Brookins Head Shot*The situation regarding the geographic territory surrounding Jerusalem will not be settled until three basic issues are overcome.

The parties involved need to be led by a spirit of reunion and liberalism (unlikely). The parties involved need to agree on the historical facts (very unlikely) or decide that the historical facts are unimportant (very very unlikely). The parties involved need to allow that God wants their opposition to occupy some of the territory happily (damn near impossible).

While I generally do not look on issues from a conservative perspective, perhaps the instance in which I, like most people, would embrace a more conservative outlook is when determining territory. If something is mine, I would like it to remain mine. Which is why it is understandable that Israelis and Palestinians are at an impasse most of the time. Israelis can correctly state that they possess territory and should not cede it to Palestinians. Palestinians can correctly state that the territory possessed by Israel was at one point theirs and was forcibly taken from them to create Israel. If Israel shouldn’t give up their land now, how do they justify how it became their land in the first place? If Palestinians want Israel to give up their land now, how do they justify not pursuing a future in which there are two nation states (messy as that solution may seem). A liberal perspective on this issue would yield a more conciliatory mood around negotiations that would eventually allow for both sides to gain something (a nation state for Palestinians and security for the nation state of Israel theoretically).

But even if such a mood is adopted it would only be the first step because…

The cannot agree on what happened in the past as a basis for the two state solution. Again this is very tricky because there is a finite amount of land to be had and nations are generally not in the habit of giving up their claims on it. Nevertheless there needs to be some consensus regarding how the borders shifted and when. I hesitate to recount the military history of Israel because I am sure I will get something wrong from one point of view or another. Broadly speaking though, Israel was established despite objections from some people in that region of the world; some people fought over those objections; Israel grew its territory. For many Israelis and Palestinians the details I’ve left out are critical because some of those facts bolster one side’s claim over the other. And if there were a way to unequivocally state what happened when that would be great. On the other hand it might not really matter because turning back the hands of time is impossible. What is really necessary is figuring out how these two groups of people coexist going forward. And the historical facts (even if agreed upon) are probably not going to help with that.

And figuring out how to coexist is a herculean task because…

Both sides devoutly believe that God wants them to occupy the territory in question. Recently I read (or heard, I’m not sure which it was) a summary of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that simply said: it all starts with “Abraham had two sons” referencing the Bible. I generally do not try to interpret the religion of others or try to get them to disavow their beliefs, but in this case these beliefs are the basic hump that is almost impossible to get over. Why would either side give in at all if they genuinely believe that God favors their claim?

If somehow leaders emerge on both sides of the equation that will allow for the possibility that God wants them to share the land, then somehow those leaders decide to ignore the decades of fighting and bitterness, and can approach things with compromise in mind, then we might get somewhere.

But that is a might big if.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.