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The Most Important Political Issue of Our Day

09/04/2012 10:05 pm ET | Updated Nov 04, 2012

In the lull between political exaggerations, I mean conventions, it's worth pausing to ponder the most important political issue of the day. I don't mean whether or not Romney is likeable or Obama sneaks a smoke every now and then; and I don't mean how fast Paul Ryan ran the marathon or Joe Biden's latest gaffe. And I don't mean whether or not we can cut taxes and decrease the deficit or whether or not Obamacare will cover everyone and decrease health care costs. I don't mean any of that partisan but semi-important stuff. That stuff pales in comparison to the most important political issue of our day -- peace in Palestine.

For being the most important political issue of our day, it is curiously undiscussed. References to Palestine were precious few at the Republican convention; Israel, for sure, but little about Palestine. I suspect we'll hear little about Palestine at the Democratic convention.

Of course, if you were a Palestinian living in the Occupied Territories, you would be aware of the most important political issue of our day. You would be living under occupation, denied basic human rights, limited in your freedoms, cut off from family and friends, living in fear and lacking economic hope. And you would think that your impoverished and subhuman conditions were supported by the world superpower dedicated, in principal but not in practice, to freedom and freedom. You would wonder, not without reason, if the world superpower's commitment to freedom is just a useful fiction.

If you were a Muslim or an Arab living in the Middle East, you would likewise be aware of the most important political issue of our day. You might think that if the U.S. had not so enthusiastically supported the Israeli occupation, the atrocities of 9/11 might have been avoided (and then perhaps not the disastrous invasion of Iraq). Like the vast majority of Muslims and Arabs, you were horrified by the death of innocents in 9/11. But you can't help but see the U.S.'s deep and unwavering commitment to Israel, and its ambivalence or antipathy to Arabs and Muslims. You feel loved by the U.S. only for your oil, not for your culture or religion. The focal point of your animus is the U.S.'s continued and enthusiastic support of the Israeli occupation of your Arab and Muslim brothers and sisters in the Occupied Territories.

Now if we could just get the Republicans and Democrats to grasp the most important political issue of our day.

You're probably thinking, "I agree 100 percent, you are right, this is the most important political issue of our day." But you're also thinking, "You can't just point out problems, you also have to offer solutions."

We all know the problems. How can Israel safely remain a Jewish state if it grants equal rights to Arabs (who might later become the majority)? How can tiny Israel hope to remain safe and secure if the Occupied Territories no longer serve as a buffer between them and the vast and armed Arab nations? How can Israel negotiate with people who refuse to acknowledge its right to exist? Enough with the problems.

But I do have a solution, or a means to a solution, and it's simple. I learned it from professional sports. Here's the way to peace in Palestine.

1. Get both sides to agree to binding arbitration.
2. Let the arbitrators arbitrate.
3. Implement the agreement.

Voila, peace in Palestine.

OK, let's grant it might be hard to get both sides to agree to binding arbitration. Both sides, but I'm afraid especially Israel, are afraid that they won't be able to perpetuate advantageous injustices. Some Israelis believe their Faustian bargain -- a massive wall dividing Palestinian farmers from fields, Palestinian workers from work, and Palestinian families and Palestinian friends, and Palestinians from their rights -- is a small price to pay for a dramatic decrease in Israeli deaths; separate but unequal has its advantages. And many perhaps most Palestinians and Arabs don't respect Israel's right to exist.

There is the carrot and there is the stick method of getting people to the table. Let's go with the stick on this one: the U.S. government will inform Israel that they will immediately cut off all funding of Israel, all donations of funds from U.S. citizens to Israel, and all military support for Israel pending their agreement to binding arbitration. That should do it.

About those arbitrators: they need not and should not include the usual suspects. In fact, fame, fortune and political position are all disqualifiers: these are indicative of vested interests that have proven inconducive to brokering a just and lasting peace. This team needs strong and independent people who have no desire for gain, don't care for fame, are deeply committed to justice, and are wise.

At least six of the eleven should be women -- they seem not so temperamentally disposed toward war.

And at least six of the eleven must be seriously and deeply religious. In addition to the political and economic issues involved, there are deep religious issues. And politics and economics in the Middle East have deep religious roots. You can't divorce the politics from the religion in Israel-Palestine.

Not fundamentalists, though. There is simply too much tribalism and hatred among fundamentalists. Fundamentalist Christians love Israel but not Jews so much; and they tend not to be friends of Muslims. Fundamentalist Jewish Zionism has no place for Arabs in Israel or in the immediate neighborhood. And fundamentalist Muslims just plain don't like Jews (or Christians).

To be effective, religious members of the team need to understand that God created everyone and so every person is worthy of honor and respect. And they need to be firm believers in the divine love that extends to every person regardless of race or religious creed. This God, one might call him the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is the God of Peace.

Put those eleven wise and virtuous people in a room, give them ample time to get up to speed on all of these issues, and let them decide.

That's the solution to the biggest political issue of our day. One both parties ought to agree to.