The Mid-East struggle
Trajectory to Catastrophe
Part III- Escape from Entrapment
The conventional vehicle of peace negotiations, used to resolve the Mid-East conflict, has stalled. Negotiations might no longer resolve a conflict that has evolved new realities. Facing these realities could establish an escape from the unending violence that has trapped the Mid-East antagonists.
If the past decades in the Holy land, determine the future, then
The Palestinians are caught in a downward spiral towards complete destruction.
The Israelis are trapped in an endless pursuit of security that will never give them security or peace.
The Palestinians remain caged between an Israel that desires control of the West Bank and Gaza (a situation that will totally inhibit Palestinian opportunities to develop a viable economy) and an Arab world that neither wants to inherit a dispossessed people nor cares to certify Israel's actions of dispossession. A loosely governing Palestine Authority, which is considered to be too corrupt and not sufficiently competent to give the Palestinians a direction, further complicates their lives. Rivalries, such as between Fatah and Hamas aggravate the situation.
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, Arab nationalism conflicted with Zionist intentions. After the establishment of Israel, Arab leaders challenged the new nation's existence. Thirty years after the challenge, Egypt and Jordan signed peace treaties with Israel. Other Arab states made peaceful arrangements. The peace initiatives evaporated and Arab states from Morocco to Iraq display enmity towards Israel. All Muslim states share concern of Israel's intentions towards Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem's Old City. Hostile Arab and concerned Moslem nations, which feature increasing populations and increasing power, continually threaten Israel. If Israel does not modify its policies to placate the Arab world, will it ever achieve security and peace?
The Drive to Entrapment
The Palestinians and Israel have created "all or nothing" and "no-win" positions.
By their "all or nothing" actions in Intifada II, the most militant and controlling forces of the Palestinian community have concluded that an existing Israel nation will prevent them from achieving self-determination and a viable state. Palestinian forces lacked a coordinated effort and used their remaining weapons -- terrorism, Arab financial and vocal support, and world concern with their plight. Palestinian suicide bombers hoped to create sufficient despair in the Israeli community. They anticipated the despair would reverse Jewish immigration to Israel and bring a decline to Israel's economy and power. Disenchanted Israeli Jews would leave. The remaining Jews would eventually negotiate agreements that are more acceptable to the Palestinian Authority and give it a more commanding position in the entire area.
Israel's "all or nothing" intensive search for security drives it to increase its size to accommodate growth and gain arable land and water resources. Israel situates its military along borders with Arab states and the military prevent infiltration of arms and militants. To accomplish this startegy, Israel needs complete control of the West Bank and Gaza. Acquiring complete control of the West Bank and Gaza means acquiring control of a huge antagonistic Palestinian population. Subduing the antagonism means destruction of a restless Palestinian community under its control, including that in Israel.
The animosities could easily spill over to a Jewish/Moslem conflict that crosses borders and brings terrorism to the entire western world. All this mayhem might finally lead to a chilling conclusion--a country protecting itself with nuclear warfare that incinerates most of the Middle East and possibly more areas. It's a terrifying, but not a far fetched scenario. Even if its probability is low, any finite probability should be sufficient to move the world to decisive action. Why hasn't it? Evidently, the world lacks a realistic appraisal of the crisis.
Comparable history has been overlooked
History has examples that are not entirely identical to the Israel/Palestine conflict, and greatly resemble it.
The colonization of Algeria by the French that began in 1837, the colonization of South Africa by the Boers and later the British, and the colonization of the ancient kingdom of Zimbabwe by the British have similar patterns to the settlement of Zionists in Palestine.
In each of these situations, settlers arrived from foreign countries to lands that were inhabited by tribal peoples but still sparsely cultivated and able to absorb an aggressive settler population. In all of these cases the settlers succeeded in establishing communities, provided for themselves, afforded employment to the indigenous population and improved the local population's standard of living. The colonizers adopted laws that restricted the local populations and favored the colonizers. In all of these colonizations the settler activity awakened a common identity in the indigenous people that developed into a nationalist spirit and eventual aspirations of nationhood. The challenge to the aspirations provoked severe conflicts that featured terrorism against the settler populations.
The colonial and the original Zionists adventures exhibited differences. The Zionists did not proceed from and with the assistance of a common country. The Zionists were not colonizers. The Zionists managed to become a large majority in Israel; the European colonizers remained as a smaller minority in their lands. The European settlers always had a homeland to which they could return and which would welcome them.
How did the colonial adventures end?
In each of the situations, the colonists were forced from their positions of dominance. Decades of exploitation and conflict eventually brought the lands to chaos.
The French were forced to leave Algeria in 1963. After several decades of self-rule, the Algerian government is faced with a rebellious Islamic movement.
The English settlers in Rhodesia were forced to relinquish administrative control in 1980. Today, few English remain. Those few, who own vast plantations, are being attacked as part of a land reform policy. Zimbabwe is in political and economic chaos.
In 1994, the white European and apartheid government of South Africa lost its singular and privileged status. Legal apartheid disappeared and the native black population gained the reins of government. Economic, social and health problems increased.
The Israel/Palestinian conflict most resembles the apartheid era in South Africa. One principal exception: the Jews maintain a majority of the population in the region that contains Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
In all of these cases, the settlers initiated the final agreements. They either left or yielded to elections of more representative governments. Negotiations did not lead to the solutions. The negotiations occurred after realizing the solutions.
Negotiations are a less likely route to a solution
There are several reasons why negotiations are a less likely path to a solution.
Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat , as well as other Israeli and Palestinain negotiators behaved as relics from a past age. They brought mid-20th century thinking to a 21st century perspective. They were still back in the "who can hate more" stage. Neither of these persons coud negotiate. They could only fight. It's as if the cold war warriors were here today deciding U.S. and Russian relations.
From where would the parties negotiate? Arafat spoke for the Palestinians and Arab world and rejected Israel's last offer at Camp David. Was the offer fair or genuine? Not according to the Palestininas and many Middle East observers. However, will any Israel prime minister give more than that proposal. He/she would offer less and the Palestinians have already stated they want more. Besides, the mistrust created between the two parties, another legacy of U.S. diplomacy, appears to be beyond repair.
The lack of development of adequately functioning institutions for a Palestine Authority (PA) deters effective negotiations. The PA government has been undermined by Israeli policies and by the turmoil of their inner conflicts. It will take years for the Palestine Authority to develop an efficient and democratic government that represents the Palestinian people and can affirm accords.
Israel would not sign to an accord unless all issues are covered by a common accord. Creating a Palestinian state by accord before resolving the status of Jerusalem and the refugee issue would be counter-productive to Israel. It needs final commitments before signing to any commitments. The Palestinian Authority can take it a step at a time. It is beneficial to them to gain strength before resolving each issue. All issues cannot easily be covered by a single accord.
The status of the Palestinian refugees and Jerusalem cannot be resolved by negotiations. Israel will only allow a token number of Palestinians to return to their ancestral homes. To do otherwise doesn't mean the end of Israel; it means the end of the Zionist program. To present day Israelis it means they may as well continue the struggle for a greater and more secure Israel, despite the consequences and eventual failure. Unless Israel is allowed to morally determine its obligations to the refugees, it will not agree to any accords.
Jerusalem provides a similar impasse. No Israeli prime minister will sign an accord that retreats from having Israel sovereignty in much of East Jerusalem and the Old City. No Arab leader will sign an accord that does not have Moslem sovereignty in East Jerusalem and the Old City.
Understanding realities is a prerequisite for a solution to the crisis.
Those concerned with providing a solution should consider realities.
Reality#1 -- The hatreds, charges and strategies to gain advantage have become institutionalized. Hamas and other militant Arab organizations are essentials of the Palestinian institutions. The Settlers and their followers are determinants of Israel policy. The Israeli and Palestinian peoples and their institutions are mobilized in one objective -- to subdue the other in an almost total war.
Reality #2 -- Israel cannot stay in the West Bank and Gaza. Several UN resolutions have declared Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza as illegal. Israel has no legal precedent to retain the regions. If Israel concludes it needs the West Bank and Gaza for security and takes total control of the areas, Israel will have neither security or peace. It will be obliged to either coerce the Palestinians to leave or create a semi-autonomous state for them. Since the Palestinians cannot economically and politically survive without all of the West Bank and Gaza as their state, neither approach will be acceptable to the Palestinians and the Arab world. If the South Africa apartheid situation is applicable to this situation, the violence will continue and someday an Israeli prime minister will be forced to succumb to a democratic process, and as happened in South Africa, create a bi-national state. Israel must leave the West Bank and Gaza and accept the creation of a Palestinian state in those regions.
Reality #3 -- The Settlements cannot remain. The settlements are the principal cause of the strife. If Israeli forces vacate the West Bank and Gaza, the Israeli settlements will become superfluous. Israelis and Palestinians will breathe more easily. The settlements status will be determined by the settlers, who most probably will leave by attrition. If the two parties accept a compromise and trade some of the settlements contiguous with Israel territory for other lands, then so much the better.
Reality #4 -- A new Palestinian state will quickly learn that it will not receive support or remain solvent unless it develops democratic procedures and recognizes Israel's right to exist. A totalitarian and belligerent Palestinian state will be shunned by Arab and western nations. It will not economically survive.
Reality #5 -- The leaders release themselves from criticism by permitting an international body to resolve the Jerusalem problems. Control of Jerusalem's parts should be based on legal ownership of large areas, historical control of religious institutions, the presence of existing institutions and guarantees of access of all religions to their specific religious institutions
Reality #6 -- If the crisis eases by its own weight and realities, the Arab world will be forced to resolve the Palestinian refugee situation. The Arab world wants a resolution to the conflict and the refugee situation, both of which foster radical Islamic movements. If the conflict is resolved and only the refugee situation remains to restart it, the Arab nations will be foolish not to resolve that problem.
Reality #7 -- Israel will not exist unless it develops a democratic state for all its peoples. Israel's make-up is similar to that of the United States, a melting pot of people from many nations. Under the umbrella of the Jewish denomination are people of different cultures and nationality who control a large percentage of Muslim, Druze and Christian minorities. Almost all Americans are also of one general religious umbrella, that of Christianity. Jewish and Muslim minorities are a small percentage of the U.S. population. The U.S. has a Constitution and laws that support a melting pot of religious persuasions, cultural attitudes and minorities. Although not perfect, America's Constitution and laws have created togetherness, cooperation and protected minorities. Israel has no Constitution or laws that protect minorities. Israel's laws have created divisions. Even without the Palestinian and Druze minorities, Israel would be subjected to internal dissension from competing national and cultural identities. If U.S. history and success with its melting pot are relevant to Israel's situation, then Israel should follow a similar path and create a state in which the laws treat everyone equally.
Escape from entrapment
The realities of the Middle East crisis don't favor Israel's objectives. They demonstrate that Israel's objectives were not realistic and were based on unwarranted actions. The Zionist experience is not identical, but it is similar to previous settler experiences. If Israel doesn't want its situation to terminate similarly to the previous experiences then it should accept a retreat from its vision.
The Palestinians are challenged. If they receive the state they want, they owe Israel guarantees of security. They must surmount the difficulties in establishing a viable nation that can control its people. They have little room for failure.
Facing the realities is not a "win-win" situation for either party. Facing the realities is a start to an escape from entrapment for both of them.
july 16, 2001
slightly updated jan 1, 2009
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