Jesus said, "you have become like the Judean's who love the tree but hate its fruit, or love its fruit but hate the tree". Truth is not defined by selecting what you like and hating what you dislike. Nor are problems solved by ignoring how each affects the other. These words spoken 2 thousand years ago still resonate in the Middle East today. Peace talks are going nowhere. Israel has decided the Palestinians need to start doing something. The Palestinians have stopped talking until Israel stops all settlement expansion in the West Bank. Hamas never wanted Israel to exist and isn't even interested in talking. Arab nations are no longer interested in normal relations with Israel. Iran is a thorn in the side of nearly everyone by encouraging conflict, but offering no solutions. Obama can't get Israeli and Palestinian leaders to sit down and even talk.
Trust is in short supply throughout the Middle East and popular opinion drives political decision making more than common sense. Tougher talk, tougher restrictions, less human rights and less justice feeds a fruit filled with bitterness. Equality and freedom for those living in the region is a dream, while inequality, hopelessness and distrust that result from ever more strident voices and behavior produces a tree that encourages the most radical views in thinking and fosters yet more harsh and acerbic fruit for the region. It is time to see the larger truth instead of attempting to decide if the tree or the fruit is to blame.
Fundamental to good outcomes are good conditions. Equality, justice and basic human rights must prevail for everyone. Good conditions require understanding their critical relevance to any effort aimed at fostering improved outcomes. First, a critical resource in the West Bank is water and the water in the West Bank has been restricted for Palestinians but not for Israeli's. Remove these restrictions and begin building the infrastructure and plants to provide adequate water to meet the needs of everyone in the region. Second, food, medicine and supplies are required by Palestinians in the Gaza strip to live and rebuild. These critical elements have been curtailed and trade so limited those living in Gaza have no significant economy. Ensure the right of these Palestinians to adequate resources to live and prosper. Third, Hamas captured and continues to hold an Israeli soldier guilty of nothing but patrolling in Israel. This action denies him his basic human rights and robs Palestinians of critical good will needed to nurture improvements. Hamas should release him immediately. Fourth, Arab nations have refused to recognize Israel, trade with it, open embassies, allow it to fly over their airspace, issue passports to Jews or travel permits to those wishing to visit Arab countries. This denial alienates people and poisons the ground for improved relationships. Western nations must speak up and act in unison by telling Arab nations if they wish to embrace such a poisonous position to peace they will have to curtail their own friendly and cordial relations with Arab states. Fifth, Jerusalem is like a noxious well that adds a final lethal component to the entire peace process. Take Jerusalem out of the picture by making it an International city under complete UN security control, run by locally elected city officials. Sixth, Israeli West Bank settlements since 1967 have continually contributed to tension and anger and robbed the peace effort of a critical factor needed for success, trust. This process should be ended and either move Jewish settlers back into Israel proper or to ask them to accept Palestinian rules and laws. Seventh, displaced Palestinians living in surrounding countries who want back into Palestinian controlled territory should be allowed back based on the ability of Palestinian authorities to accommodate their needs. Finally, as each of these efforts move forward dismantling and removing the numerous barriers, checkpoints and restrictions imposed by Israeli's on Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Gaza must begin in order to encourage peace to grow and flourish.
There is an imbalance in conditions that has denied people freedom, basic human rights and equality in the region. Until this imbalance is addressed, trust, hope and promise will remain in short supply to nourish peace efforts. Division, hate, anger and fear are encouraged by bad conditions and those produce a bitter fruit for everyone. Until the will exists to build the bridges instead of the fortified walls and barriers that separate problems instead of resolve them little progress will be made. Allowing these walls and barriers to continue encourages the worst tendencies in the region instead of solving them. Large trees produce more fruit, the only question is what kind of trees and fruit do we encourage? Maybe it is time to see the larger truth and focus efforts on improving conditions that improve outcomes instead of assigning blame on the tree or the fruit for the problems.