First Do No Harm

There are those who like to apply the anti-drunk driving catch phrase, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk,” in reference to the American-Israeli relationship. They argue that Israelis and potentially the Palestinians as well are too drunk, too intoxicated, too out of it, to understand what is going on and therefore need to be helped. The argument is that someone else, someone sober, needs to help them because they can’t help themselves.

One imagines a staggering person being helped to the car by a sober one who takes the keys away and with the sober one driving the friend home after saying, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”

However, this argument fails and fails miserably in any situation in which the friend who is trying to help is more intoxicated than the one whom they wish to help. Sometimes the drunkest person is the one demanding the keys from the sober one because they wrongly believe, in their intoxication, that they are more capable. Ever been around an abusive drunk or someone whose intoxication has eroded their inhibitions? If you have then you know exactly what I am talking about.

I tend to think that “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk” is either inappropriate to apply or wrongly applied. It isn’t Israel or the Palestinians who is drunk. They are fully aware of what is going on and the difficulties of improving their situation. They might clearly and correctly understand that the road ahead is difficult to traverse if not impossible at this point. They might not think it a good idea to head onward now and be correct, not drunk.

No, a better maxim to apply to the conflict is one based in medicine:

First, do no harm.

Israel is a thriving democracy and the world’s only Jewish state. In creating a Palestinian state alongside it, the guiding principle, especially for its friends including the United States, should be Nonmaleficence, which stated simply is:

Given an existing problem, it may be better not to do something, or even to do nothing, than to risk causing more harm than good.

This is exactly the situation in regard to the peace process. If the result of two states living side by side in peace and prosperity is not feasible at the moment, then it is better to do nothing than to do harm to Israel, and potentially harm the Palestinians as well, than to abandon caution, take on tremendous risks, and jeopardize the health of the patient(s).

First, do no harm.


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