I have always looked up to diplomats. I guess part of their mystique was their James-Bond-like lifestyle, living in a big house with servants and a chauffeur, having secret meetings with high government officials, and trying to make our world a better place, far from the field of vision of the public eye.
This romantic image was exactly the reason why I took the first opportunity I got yesterday to talk to an American diplomat at a small social gathering. I asked him about his work, and this very amicable man was glad to entertain me with his stories.
Our discussion led us to an exchange of opinions about the peace process in the Middle East, the long-lasting conflict between Israel en Palestine. I asked him if he thought there would ever be peace in this region that has been tormented by terror for so many decades. Optimistic as the diplomat was, he thought peace in the Middle East was not a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’.
So far so good. But when we discussed the ways in which this could be achieved, my romantic image was brutally shattered. The diplomat’s roadmap towards peace consisted of “killing the crazies”, a reference to the Palestinian militants. I know the US has a propensity towards supporting Israel, and the fact that this diplomat was appointed by the Bush administration should have been a tipoff, but I was expecting an answer that would involve steady and patient effort by countless diplomats to try and solve the matter by political means. But alas, “we have to keep killing the crazies if we want to get peace”, he tried to convince me.
In my view, the conflict in the Middle East is like a perpetuum mobile. The constant cycle of attacks and retaliations doesn’t seem to dissipate the energy of the people who keep the flame of the conflict burning. The only way the perpetuum mobile can be ground to a halt is by trying to dissipate this energy, putting it to use in constructing an environment where both people can live side by side without getting in each other’s hair. And if history has taught us anything, it is that the Israel-Palestine situation is a complex one that cannot be cured with a simple remedy. And the remedy least likely to be effective surely must be “killing the crazies”.