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A market solution for the Holy Land

Let us revel in the goodwill that the Lord of Life foreshadowed at His Annunciation, attracted at His birth, preached in His lifetime, exemplified in His Crucifixion and celebrated in His Resurrection.

Let us combine that goodwill with the faculty of reason, the greatest of the three powers of the soul in Christian theology, the characteristic that marks us out from the beasts and brings us closest in likeness to our Creator.

Let us combine goodwill and reason with the gentle, beneficent common sense of the free market. Adam Smith, in the world’s first work of economics, said that the entrepreneur – albeit that his motive was profit – was guided as by an invisible hand to do good by giving his customers what they wanted.

Let us apply goodwill, reason and free-market economics to the thorny problem of the divided Holy Land, and let us solve it, buying for that troubled region the peace that the Lord of Life intended all of us to enjoy – that peace every Jew prays for when he says Shalom, that peace every Arab prays for when he says as-Salaam alaikum.

Let us begin by pointing out an obvious fact so unobvious that it is never stated. Neither the Jews nor the Arabs are in any way to blame for the Palestine problem.

I regret to confess that it is my British ancestors who are chiefly to blame. The Balfour Declaration of Nov. 2, 1917, expressed the intent of the then British Government, with widespread support in the United States and other nations, that a home for the Jewish people should be established in Palestine.

British parliamentarians, already displaying the growing ignorance of foreign affairs that would soon lose us our Empire, made flatulent speeches about giving “a land without people to a people without land.”

Yet there were a million Arabs living in the “land without people.” It was their land.

The Balfour Declaration contained an empty, pietistic reference to doing nothing that would prejudice the civil and religious rights of the people living in Palestine. But nothing was done to uphold these rights.

Two peoples, both Semitic but long and bitterly divided by history and by religion, were imposed upon the same small, inhospitable corner of the desert.

Since this insane “solution” to the Jewish question was implemented shortly after the Second World War, the Jews and the Arabs have behaved every bit as badly as one would expect in the circumstances.

But the real culprits – the international community, led by Britain and the United States – have behaved still worse.

On the whole, Britain – having dumped the Jews in Palestine – has taken the Arab side ever since. The U.S. has taken the Jewish side. The United Nations, which established its propensity for idiotic decision-making early in its miserable life by endorsing the doomed plan for Palestine, has tended to take whichever side will most annoy Washington.

The first step toward a permanent solution is to remove the U.N. altogether from any role, formal or informal. Its latest propaganda gesture – upgrading Palestine’s status from “Observer” to “Observer with fries and relish” – is as egregiously pointless and as calculatedly unconstructive as most decisions of that corrupt, failed institution.

And the U.N.’s longstanding decision that, uniquely, the descendants of the original refugees from Palestine can continue to be regarded as refugees demonstrates that in this, as in all else, it is acting in bad faith. That insane decision allows the teeming refugee camps to be maintained purely as a propaganda weapon against Israel and the West.

What is needed is a Non-Paper. This – like most phrases in the looking-glass world of diplomacy – is the opposite of what it says. A Non-Paper is a paper that everyone can deny the importance of until its objective succeeds.

The Non-Paper might say this. First, the international community created the Palestine problem, so the international community must pay the cost of its solution.

Secondly, the international community must agree with the Arab nations a substantial sum in financial compensation to be paid to or for the descendants of the original Arab occupants of Palestine. There were many Jewish occupants too, at the time of the creation of Israel, but they are compensated by the existence of Israel.

It will be up to the Arab nations to decide which factions among the present Arab citizens of Israel, Palestine, Gaza and the West Bank will get how much.

In return for this one-off sum in settlement, the Arab nations, including representatives of the Palestinians, will solemnly agree by international treaty that they recognize that all claims by the Arab world against Israel are settled, and that Israel has the right to exist within the boundaries originally assigned to her.

If Israel wants to widen those boundaries to include the territories she has illegally occupied, then she must reach agreements financially to compensate those people whom she has unlawfully dispossessed: and those agreements must be accepted by the Arab world and registered in the treaty of settlement.

Aside from this, not only Israel but also Palestine and Jordan will be exempt from making any contributions to the settlement fund. All other nations that belonged to the U.N. at the time when it voted for the present nonsense will be obliged to contribute to the settlement fund in proportion to their gross domestic product.

That’s it. The shorter and simpler the treaty, the more likely that it will succeed. The Non-Paper will be brief: but, with goodwill, it will end the destructive division between Islam and the rest that that well-meaning but ill-thought-out declaration of 1917 engendered. Target date for settlement of all claims and permanent peace in the Holy Land – 2017.

A peaceful Christmas and a roaring Hogmanay to one and all.

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