Both sides will have to learn to live together

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Over Christmas, minds began to turn to stories that have their root in a part of the Middle East that vexes and polarises opinion like no other.

I don’t even know what to call this part of the world for fear of inflaming readers who may have a particular view.

Let’s settle on the ‘cradle of three great religions’ so as not to put anyone’s back up at all.

The state of Israel was created in answer to a centuries-old question, its creation finally given some impetus by the Nazis’ attempt to exterminate the Jews 70 years ago.

That same state, it would vehemently argue for the safety of its citizens, today corrals another group of people in a way which, for many observers, mirrors much of what the state was created to end.

I don’t wish to rehearse any of the endless moral arguments that surround this question, because in the final analysis it boils down to a simple point and counterpoint: Israel has a moral right to exist but its very existence creates moral consequences that are untenable.

So what does that leave?

If we are to abandon arguments that start from a position of moral certainty, we can only be left with the pragmatic. Surely this is the logical conclusion?

The whole point of Israel is for it to be a Jewish state, a secure homeland for all those exiled for millennia from their homelands.

But the grim reality is that this hasn’t been achieved.

Yes, there is a Jewish state but no, it is not – and never will be – secure. As long as it is morally compromised, others will continue to dispute its right to be there.

Now I am realistic enough to know that what I am about to write will sound simplistic and naïve, but that’s often the fate of the pragmatist.

Any rational observer has to conclude that the only way to create long-term stability in the region is to remove the moral uncertainty.

This will require one side to accept the right of Jews to live peacefully in the region and for the other to accept that those displaced have a right to live there peacefully too. Only then can there be any hope of any kind of settlement, however complex and difficult that settlement will be to reach.

So at the beginning of a new year that offers new hope, let us all do our bit by abandoning our closely-argued moral positions and encourage the blindingly obvious. That for there to be a settlement, both sides will have to work out how to live together.