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Hither and Yon

Irreconcilable differences: Let’s not go to pieces over peace

Special to WorldTribune.com
By Donald Kirk, East-Asia-Intel.com
Some of the terrible problems we read, hear and talk about so often are beyond solution.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated this week that as long as he was in office there would not be a Palestinian state. The two-state idea, he said, was not going to happen. Funny, he didn’t say that when he was in Washington denouncing as “a bad deal” whatever the U.S. is trying to negotiate with Iran about its nuclear program.
Maybe Netanyahu was trying to be polite. Having gone around the White House and accepted an invitation to speak from one of President Barack Obama’s worst political enemies, House Speaker John Boehner, Netanyahu figured he would save for later his dumping all over the two-state solution that the U.S. has been advocating for years.
As in his warning about a nuclear deal with Iran, however, Netanyahu has a valid point about the two-state idea. How can you have a real Palestinian state when all they’ve got are some odds and ends of land on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip while Israel is building new settlements all the time in the face of massive pressure from everywhere to stop? And how can Israel co-exist with a Palestinian state when organizations like Hamas and Hizbullah are staging attacks and incidents from across its borders with the backing of not only the Palestinians but, more ominously, the Iranians and others?
Even with the most liberal, open-minded, anti-war Israeli prime minister imaginable, you have to wonder if any solution is feasible. After all the peace overtures, negotiations and policy statements from Washington, the answer may be, with or without Netanyahu, there will never be a viable, self-governing Palestinian state.
The impossibility of the two-state concept for Israel and the Palestinians should be highly understandable in Korea. After the tragedy of the Korean War and the years of incidents, talks and failed deals, we can be pretty sure the status quo is not going to change just because some emissary runs up to Pyongyang or holds talks with some North Korean dipso in Beijing or elsewhere.
And the track-two people — that is, the former ambassadors, advisers etc. who think they can influence policy by coming up with yet another harebrained scheme — inspire equal quantities of doubt, derision and boredom. These people, some well-meaning, others in quest of publicity and recognition, are not getting anywhere, as they themselves have to know.
Yet another long-running quarrel for which there will be no solution, at least in the lives of anyone reading this newspaper, is the division of Kashmir, the beauteous, predominately Muslim territory at the top of the Indian subcontinent.
Divided between India and Pakistan by the departing British overlords before they left in 1947, Kashmir remains a festering sore. India and Pakistan have fought three wars over Kashmir, and soldiers on both sides of the “line of control” exchange shots. The rest of the world shrugs, but people do get killed while the prime ministers of both countries, Narendra Modi of India and Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, make noises about wanting to talk over differences. Or, if they bump into one another at some global gathering, they manage to resolve nothing.
There may, however, be a bright side to these and other exercises in futility along disputed borders. That is, the nature of the irreconcilable differences is, in itself, a partial solution to what could be an explosive outburst with the potential to spread like wildfire into a regional, or even global, war.
As long as Israel and the Palestinians face off against each other, perpetrating incidents while diplomats go on talking, it’s hard to imagine that conflict spreading across the entire Middle East. Somehow, I doubt if Iran is ready to try and bomb the Jewish state into oblivion regardless of how close the Iranians are coming to developing and building a nuclear “device.”
You get the same feeling about Korea. North Korea every year comes up with statements denouncing ongoing U.S.-South Korean military exercises. North Korea would seem to have taken the rhetoric to the limit years ago by vowing to turn the South into a “sea of fire.”
The people who write this stuff in Pyongyang have to strain their brains to think of anything more menacing. The sinking of the corvette, the Cheonan, five years ago this month, with a loss of 46 lives, was an awful tragedy but a lot less horrifying than a second Korean War.
With no solutions in sight on these and other long-running standoffs, perhaps we should appreciate the status quo. A final solution, peace and tranqulity, would be great, but if that’s never going to happen, think of how much worse these rivalries and confrontations might become. Perhaps we should be thankful for the uneasy peace — or peaces — we’ve got.
Columnist Donald Kirk has been reporting and writing about war and peace in Asia for decades. He’s at kirkdon@yahoo.com.
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