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The Ice-Cream Rule And The Arab-Israeli Conflict

Growing up in Argentina, my girlfriend Gabriela and her sister Paola cherished ice-cream day. On that day they got to eat as much ice-cream as they could. Only there was a catch. Gabriela’s mother employed The Ice Cream Rule: one … Read More

By / October 30, 2008

Growing up in Argentina, my girlfriend Gabriela and her sister Paola cherished ice-cream day. On that day they got to eat as much ice-cream as they could. Only there was a catch. Gabriela’s mother employed The Ice Cream Rule: one sibling would decide how much ice-cream would go into each bowl, while the other had the right to first pick. That way, if one of the sibling had distributed the ice-cream unevenly, the other benefited. It was an ingenious system designed for fairness. Now, what if we could employ the ice-cream rule to the Arab-Israeli conflict? Imagine the following: President Obama meets with Abbas and Livni/Netanyahu. He gives the latter a map and says, “Go ahead, two states for two people. You draw the boundaries, you choose a capital, and you decide where people have a right to reside. There will be no opposition or interference from Abbas. However, once you finish, it is up to Abbas alone to choose which side to take.”

Is there any question as to how the conflict would be resolved? Half a bowl of ice-cream for Abbas and half for Livni. Of course, such an approach would seemingly not be in Israel’s immediate interest since she possesses more than half of historic Palestine (the much more developed side as well). However, as has become clear to many across the Israeli political spectrum, if in the immediate future there is no viable solution to the Palestinian-Zionist conflict, Israel’s territorial advantage (along with its demographic baggage) will be her undoing. Thinking over a divided land, I am reminded of the story of King Solomon. As is told, when two prostitutes came to the king with conflicting claims over ownership of a baby, he adjudicated with a stratagem: "Cut the live child in two", he said, "and give half to one and half to the other." Realizing what is at stake, the real mother came forth and pleaded with the king to give the child to the other woman, "only don’t kill the baby." The other woman said, “Cut it in two.” Hearing this, the king immediately returned the child to its rightful mother. Now it is not out-of-bounds to use this story to champion the vision of a one-state solution, or Greater Israel or Greater Palestine. If the baby is a symbol for the land, then the true owner of the land will not compromise by dividing it into parts. On some kind of mystical level, the land needs to be indivisible and whole. One people, one land / two people, one land. Either way, one land it must remain. But there is another reading of the story that could be helpful. It seems to me that the moral of the story is that real and unconditional love sometimes means letting go of something that is of ultimate concern. For the child to survive, the mother had to let go of her claims to him. Likewise, if the people of Israel and Palestine love their land as much as they say they do, then they need to let go of their vision of what Palestine and Israel ought to be – not let go of a vision of Palestine or Israel per say, just the one that is keeping them from realizing peace. Israelis and Palestinians are attached to myths (e.g. undivided Jerusalem, right of return) that given the reality on the ground serve no good. A new schema is in order, one that is based on genuine compromise and fairness, not on the unreasonable and exclusive claims of religion and history.

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