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Is it possible that the Israelis and Palestinians will settle?

As Secretary of State Kerry undertook a form of shuttle diplomacy between Israeli authorities and the Palestinian Authority this Spring, his work has been treated as the feckless mission of a man who thinks he knows a lot about foreign policy. YET, that he was able to announce on Friday a meeting in Washington between two representatives without announcing any agreed upon preconditions has raised the hope that this time.... something might really be achieved. That would be a great achievement and a welcome blessing.

Stephen Walt sees several reasons why there may have been a breakthrough at the moment (if a breakthrough it is), and he hopes that this round will succeed where previous ones have not. There are reasons for hope and reasons for well, despair. Here are his calculations: "Faith over Experience. 

Further comments: Yuval Diskin, head of Shin Bet, 2005-11, asks whether Israel is reaching a point of no return for a two-state solution and will become a bi-national state with demographic consequences. Tablet Magazine (not the London Tablet!). HT: Harold Hartinger


About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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This is a tangent, but maybe we need to be reminded of the past if we're to understand the contemporary Israelis.  On July 22, 1942 the Germans began their deportation of Polish Jews to Treblinka, including Jewish children in an orphanage.  The Popes had a march to remember them last Sunday.

For you young ones who weren't around then, here's a little article about Polish Catholic  poet  Czeslaw miosz whose poem about the burning of the ghetto in Warsaw is unforgettable.


I knew a Polish Catholic who as a child witnessed the burning.  The story she told of it was one of incredible cruelty, so cruel that one can feel the consequences of that cruetly even today.  

Can such irrationality be overcome by rationally?  Sometimes I wonder.

Ann Olivier, thank you for the reminder and the translation. You ask: "Can such irrationality be overcome by rationality?" What is your answer?

My answer is that rationality alone isn't enough.  There must be natural virtue (justice, courage, repentance on all sides) and the grace of God.  The only thing sure at this point is the grace of God.  

But the other Western nations have roles to play too.  No  more automatic support for either side, and economic sanctions and help where appropriate are also needed.

Which leaves the Muslim countries.  What are they *capable* of doing in these circumstances?  I don't know enough about them to even guess.  I could say that, like Satan says in Dostoievsky, they are "the x in an indeterminate equation", but that turns them into the Devil, and that shows awful prejudice on my part.  Sigh.  

Here's the Dostoievsky quote from The Brothers Karamazov:


“[The Devil] And me? I suffer, and still I do not live. I am an x in an indeterminate equation. I am some sort of ghost of life who has lost all ends and beginnings, and I've finally even forgotten what to call myself...You're eternally angry, you want reason only, but I will repeat to you once more that I would give all of that life beyond the stars, all ranks and honors, only to be incarnated in the soul of a two-hundred-and-fifty-pound merchant's wife and light candles to God.”

See -- he's eternally angry, without beginning or end.  But he's not all bad.  Still wants to adore God.

(No, I certainly do not think that that is all there is to the Muslims.  But the Dostoievsky does ring a few bells.)

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