This article belongs to With a Grain of Piquant Salt column.

Personally, I was happy with the Israeli Palestinian crisis, as it has saved me few quid. You see, using software developed in Israel for counter terrorist purposes, the local council has saved hundreds of thousands of pounds by implementing a lie detection system over the phone. So when you call up our council to claim benefits, the operator says that you are being evaluated by this lie detection system, you would either not go ahead with the claim or would have the claim rejected because the system thinks you are telling ‘porkies'.

The amount of porkies that are told in the aftermath of the Israeli Palestinian Crisis is monumental. I have a morbid fascination with this crisis. It's like a horrific car accident. You know you shouldn't see the accident, but still you slow down as you pass the accident site, crane your neck and peer at the gruesome details. You know it's a rather uncivilised behaviour and something that your mum would scold you for, but still you cannot avoid it. It's the same with this crisis. You know that whenever you pick up this topic, you get hammered because you simply cannot be neutral and unemotional at all about it.

Even if you are, then for some participant on one side, you will be biased. As simple as that, there is no independent observer on this issue. Ever! Which is the reason why this book, ‘The Israel – Arab Reader, A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict', edited by Walter Laqueur and Barry Rubin, should be an indispensible part of your reference library. These two well known authors have done a great job in collecting some vital historical documents, which can be used - at least - to establish some facts on the ground when debating or arguing this issue.

The documents are a treasure trove in a very convenient volume broken up into five parts. The first part relates to the time from 1882 to the end of the British Mandate. This part explains the roots of the problem. After this, the remaining parts four are from 1947 – 1973, Camp David to the Madrid Conference, the peace process from 1992 onwards till the intifada started and the peace process dried up. This book is now in the seventh edition, and once you see it, you can understand why this is so. It contains manifestos, speeches, documents, interviews, memorandums, laws, declarations, reports, statements, parliamentary documents and speeches, United Nations speeches and resolutions, White Papers and the like.

The editors have collected documents from Arabs, Israelis, British, United Nations, United States, Germans, Russians, etc. Once I started, I made it a point to read one document or section per day, and I finally managed to complete it. By this time, my hair was hurting so badly, that it had curled up like a Velcro mat. You know why? Because when one reads this, one is torn between two feelings, one – this is a car accident, drive away and two – it's a car accident, bloody hell, what happened. This is not the place to review who is right or who is wrong.

Who is right or wrong is no longer the argument; it has gone way beyond that. The thousands of millions of words and pages which have been written, the millions of people killed, tortured, wounded, exiled, the decades of anger, hatred and war, the deep religious entwining, the ancient history of this blood drenched land, all those frankly preclude any rational and objective discussion of this issue.

Mind you, there have been thousands of solutions, such as the Two State Solution, Jordanian Solution, the One State Solution, the Ugandan Solution, the Madagascar Solution, and so on and so forth. The current state is a variant of the Two State Solution, which was established in 1948. There would be a Palestinian state and an Israeli state. There is no point in going for what-if's, we are where we are. The One State solution is now slowly gaining credence.

A recent and reasonably well argued book from the Palestinian perspective is written by my colleague, Ghada Karmi, called as Married to Another Man, Israel's Dilemma in Palestine. If you keep these two books in front of you, you will see what I mean by the great difficulty of trying to be independent and unemotional about this issue. The latter book is something that clearly Israel can never live with, as it is very emotive. But then, being the son of a refugee myself, I can empathise with Ghada about her feelings for her homeland which clearly show up in her work.

Unfortunately, that emotional approach to this problem means that the book is more of an op-ed than a balanced and reasoned argument for a One State Solution. The Two State Solution, unfortunately will be the only way forward for the foreseeable future, the only outstanding questions relate to the boundaries, the state of Jerusalem, refugees and security. But then, I definitely have no suggestions as to how this can be resolved, other than the fact that Israel should speak to Hamas and come to some sort of agreement. But I am also doubtful that this solution would be that easy.

You see, this conflict has now reached civilisational levels, with the entire Muslim nation officially seeing the Palestinian cause as its own, while the majority of liberal democracies, broadly defined, are lined up with Israel. Conflicts at these levels are breathtakingly huge in concept, think about the crusades, the final solution, the English – Boer War and so on and so forth. The historical record is not good; solutions are generally imposed when one party is utterly exhausted or eradicated.

But the core issue does not go away. Hundreds of years after the crusades were over, the issue still flares up in strange and weird places (witness the reaction of the Muslim nation when George Bush said that he was launching a crusade against terrorism.) But if it will be solved, it will be solved by the efforts of people like Laqueur and Rubin, who try to be independent and clearly want to resolve the issue without taking extreme positions such as what Karmi does. But for what it's worth, Israel and Palestine have been facing an existential problem for its sixty years and every year, like Sisyphus, they have been trying to resolve it.

I can but look upon this train crash of a problem with deep despair and worry but still I think, at least my council tax bill will be reduced by two quid because of this problem. Now that's not a silver lining on a planetary sized cloud. It is perhaps a silver molecule on a solar system sized typhoon, but hey, straws are straws. In the meantime, happy reading and lets hope Sisyphus keeps on banging away at this task. All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt! Technorati Tags: Israel,Palestine,Diplomacy,Politics