When a woman (or man, as the case may be) is in a seemingly unending abusive relationship we justifiably feel bad for her. She has no choice, we say. She stays for the children, we lament. She can’t afford to leave. It’s easy to justify the status quo. But, ultimately, the status quo amounts to a kick of the can and an inconvenient excuse.
Because there is an alternative. Except for rare instances when the woman is literally chained inside the house, she can pack her things, put her kids in the car, and leave. It’s painful and frightening and may be rough for years to come. But, can it be worse than continuous assault or abuse?
Israel and Palestine are in the midst of one of the nastiest, most bitter co-dependent relationships and divorces from hell in history. Both seem to be waiting for the other to change its behavior, to give a goodwill sign that things will get better.
It will not get better.
As long as each side continues with its time-tested, abhorrent, failed policies, nothing will change. As long as Israel continues to quixotically build settlements in the West Bank and bomb Gazan homes/launch pads, Palestinian resentment, hatred and misery will metastasize. And as long as Palestine continues to hurl missiles at Israeli cities, call for its destruction, strap suicide bomb vests onto its teenagers and teach its children that Jews have no legitimate place in historic Palestine, Israelis will be mistrustful and paranoid about Palestinian intentions.
So what to do to end this co-dependent cycle of violence and tragedy? The only solution is a paradigm-shifting move. Israel would love for Hamas to renounce terror, accept Israel as a Jewish state, stop buying missiles from Iran and start building hospitals and schools and businesses. But Israel has zero power to force Hamas to do so. Israel only has the power to do what it has the power to do.
And what Israel has the power to do is pack her things, put her kids in the car and unilaterally leave the West Bank. Will it be painful and scary and uncertain? Yes. Does it come with risks? Yes. Is there another alternative. Absolutely not. The divorce needs to come sooner or later. So why not rip off the Band-Aid and do it? Will peace fall like manna from the sky the next day? Clearly not. Will Israel be free from danger? Certainly not. Instead, however, Israel will have the power, for the first time in 50 years, to shift its focus to building a nation unencumbered by a soul-crushing military occupation.
Israel must give up on wishing for its relationship with Palestine to change. Maybe one day, but right now it cannot. Israel, instead, must summon the courage, at long last, to leave the Palestinian territories on its own terms and find its own way.
One day, Palestinians, with no one left to blame, will have to search their own souls and do the same.