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The unspeakable tragedy that has unfolded in the sixth Israel-Arab war should force us to focus on what peace might look like. The building blocks are clear, but they are threatened particularly by those who stop thinking when it is most needed. The building blocks are:
(1) UN General Assembly Resolution 194 and UN Security Council Resolution 242 demanding the return of Palestinians who so wish and the withdrawal of Israel to the pre-June 1967 borders.
(2)The resolution by the Palestine National Council of November 15, 1988, thereby accepting a two-state solution.
(3)The proposal by Saudi Arabia in 2002 that Israel withdraw to the 1967 borders in exchange for recognition by all Arab states.

Putting the building blocks in place, we get two states side by side, with East Jerusalem and most of the West Bank reverting to Palestine (Israel has already withdrawn from Gaza), the Golan Heights to Syria, and some minor border problems solved, sometimes through creative adjustments. It is not a big revolution; it only takes common sense.
But there are also minimum and maximum demands on both sides. Palestine has three minimum, non-negotiable demands:

* A Palestinian state in line with (1) and (2) above, with
* East Jerusalem as the capital, and
* The right of return - as a right, the numbers to be negotiated.
Israel has two minimum, non-negotiable demands:
* Recognition of the Jewish state, Israel,
* Within secure borders.
All five goals are legitimate and compatible. The Palestinian legitimacy rests on continued residence, and the Jewish legitimacy on territorial attachment in their cultural narratives, and their residence in the past. It does not rest on their suffering at German and European hands. Any territorial bill on that basis would have to be placed at the feet of Germany.
The demands are compatible because they can be bridged by a two-state solution alongside the 1967 borders, to be elaborated below.

Maximalist Positions - How Strong?

But there are also maximum goals: on the Israeli side, an Eretz Israel - defined by Genesis as lying between the two rivers: the Nile and the Euphrates. On the Palestinian/Arab/Muslim side, no Israel at all - that it be erased from the map. These two extreme positions are obviously incompatible. And they are also illegitimate. There is more than a de facto basis for the existence of a Jewish state.
How strong are the maximum demands? A major tragedy is that the war has not just increased the hatred on both sides; it has also strengthened the maximalists. On the Israeli side, some will now feel that the borders between them and their neighbors cannot be far enough, at least where the disarmament of anyone hostile to Israel is concerned. And their numbers increased by the day as the war stretched on. On the Arab/Muslim side, some will feel that the solution to the Israel-Arab problem is to have no Israel at all. Their number is no doubt also increasing.
The two maximalist positions are emotionally and intellectually satisfying: they are simple, easy to understand - and spell nothing but endless war. The Arabs have to accept the state of Israel, but not the overextended, belligerent state of today. And the Jews have to understand that settler colonialism and occupation and continued expansion will never bring Israel secure borders. The road to security passes through peace. There is no road to peace that passes through a security that is expected to be achieved by the elimination of the popularly supported Hizbullah and the democratically elected Hamas. What might perhaps work against smaller and less firmly rooted groups, will no longer work with them.
And new groups will be emerging all the time. Governments may be bribed or threatened into acquiescence; the people never. Israel is supported by increasingly hesitant Western governments, some of them out of a sense of settler colonialist solidarity, like the U.S.A., the UK, and Australia. Palestine is supported by the Arab and Muslim worlds - perhaps 1.3 billion and increasing, as against a decreasing 0.3 billion among the former.

A Search for a Meeting Point

Hence, a middle position leading to peace must be made equally compelling. There is the possible meeting point of the 1967 borders, with mutually agreeable modifications, and the idea of two states with their respective capitals in a Jerusalem that could become a confederation of two cities: East and West. But two demands will still have to be met: the Israeli demand for security and the Palestinian for the right of some-limited-return.
However, Arab recognition is only a necessary, not a sufficient condition for positive peace. Sovereign states may recognize each other and still go to war. They must be woven together in a web of positive interdependence making sustainable peace desirable to both.
Since Israel wants secure borders, why not focus on the border countries: Lebanon, Syria, a recognized Palestine, Jordan and Egypt? Imagine a scenario where the five border countries and Israel start considering a Middle East Community, along the lines of the European Community, as a major carrier of sustainable peace in the region, using the highly successful formula that accommodated Germany to accommodate Israel.
There would still be the problem of Palestinian return, with close to half a million in Lebanon alone. And there is also the problem of some parts of the West Bank forming part of the Israeli narrative of the past. So why not make an exchange? Some Jewish cantons in a West Bank under Palestinian sovereignty in exchange for some Arab cantons inside a sovereign Israel? Both states could become federations rather than unitary states, which are relics of the past anyhow.
The latest Camp David negotiations were non-starters because they fell short on three rather major points:
* East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine;
* A non-negotiable right of return with negotiable numbers; and
* Making borders reasonably secure in a peace community, like the Nordic Union, the European Union, and ASEAN (the Association of South-East Asian Nations).
Again, this is no big revolution; it is compelling because it is common sense and is obvious. But not obvious to some Israeli and Western leaders traveling down the Vietnam trail. The U.S. did not win in Vietnam and had to withdraw. The same happened to Israel and will happen again next time. Further down that trail of mad stupidity lie 9/11 and Iraq (and possibly Iran). Hizbullah is a part of Lebanon like the Vietcong were a part of Vietnam. And arms are available and producible.
There was the indiscriminate killing of civilians, in line with the two points made by the Israeli army chief of staff, General Dan Halutz: to bomb ten buildings in the Shiite district of Beirut for each Katyusha missile launched against Israel, and the threat to "bomb Lebanon 20 years into the past" (El Pais, 28/7; Haaretz, and the Jerusalem Post). Hizbullah also killed civilians, but the Israeli ratio was more like 10:1. During the war in Lebanon, much bigger parts were the victims of collective punishment than Lidice in Czechoslovakia, Oradour-sur-Glane in France and Kortelisy in the Ukraine. Are Israeli lives worth that much more than Arab lives?
There is the naïve idea that violence will disappear if Hizbullah is disarmed in accordance with UNSC 1559. But 1559 makes no sense without 194 and 242. Israel cannot pick and choose the resolution it wants, relying on the U.S. forever controlling the UN. And Hizbullah will be reborn.

A Middle East Community

There is a conflict; the conflict cries for a solution, and the solution is a Middle East Community along the lines of the EC/EU.
Everybody should work for real peace as a political complement to a ceasefire. Helping Israel stumble down the Vietnam trail is blind solidarity, not an act of friendship. Friendship is to help Israel become a "peacefare" (as opposed to"warfare") state.
Europeans could mobilize the talent and experience of the European Union to help achieve a sustainable peace, and not for escalation and endless warfare. This would be an act of true friendship.
And what about Israel itself? The coming generation might do well to question the wisdom of the major right-wing Zionist ideologue, Vladimir Jabotinsky, who has inspired Menachem Begin, Binyamin Netanyahu, and now Ehud Olmert. For Jabotinsky, only two options seemed to exist: either "impotent, humiliating self-sacrifice or militant, invincible rage" (Jacqueline Rose, "The Zionist Imagination," The Nation, June 26, 2006). Jabotinsky considered the Jews had been humiliated and shamed by violence, and the answer was militancy and violence. This vision, apart from making violence a cornerstone of human existence, excludes the third option: peace proposals, negotiation, settlement, peace.

Another Possibility:Dar al-Ahd:

And the Arabs, the Muslims? They have similar views, but Islam opens the way for a third possibility-not only dar al-Islam and dar al-harb (the house of peace and the house of war). There is also dar al-ahd, coexistence with the infidels, possibly in a community, not too close, nor too distant; or possibly as an Organization for Security and Cooperation in the Middle East. The coming political generations would do well to elaborate this concept in more detail and without delay.
When will such generations come to power? How far have we been set back? It is difficult to tell. The three building blocks for peace have been there for some time. But nothing seemed acceptable to the Israelis. They never allowed them into their collective mind and public space. And outside pressure will only confirm the stark Jabotinsky dichotomy. If Israel wants security, mainstream Israel must learn to want peace.
That leaves us with the maximalists. Their strongest argument against the moderates is "Your line doesn't work." And the strongest counter-argument, as in the case of ETA and the IRA, is to prove them wrong. <

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