PUSH the Future (3)

Third lesson from PUSH 2007:
Some problems can’t be solved. Period.

“I’ll lay it out: There is no hope for peace between Israel and Palestine.” Michael Barnett of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs didn’t pull punches. “There is no hope for a negotiated settlement. Nothing good is going to happen. In fact, disaster is looming. And if you buy that, then you have to ask, what comes next? What do you do when there are no prospects for peace?”

Uh, wow. No hope. It was a shocking moment at last week’s PUSH 2007 conference. As Americans, as human beings, we’re so unaccustomed to believing that of anything. We embrace hope; we can fix anything. That may be our national competitive advantage, ultimately—our belief that with creativity, ingenuity, and passion, no problem is beyond hope.

Barnett ticked people at PUSH off, even though his facts were inarguable (and all the more chilling in the wake of this week’s insanity with Hamas and Fatah). But this was part of the day’s message, an echo of Clyde Prestowitz’s prediction of a world without America at its center: In this increasingly more complex world, some things will just turn out badly. Barnett thinks Israel and Palestine could end with escalating extremism and mass ethnic cleansing; or an end to Israeli democracy; or (least likely) growing Palestinian strength that forces an integrated, binational state.

And the United States likely won’t have much to do with the outcome. “Every single door we think is open to us,” Barnett said, “is, in fact, a dead end.”