Israel, Palestine and Alexander the Great
Israel and Palestine. A topic of fiendish complexity, which takes up an extraordinary number of column inches the world over. A problem that seems intractable: and one which is set to grow more intricate still. As Iran seems to be pressing on with its plans to build an atomic bomb, Israel’s leadership considering a pre-emptive strike against its nuclear facilities, in the style of that against Iraq in 1981. The argument for such a strike is that Iran’s possession of a nuke represents an existential threat to the state of Israel.
I thought about this argument against the backdrop of Palestine’s recent attempt to gain statehood from the UN. Then I thought a bit further back, to a wonderful visit that I made to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which immediately preceded Operation Cast Lead in 2008. Then I thought about the reading I’d done about the War of Independence, the Holocaust, and then, finally, I thought about Alexander the Great.
Thousands of years ago, in the town of Gordium, there was a knot fashioned from twine. The knot had been fused so tightly that it was near-impossible to untangle. This was no ordinary knot, though. It was prophesied that whoever untied the knot would go on to conquer the whole of Asia. Of course, with a prize that spectacular, people came from far and wide to try to undo the Gordian knot. They came to the courtyard and sat and studied the conundrum for hours. All of them went away defeated.
Until, that is, a young man turned up from Macedonia. Alexander looked carefully at the knot, before deciding what to do. (Perhaps he even paused for dramatic effect.) And then, he drew out his sword, and with a swift downward stroke cut through the heart of the knot. He then went on to conquer the whole of Asia.
Reading about Israel and Palestine, watching the YouTube videos, the feature films and the documentaries, I am reminded more and more of the Gordian knot. A situation of such finely-woven delicacy that maybe the only way to address it is to slice straight through its heart.
And so I wonder whether the way to cut this Gordian knot isn’t just to integrate Israel and Palestine. The whole thing. No two-state solution, but a one-state solution. Maybe Israel and Palestine can be a Jewish state and a Palestinian state too.
I wonder whether integration might defuse, rather than increase tension. If Iran truly is building a bomb to annihilate Israel, then how could they threaten with nukes a country that had welcomed Palestinians into every street?
Of course, I don’t suggest that this would be a straightforward process. Maybe they could do it town by town, over a matter of years (or, more likely, decades). But it might make Israelis and Palestinians happier about their lot than they are now. It’s a simple thought. But right now, maybe simple is what is needed.Tagged in: Alexander the Great, israel, Palestine
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