U.S. Debt Debacle Parallels Israeli-Arab Conflict

We find ourselves trapped in a stalemate. The two sides have drawn and redrawn the lines, defensible and indefensible. Talks break down again and again, as a leader is held captive by the hard right wing. One side refuses to cede any land, and the other is accused of recklessness. A monumental vote looms near, while a veto threatens to derail any progress. Time is running out; the status quo is unsustainable. Does this sound familiar?

It should, because for decades, this is how the Arab-Israeli conflict has progressed. The more talking heads discuss the positions, politics, and people of our present debt debacle, the more similar the current state of affairs seem to resemble the decades of Middle East peace talks. Can American politicians use lessons from the 63-year-old Middle East situation for approaching debt ceiling talks? Yes. However, the U.S. does not have the luxury of time. The issue of peace in the Middle East is six decades old, and we have just six days to forestall our debt ceiling crisis.

Public opinion polls indicate a majority of Israelis and Palestinians recognize a compromise is necessary, that serious sacrifices must be made. Sure, the two-state solution may not be perfect, but no compromise ever is, and the Israeli and Palestinian publics recognize that. Similarly, a majority of Americans understand some spending cuts and revenue increases are necessary. Unfortunately, all too often this silent majority is held captive by the extremes, the rational fall victim to the radical.

As the ideological lines have been drawn, the politicians defend their positions. The debate swirls around borderlines and budgetary line items. An emphasis put on defensible borders. Are the ’67 borders defensible? No, but that is beside the point. Borders need not be defensible, but viable. Likewise, a grand debt compromise does not need to be defensible to the extreme contingents of each party, but viable for the nation.

Now, a vote lies ahead with an ominous veto hanging overhead. Rather than meet in the middle and move forward together, an alternate route was initiated in an effort to sideline the debate and force a different result. In September, if the U.S. withholds its veto, the UN could vote to recognize the statehood of Palestine, potentially delegitimizing Israel. Today, a bill moves through the U.S. Congress already condemned to the President’s veto. Such behavior cuts off the process and caps compromise threatening to unbalance the future negotiations.

Similarities between the Arab-Israeli conflict and the current U.S. fiscal standoff are limitless. The decades-long conflict has cost the Middle East tremendously in terms of blood. How much American treasure will the moral deficit of our political leaders continue to cost us? Our leaders should take a cue from the lessons of Arab-Israeli conflict and recognize that while each standoff has two parties, in the end there can only be one solution. Sadly, as each side continues to fault the other, the only option left is to default.

Photo Credit: Michael.Loadenthal

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James Taylor

James is a policy consultant and freelance journalist currently residing in the Washington, DC area. He covers a range of issues pertaining to the Middle East, most notably the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.

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