderate coalitions getting together and working things out.  While suicide bombers are blowing up Israelis and settlers are building fortresses deep in territory that would be part of a Palestinian state, neither side trusts the other, and you can't get a critical mass of moderates together from each side who'd trust the other side to engage in good-faith negotiations and keep a leash on their respective extremists. As long as this continues, nobody gets what they want and the violence keeps happening.


Ritch said...

Hmm- seems good to me.

The only problem I have is the whole "Ethical Werewolf" thing. While I understand that you seem to be fairly ethical, I can't really see where the werewolf part comes in.

Are you a werewolf?

I guess I'm interested because I am.

I got bit in late September, have transformed once, and am looking for ethical ways to deal with my situation. Until I do, frankly, the entire mideast peace process can go chase itself until I figure out a way to live my life without eating people.

For the whole story, check out

Neil Sinhababu said...

Actually, I'm not a werewolf. Read 'post the first' up top if you want an explanation of why I chose the name. The kind of werewolf discussed there -- an ethical werewolf -- may be unlike the creature you describe becoming.

I've been thinking about what one should do, if one were in the situation you describe. Here's one option: Get yourself into a good sturdy cage when the moon is full, and get some friends to videotape your transformation. People won't believe the videotape at first, but you'll probably get some people to come see you. More and more will with every month. This will put you on the path to becoming a professional werewolf celebrity, with appearances on late-night talk shows and the covers of magazines. Count yourself lucky if this happens -- if I had the option of becoming a professional werewolf celebrity, I'm pretty sure I'd take it. The options for maximizing aggregate utility probably lie down that road -- with fame comes the chance for money and power, both of which can be used to do good.

Jonathan Korman said...

That's about as good a summation of the core of the current situation as you could hope for in so short a space. This stuff gets very complex very quickly, so forgive me adding a few additional paradoxes:

A Palestinian wanting to take a leadership position needs to oppose the Israelis vigorously enough to be credible to Palestinians but not so vigorously that the Israelis regard them as an impossible negotiating partner.

Israelis are concerned not only about micro-scale suicide bombings but about the macro-scale security of their state, which has been invaded several times in living memory. A Palestinian state would have to be weak enough that it does not pose a threat to Israel, but strong enough that does not get invaded by its Arab neighbors.

Jerusalem is full of Muslim and Jewish (and Christian!) holy sites --- and the single holiest site for both Muslims and Jews is literally the same spot. Both Israelis and Palestinians regard it as the rightful capitol of their respective nations.

Neil Sinhababu said...

The puzzle-like character of these problems, which you note, is interesting. I suppose that when you're trying to explain why people can't get together and do something that would be hugely beneficial for them, good explanations will have something puzzly about them.

Blue said...

I think it's key to differentiate between government and nnon-government actions here. The moderate palestinians you mention here want the moderate israelis to tell their military to stop attacking them. This is something it's rather easy for the Israelis to have power over and affect.

Unfortunately, the moderate Israelis want the moderate Palestinians to reduce terrorist attacks, something that isn't directly sponsored by the government. The government certainly makes key choices regarding terrorism, as all governments do, from surreptious support to working hard against it. But in the end, it's really not under the government - and thus the moderate majority's - control. This makes it rather unlikely that the moderate P's and moderate I's can get together and negotiate a solution, since the MP's don't have what that MI's want.

Arafat going the way of the dinosaur doesn't really change this and the man, whose more moderate than the terrorists causing the problems, was largely a scapegoat for an angry world. So from the P side, I don't see Abbas being able to do much. But perhaps from the I side, many will choose this as a reason to start again and not blame the P government for everything bad. That could lead to good stuff.

Personally, I think the only way to deal with these situations is to work hard to incorporate the extremists into government and political power, and then you have someone to negotiate with. This seems to have worked somewhat ok with Sinn Fein, but is rather distasteful for many obious reasons.