In the interest of free flowing ideas I would like to propose an old solution: Peace in the Middle East.
Jerusalem is the centre of the world. Okay, maybe not the literal center of the world – along the line of the equator – but in terms of world events, peace, and war… nothing matters more than Palestine.
Recently, the world awoke to another invasion of the Gaza strip by the Israeli army as Hamas launched a string of missile attacks against the Jews. The conflicts between Israel and Hamas or Israel and Hezbollah or Israel and Iran directly relate to the religious conflicts and involvement between the United States and Iraq, Afghanistan, the Sudan, and Iran. If humanity can put aside their religious and racial prejudice then there is a chance this conflict can be solved. I propose a return to an old solution that can be spear headed by the United States but first we must analyze the problem to mediate a fair peace and reality based proposal that promotes U.S. goals and reaches the concerns of all parties involved in the Middle East.
Let’s Begin by outlining the problems.
Briefly. The conflicts, in a nutshell, begin with the creation of the Israeli state in the wake of the Holocaust in post WWII. The state was created by the UN and spearheaded by the U.S. and Britain. A unity of Arabs states attacked the Israeli state in 1948, 1956, 1967, and several other dates with other smaller conflicts. The original goal of the Arabs was to completely destroy the Israel state by wiping it off the map but the reality of the "Six Day War" in 1967 showed the Arab states that they were outmatched militarily by Israel. Israel went beyond their borders capturing much of the Egyptian Sinai, the Syrian Golan Heights, and Palestine. Eventually a peace agreement was reached between Israel and Egypt and Jordan as Israel gave back some sovereign territory. All other Arab states have never formally recognized Israel, although, some states such as Saudi Arabia would consider a peace agreement if Israel returned to the pre-1967 border outlined in the UN charter.
Now, let’s update to the reality of 2009. Israel is still a mighty force militarily and still controls the Golan Heights in Syria as well as much of the West Bank and Gaza in Palestine. They are surrounded by hostile forces in the form of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, Syria, and Hamas in Gaza – the three of which are united with the Persian, Shia Islamic state of Iran. The Israeli leadership in the Knesset is divided between the acceptance of Palestinian statehood (Labor and Kadima Parties) and Palestinian occupation (Likud). Although these hostile entities are a security threat to Israel, the major demise of the Israeli state is the demographics of Jews and Arabs residing in Palestine. The Palestinian population is tripling in size compared to the Jews in Israel who are diminishing in population. In the future, Israel will have to decide and force a Palestinian state that the Arabic Muslim community will accept if it is to have peace. This peace will have to include a land exchange with the sharing of Jerusalem or the Israeli state may cease to exist.
Let me explain.
Israel’s population is diminishing while the Palestinian population is growing. For certain, in the future, Palestinians will demand their right to vote. If Israel rejects the Palestinian right to vote then they could become an international pariah similar to South Africa during apartheid. If Israel grants the Palestinians the right to vote… then eventually, by sheer numbers, the Palestinians could vote the state of Israel out of existence… in the future of course.
The road to peace is difficult. There have been several attempts at peace with the Oslo Accord in 1992 (destroyed by the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Rabin), the Clinton plan in 2000 (destroyed by the rejection of Yasser Arafat), and the Bush "Road Map" (destroyed by overreaching foreign policy goals). The Palestinian leadership is divided between the secular Fatah government in the West Bank and the hard-lined, Islamic, political government of Hamas in Gaza. Fatah is supported by Israel, the U.S., and most of the Arab governments while Hamas is mainly supported by Iran, Syria, and the Arab populous. There is a deep divide and disconnect between the Arab governments, the Arab populous, and their reaction to Israel and Palestine. The recent invasion of Israel into Gaza was marked by mostly silence from Arab governments – Egypt actually shut down their borders to Palestinian refugees – while there was a massive outcry from the Arab populous denouncing the invasion. Arab governments distrust the Hamas movement for many reasons but the main reason being that Hamas is supported by Iran. Arab governments distrust Iran for three major reasons: the cultural difference – Iran is Persian and not Arab (they speak Farsi and not Arabic), Iran is mainly Shia Muslim and the Arab governments are Sunna Muslim, and Iran – feeling embolden by the demise of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – is attempting to become the regional power, which is traditionally held by Saudi Arabia who is the cradle of Islam and the keeper of the Kabba. Arab governments defer to Saudi Arabia for leadership in most matters of faith and peace. It also goes without saying that U.S. policy is aligned with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Kuwait, and now Iraq for matters of energy, security, and foreign policy goals. Iran has been an international pariah since the Islamic Revolution of ’79 and the invasion of the embassy of "the great Satan."
Ok, now that you have a brief history let’s answer some questions. Questions that must be asked in the Middle East peace policy: how can the Arab governments counter the growing power of Iran? Can there be a structured peace arranged between Israel and Palestine involving land negotiations? Will the peace deal align with U.S. goals and policy objectives?
Objective 1: Isolate Iran
Iran is now a major power in the Middle East and must be dealt with. Besides the nuclear ambitions – which are dangerous in the hands of an ideology driven, possibly non-rational, state government – Iran is the major benefactor of destabilizing national organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Iran has also made major alliances with Syria and is able to fund Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza through the Syrian government and border. Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestine do not recognize the state of Israel but as an occupying force of Palestine. These governments are also committed to the destruction of the Israeli state. The U.S. must broker a peace deal between Israel and Syria to isolate Iran by offering a solid alliance with the United States and Saudi Arabia including funding, military protection, and trade deals. The U.S. must also broker a peace between Syria and Israel by negotiating the return of the Golan Heights to Syria. In return, Syria will sign a long-term peace agreement with Israel, cut its alliance with Iran, forgo allowing Iran to fund Hezbollah through its borders, and deport the Hamas leadership from its base in Damascus. Syria is a serious state actor in any Arab / Israeli peace agreement and must be treated as such. The U.S. and Syria has also had good relations in the past and good cooperation in the Global War on Terror. As a police state, Syria fears religious extremist just as much as the U.S. and they will align themselves with other Arab countries against Iran when it will benefit them enough.
Objective 2: Form a peace agreement with Saudi Arabia and Israel
A peace agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel will be much harder to do with an abundance of racial hatred between the Arab and Israeli peoples and governments. However, if Egypt and Jordan can have peace… so can Saudi Arabia. A peace plan could be achieved by involving Saudi Arabia in all the negotiations of a lasting peace agreement between Palestine and Israel, which would include Saudi input on lasting borders and the creation of the continuous land of the new Palestinian state. Israel would agree to return to the original borders outlined in the 1947 UN charter or exchange land with the Palestinian government to make up for the larger Israeli settlements. Saudi Arabia will broker a peace settlement first with Syria, then with Palestine, and then will recognize the Israeli state. The United States must also play a major role in this deal as it will provide economic and military security for Saudi Arabia. Maybe a military agreement with the Saudi government where the United States will sell fighter jets and some technology to protect against the threat of an embolden Iran. The Saudi Arabia / Israeli peace agreement will strengthen the Kingdom’s role in negotiating Arab affairs and realign the power structure re-enforcing Saudi Arabia as the dominate power in the Middle East.
Objective 3: A continuous Palestinian state
Once Iran has been isolated, Hezbollah and Hamas may be weakened with a Syrian peace deal, and Saudi Arabia is once again the dominant power in the region… then a Palestinian state can be formed. Israel, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, and the Palestinian government will negotiate new continuous boundaries for the new state of Palestine that will be recognized by the UN. Jerusalem should be governed in tandem by both the Israeli and Palestinian governments. At the moment, Israel has many Jewish settlements scattered across the West Bank and the settlements are separated by a wall the Israeli government has built. This wall carves up the land in Palestine making the creation of a continuous Palestinian state near impossible. In reality, there are some Jewish settlements that are so large it will be close to impossible to move them. The Israeli government should move the smaller Jewish settlements out of Palestinian lands and then exchange land with the Palestinian government for the larger Jewish settlements that would be impossible or impractical to relocate. The main ingredients of this peace deal are a continuous land mass known as the state of Palestine, a shared Jerusalem, official Arab recognition of the Israeli state, and a lasting peace agreement between Israel and all of its neighbors – including Palestine.
The End Game
The world needs peace. The Islamic world – in general – has framed the recent conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan as a crusade of Jews and Western Christendom against the religion of Islam… they are partly right. The United States and its western European allies have nothing against Islam but they certainly fear it as a mechanism for extremism. Unlike Islamic countries, the United States welcomes Muslims immigrants. There are many mosques scattered around each state and its members are free to worship and speak as they like. I – as a white, American, Christian – have been to mosque many times and have always felt welcome. However, I do not believe that I can go to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, or Pakistan and worship as I feel or speak as freely. Yet, the U.S., out of security concerns, watches Islamic peoples closely. Western governments tout freedoms in public but fear a religion and people they do not understand in private. At the same time, Islamic governments use Islam to control their people, place blame on other governments and people, incite racial hatred, and blind their own people from the corruption of their own government. Saudi Arabia tolerates Wahabi clerics and even encourages them to stay in power to control the people. Syria is a complete police state who blinds the people of its own failings by placing blame on more powerful governments like the United States. The Palestinian people blame Israel for all of their problems while its leaders corrupt the government, launch missiles, and breed racial hatred. Israel shuns the Palestinians, cutting them off from food, water, medical, and builds settlements over what was once Palestinian owned land. There is a vicious cycle of inept decisions, violence, racial hatred, and poor governance that must be stopped to achieve peace.
In its long history Palestine has been ruled over by Egyptians, Israelites, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Europeans, Arabs, British, and now, once again, Israel. Much of the current violence and bloody modern history of the region can be traced back four thousand years when Abraham had two sons: Ishmael and Isaac. God told father Abraham that his offspring will be as the sands in the ocean and that they will be at war with each other. Out of Abraham came Israelites and Arabs; out of Abraham came the three great faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; out of Abraham came Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad – the Prophets on which most of the world places its faith. Although there are many differences, there is much more that should unite our peoples than divide. There are those that say that peace is unachievable until the coming of the Messiah or Mahdi. This may be true but should not keep the good peoples of faith in this world from seeking peace. As Jesus himself said, "Blessed are the peace makers for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven."