Peace in the Mideast - What a concept.
As a resident of Maine, the yearly host of the "Seeds for Peace" camp, I have spent considerable time debating the pathways to peace in the conflict between Israel and its neighbors.
What I've noticed is the tendency for this debate to become entrapped in the circular arguments of who has the true "legitimate" or "historical" right to its geographical claims.
The following diary is an attempt to move beyond this debate, to forge a pragmatic solution that serves the interests of the US first (in the spirit of McCain's "My Country First" slogan!) and Israel second. What a concept.
We could forever spend time justifying Israel's historical right over its present territory, and forever denouncing the legitimacy of a Palestine presence, much less a Palestine nation.
I would rather deal with the realities that exist now, regardless of historical claims. Whether justified or not, I accept the presence of Israel within its originally UN mandated borders. And, whether legitimate or not, I acknowledge a movement in favor of an independent Palestinian nation. The support for this movement is continuing to transcend both generations in time, and national boundaries in space.
Rightly or wrongly, "Palestinian Nationhood" has become a favorite cause of all disenfranchised, militant or otherwise, throughout the Mideast and beyond. When elder US statesmen like Jimmy Carter begin comparing Israel's actions to South Africa's apartheid, you then realize that Israel is losing the propaganda war.
Let’s move away from the never-ending debate over legitimacy claims on both sides and search for a pragmatic solution. In this context, I will define how I am Pro-Israel. As a US citizen, my world view is inexorably affected by my desire for peace and prosperity in my own country. How to achieve this was forever changed after the trauma of 9/11/01. Before then, I took peace and prosperity for granted – at least within my own borders.
I want the same thing for Israel. I want lasting peace and continual prosperity for Israel. This is my "pro-Israel" hope. To achieve this, I would lobby for what I call "positive disengagement" from Israel. My goal would be for the US government to publicly take a stand against the continual encroachment of West Bank settlements by Israel, including a withdrawal of those already settled in violation of existing UN mandates. Ideally, I’d like to see a stand against all settlements outside of the original UN mandated border. Either way, I doubt that Israel would comply. With non-compliance, the consequence would be a termination of all military contracts and foreign aid.
While this may seem less than friendly to Israel, it’s really a form of tough love. I want to see Israel prosper, but I don’t think it’s going to happen unless the US can publicly extricate itself from its no-win relationship with Israel. The US has the strongest military in the world and Israel has the strongest military in the middle east. Neither country needs to fear a more objective, neutral and independent relationship. It’s no surprise that the US has been ineffectual in facilitating any long term peace agreement with Israel and the people in Gaza or the West Bank. Any influence we could have in that area is completely subjugated by our current dysfunctional relationship with Israel.
I’m not inferring that our "positive disengagement" with Israel will influence its actions. In fact, I regularly read Israeli political blogs, and I find many voices sharing the same opinion: that Israel does not want to be told what to do by the US and that the US can keep its military and foreign aid. Whether Israel changes or not, at least the US would be able to step away from the harmful consequences of the past relationship. We could then rebuild our relationships with the majority of moderate Mideast nations, regardless of the type of government. The most strategically effective weapon against the Islamic militants is complete marginalization. If militants and their message are no longer accepted within their own country or region, they have no place to go. This is more powerful than any military might, and has recently been demonstrated in the significant collapse of Al-Qaeda strength in Iraq by the collective will of the Sunni factions, identified as the "Awakening Councils".
As we rebuild and strengthen our relationships with Israel’s neighbors (both friends and enemies), the dynamics in that region will change. With an increased sense of security, Israel just may decide to unilaterally withdraw its presence in the West Bank. With this newly available land, a final solution to the long ignored Palestinian refugee problem can be addressed. With financial aid and cooperation of neighboring countries, (currently holding refugees), a realistic plan for compensation and resettlement (in various countries) can be developed. The result of this plan, favorable to Israel, is that it will finally put an end to any continual resettlement claims within the original borders of Israel. And of course, with Israel’s withdrawal, the US could again offer military and economic assistance, if needed.
As religions and as ethnic people, both Jews and Muslims can point to many times throughout history where their cooperation has led to periods of great economic growth and achievements. Unfortunately, this recent period of strife has all but obliterated the history of these past harmonious periods.
I am Pro-Israel and my dream is a 100 year anniversary celebration in 2048 in which Israel and its surrounding neighbors have developed a Mideast Union of countries with shared economic and environmental prosperity. An area whose earliest recorded histories are integrated with the foundations of the major religions in that area. An area, that in the mid 21st century, could once again lead the world in the universality of the "golden rule".
At this moment, on both sides of the Jordan River, there are young kids on swings and slides, and young kids playing soccer. It’s for them that I want Israel and all its neighbors, including a viable and contiguous Palestinian nation to work towards this 100 year celebration: A celebration of one nation’s birthday and a celebration of an entire region’s peace and prosperity.
Update: Thanks for all the comments. This was my first diary and I appreciate the input. Sorry I didn't post a tip jar this time.