Pope Francis, Abbas, and Palestinian Statehood

Pope Francis made the Israeli government frown this week when he invited Palestinian leader Abbas to the Vatican and presented him with a medallion depicting an angel of peace.   He then went so far as to add “It is appropriate because you are an angel of peace”– … not what the Israelis wanted to hear.

The Pope favors the two-state solution where the Palestinians would get their own country. Israel isn’t on board with that for the moment, and it’s easy to see why, but if anything about the future is clear, it is that there will never be peace in the Middle East until the Palestinians have land to call their own and can sit at the UN as full members of the world community.   Sweden has already recognized that nation, and others in Europe (the UK, Spain, France, Ireland, the European Parliament) have passed non-binding motions in favor.   The momentum is there, it’s just a question of how long it will take, and how many people will have to die between now and then.

It’s clear what would happen if the world, including Israel, managed to come up with a plan for borders, for Jerusalem, for the right of return, for the settlements, and created two states: extremists on both sides would vow never to agree to this solution and start setting off bombs, firing rockets, creating as much chaos as possible. But hopefully, the vast majority of people who live there would support this solution that would allow the citizens of those nations to get on with their lives, stop shooting at each other, and build homes that were free from the threat of being leveled.

To get to that place, there would have to be a massive campaign to “sell” this plan. There would have to be compromises,with various parties  giving up on some things they had their hearts set on, some of these tied to religious beliefs.   Those Israelis who believe that God gave that land to Abraham and Moses, and therefore it still belongs to them, would be the hardest to convince, but the pragmatists might just do it, because the main point is, practically speaking, there is no future in the way things are going now. The resources of the region are going into security, weapons, destruction, rebuilding and destruction again. If only a fraction of that were to go into better infrastructure, education, supporting businesses…but it all rests on convincing the extremists to compromise, and that’s so difficult when they rely on Holy Writ to justify their stances.

The best arguments against those stances are found in the Humanist camps. If we start with two mutually exclusive versions of what God wants we get hatred, we get war, we get Gaza, and an endless list of martyrs. If we start with a different idea of what is sacred, universal sacraments—children, for example, or life itself—we might just be able to learn to live in peace.

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