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Recently, President Bush surprised many veteran political observers by giving tacit support to the idea of an independent Palestinian state. Bush's comments ignited predictable mouth-frothing outrage from the right and bemused puzzlement from the left. This is not a new idea; the Palestinians have always said that statehood is a key component of any Middle East peace deal, and it has been mulled over by several previous U.S. presidents, but in all prior cases, there was a Democratic administration in place. Bush's comments are unprecedented for a Republican president.
So has Bush thought this through clearly? And if so, where do we go from here?
It is obvious to even the most amateur political observer that peace will not be achieved in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict until the Palestinian people are given a state of their own, where they have full control of the government, the land, and the infrastructure; a place where they can exist separately from the Israelis, with whom they have had an antagonistic relationship (to say the least.) Legions of folks on the political right become infuriated when this is suggested, but the fact of the matter is that it is a reality with which we must deal.
President Bush has taken the first step by acknowledging this reality and has put in motion the machinery to give a state to the Palestinians. The most important question is: Which state? Which state, and why? Is there one single state that stands out as the ideal candidate, or are there several to choose from? Let's take a look at some choices that immediately come to mind.
On its face, Florida might seem to be a tempting choice. Of all of our states, Florida is one of the closest to the Middle East, and its vast shoreline would greatly simplify the process of relocating the Palestinian people to their new state. Cruise liners and other large passenger boats could sail directly to Florida and easily unload their cargo. The temperature in Florida is similar to the conditions that the Palestinian people have become accustomed to. And having a neutral third nation situated between the United States and Cuba would help to defuse the perpetual tensions that have existed between these countries for so many decades.
Still, Florida is not the perfect choice. The weather is warm, to be sure, but it is also very humid .. much more humid than the Middle East! Furthermore, the Palestinians are likely to unpleasantly surprised when they discover that they are living smack dab in the middle of Hurricane Alley and are forced to scatter like frightened rabbits, boarding up their windows and stocking up on groceries. Additionally, handing Florida over to the Palestinians would instantly make Palestine the most heavily-armed nation on Earth; I'm not sure that this is the greatest of ideas, particularly in the current political climate.
Furthermore, Florida is heavily-populated as it is; introducing countless new residents is likely to cause logistical problems. We would certainly have to relocate some of its current residents to other parts of the country. Florida is also inundated by obnoxious tourists, the presence of which would likely be unwelcome by the new Palestinian government. Finally, a large part of Florida's existing winter population consists of so-called "snow birds"; really old people who live in the state during the winter months so that they can escape the inhospitable climates of places like "Beaver Lick, Minnesota." Old people are generally intolerant of Mideasterners; they refer to them as "squirrely devils" and "Mohammadists." This would introduce too much tension into the new nation.
Clearly, Florida is out of the running as the future location of the new Palestinian state. We must look elsewhere.
Here's an attractive prospect. Idaho has almost none of the population or infrastructure problems that Florida has. In fact, outside of Idaho residents, virtually nobody has the foggiest idea of what's in Idaho, or for that matter, where Idaho is even located. When asked the question: "What is Idaho?", 82% of American high-school juniors responded "The emperor of Japan during World War II." This much is clear: if Idaho is turned into the new Palestinian state, it will not be missed. The sparse population of Idaho already hates the government anyway; perhaps now would be a good time to wash our hands of them and offer the state up as a sacrifice in the name of Mideast peace.
However, for all of its advantages, Idaho has some key flaws. First of all, I believe that the state is landlocked, though I would have to look at an atlas to confirm this. This would make trade issues for Palestine unnecessarily difficult. Without seaports, Palestine will become heavily dependent on goods and services from the United States and Canada; this is something that they are likely to view with resentment. Secondly, the weather in Idaho is virtually nothing like the weather in the Middle East. The Palestinians are likely to be more upset by the brutally cold winters than they would be by the humidity of Florida. As a people, they have not evolved to survive in such extreme conditions, and situating them in such a climate would be more genocidal than generous.
So Idaho's out. Who's next?
Ahh, Oregon. The Mighty Duck State solves many of Idaho's problems; it has a coastline to allow for easy trade, and its winters are much milder than those of Idaho (although still a rather drastic change from the Middle East.) The rainier climate in Oregon (as compared to the Middle East) will allow Palestine and its residents to pursue agriculture in ways that are currently unavailable to them. While Oregon has a fairly large population, it is not prohibitively populated; those current Oregonians that do not wish to cohabitate with their new Palestinian overlords should have no problems relocating to other locations in the United States.
It wouldn't be easy to give away Oregon, but it also wouldn't be that difficult, either. Oregon is a pretty state, but let's face it .. there's not a lot there. There are very few national parks and monuments, the larger cities are pretty much nondescript, and like the rest of the Pacific Northwest, Oregon has no professional sports teams. The United States would be giving lots of trees, hills, and grassy plains, but it's not as if we haven't got more of those. There's more than enough purple plains and fruited mountain majesties to go around; I'll bet that giving up Oregon in the name of ending strife is something that the majority of Americans would be willing to do (assuming that Oregonians are not included in the poll.)
Still, domestic politics may well prevent the President from dropping Oregon from the Union. The radical right in the United States is rapidly dwindling, but they do remain heavily armed. There is a very real possibility that turning Oregon into Palestine could ignite a small-scale civil war in this nation. While Bush showed admirable cajones in his statement on a Palestinian state, it is unclear if he will have the moral fortitude to cede a state on the mainland. This leaves only a few options, the most obvious of which is
The advantages of Puerto Rico as a Palestinian state are numerous; the disadvantages are virtually nonexistant. It's true that Puerto Rico is not currently a state; however, Congress and the President have the power to make it one. A majority vote in both houses of Congress and a signature from the President is all that is needed to make Puerto Rico the 51st state of the Union. We could then immediately cede it to the Palestinians, bringing our total back to the nice round number of 50. This, incidentally, is another reason not to give the Palestinians one of our existing states; it would result in a Union with 49 states, and that would just be .. odd.
I mentioned that one of Florida's advantages is that it is relatively close to the Middle East, compared to the rest of the American states. Puerto Rico is even closer. The climate is a bit warmer and more turbulent, but I'm sure that the Palestinians will enjoy it more than they would the climates of Idaho or Oregon. They would most likely be best-acclimated towards a more desert-like climate a la Nevada, but we cannot afford to give up Nevada; Americans will not travel to Palestine to gamble. Weather-wise, Puerto Rico is about the best we can do.
Some Puerto Ricans will likely be displaced by this, but many will remain. I predict that the Puerto Ricans will get along well with their new Palestinian government. Both peoples are swarthy and share the same affinity for moustaches. Hopefully, the government of Palestine will recognize what a generous offer we have made them and allow the U.S. military to continue to use the bombing range on Vieques Island; after all, these people have become accustomed to explosions and should not be quite as sensitive as the Puerto Ricans have demonstrated themselves to be.
If all goes as planned, in future years you may be able to open up a world atlas and see the Island of Palestine. We must seize this opportunity to put an end to this destructive conflict. I salute President Bush for his bold stance on this issue, and I implore the nation's leaders to get the ball rolling. The longer we ignore this issue, the longer the pointless fighting is going to drag on. We are in a position to end it. We cannot let this chance pass us by.