by H.B. Koplowitz
America’s healthcare system and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would seem to be two intractable problems. What they have in common is that the most elegant solutions are dismissed as non-starters. In terms of healthcare, it’s single-pay. In terms of Israel and Palestine, it’s single-country. Work with me.
Obamacare was a noble effort to reform health insurance, but without a public option, it preserves the current system of rationing healthcare based on ability to pay. In the Middle East, the situation in Israel/Palestine is often compared to apartheid in South Africa, but anyone who suggests that Jews and Arabs pull a Nelson Mandela and seek reconciliation is either laughed at or killed.
Opponents of the public option say it could lead to the end of commercial health insurance. Opponents of a Palestinian state believe it could lead to the end of Israel. They are right that one could lead to the other. But they are wrong that either would be the end of the world. Back to that in a moment.
With some tinkering, Obamacare and partitioning Palestine just might work. In the case of Obamacare, instead of mandating that everyone buy health insurance, the health insurance industry should be totally deregulated, freeing companies to shed their toxic assets, i.e., sick people, and only insure the healthy and wealthy. Just like the toxic assets in the banking and housing industries, the federal government could take over sick people via the “public option,” i.e., expanded Medicaid. Businesses could continue to provide their employees with commercial health insurance, with or without contraception coverage; individuals could buy private policies, if they could afford or qualify for them; and everyone else could choose the public option. Private and unregulated health insurance could become as competitive as the market would allow. If, in the end, private insurance couldn’t compete with the public option, so be it. At worst, we’d end up like Canada, which wouldn’t be the end of the world.
As for the Middle East, the two-state solution just needs a tweak. Instead of getting rid of those Israeli settlements in the West Bank, they should be allowed to expand — and become part of the nation of Palestine. Israeli settlers would become Palestinian citizens, raise their children and grow their businesses in Palestine, and participate in Palestinian elections. And for every Israeli settler in Palestine, a Palestinian refugee should be granted the right of return to Israel, where they would become citizens and have the same rights and opportunities as other Israelis.
Probably another non-starter. But a Palestine with Jews would be less threatening to Israel, just as an Israel with (more) Arabs would be less threatening to Palestine. And as the two countries came to resemble each other demographically, it’s not inconceivable they might one day merge into a Palisrael or Israelstine, or perhaps New Canaan. Which wouldn’t be the end of the world.