In April 1985, King Hussein of Jordan complained bitterly to the regional section chief of the CIA about a published peace plan in the American newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor. In those days the Monitor was a well-established and highly regarded Boston-based journalistic pillar of the New England liberal establishment. In the preceding October the Monitor had announced a world-wide essay contest entitled Peace 2010. The contest would accept essays (written in one of four languages, German included) that envisioned the events necessary for the world to institute a genuine blueprint for peace in order to replace the Cold War.
The essay contest was judged not only by the editors of the newspaper but also by the ex-Secretary General of the United Nations, Kurt Waldheim, and a past director of the CIA in the Carter Administration, Stansfield Turner. With over 3000 entrants from over thirty countries (ninety percent of them holding PhDs), the contest became somewhat of a foreign policy magnet for out-of-the-box thinking on the dynamics for an alternative to the nuclear stalemate and the regional proxy wars endemic to the US-Soviet stand-off in the Cold War era.
I entered the contest without even a college course in international relations, but as a strict amateur with an abiding interest in both Middle East politics and European affairs. I spent three years on Israeli kibbutzim and had a previous background in the blue-collar trades of carpentry and diesel mechanics, as well as having taken livestock science courses from the Penn State University extension. In those years I idealized A.D. Gordon and the early Zionist pioneers, and I wanted nothing more than to hone my skills as a farmer and as an autodidactic scholar of politics and history.
My essay was based on two overriding principles. First, the division of the European continent into two warring factions needed to be overcome. Second, a structure of regional peace within the Middle East must also accompany this new European geopolitical architecture. In those days the US, Europe and Japan were totally dependent on oil from the Persian Gulf, and world peace could never be achieved without the Middle East also beginning an era of peace and cooperation, leading to the advancement of both politics and economics.
At the forefront of the regional dynamic in 1985 were the Iran-Iraq war and the Israeli-Arab conflict. My essay addressed both these dilemmas through an Israel-Arab peace initiative entitled the Inter-German Plan. It also included a forward-thinking West German foreign policy which extended traditional Ostpolitik into a future of European military and economic harmony which would be inclusive of the Soviet Union. In other words, a Europe without two warring camps and without the necessity of any kind of European occupation, either by direct US military involvement through its membership in NATO or the Soviet occupation of eastern and central Europe. This European structure was to be accompanied by an Israel-Arab peace structure that united the Middle East between the Sunni Arab states and Israel.
In my essay it was Germany, not the US or the Soviet Union, which took the leading role in establishing the new European security structure. The concept established was for a European military integration which would merge NATO and the Warsaw Pact. I called this new European military structure “defensive integration”. Germany also took the lead in addressing the need for peace in the Middle East by being the chief proponent of a democratic plan for Jordan and the Arab population of the West Bank. My essay’s Middle East strategy encompassed the need for a Palestinian state without jeopardizing Israel’s legitimate religious and security interests within Judea and Samaria. At the same time, the plan also included the majority population of Palestinians living in Jordan. I assumed that, without Jordan in the mix (as a democratic state), no peace plan could ever be enduring. I have never accepted the concept that Jordan would remain an absolute monarchy in perpetuity.
The Inter-German Plan was based on four planks. 1.) That Palestinian sovereignty would be democratic in nature and be based on the principle of one-person, one-vote for all Arab citizens encompassing both banks of the Jordan River. 2.) That this democratic Arab state and Israel would create a shared-rule condominium for the West Bank-Judea and Samaria. 3.) That Israel and the democratic Arab state recognize each other. 4.) That Jerusalem would become the capital city of both the democratic Arab state and Israel.
In April of 1985, I won the Christian Science Monitor’s Peace 2010 contest. My winning essay was published world-wide, and a number of copies were placed at the royal palace in Amman, Jordan. According to reports, the King of Jordan was so angry and outraged that such a potential outcome could be published by a US newspaper that he called in the regional CIA representative in order to voice his royal objection. I was told that it was quite a dressing down.
Meanwhile, Kurt Waldheim (a judge of the contest and a close and personal friend of the PLO chairman) presented the winning essay and the concept of the plan to Yasser Arafat. At the same time, both Arafat and the King of Jordan were in the middle of a complicated negotiation of their own involving the union of the two banks of the Jordan River into a prospective Arab-only political confederation. Arafat rejected my plan outright, but he held out the possibility of a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation, as long as Palestinian sovereignty first be established on the West Bank. Then and only then would Arafat consider a structure which would encompass both banks of the river.
In other words, the PLO Chairman could accept part of my plan, but without the plank of an Israeli-Palestinian condominium on the West Bank. This could eventually mean a greater Palestine if Arafat invoked the concept of democracy into the confederation. Such a democratic state stretching from Amman to the suburbs of Tel Aviv — and with a military bridge to Syria, Iraq and potentially Iran (depending who came out the winner in the Iraq-Iran War) — would become an anathema to peace. Arafat took the concepts within my prize-winning essay and made them into their polar opposite. Eventually, however, the King simply broke off negotiations with Arafat. He probably did this when both Israel and the US rejected the concept of a Palestinian state on the West Bank confederated with the monarchy in Jordan as potentially too unstable.
Of course it is now thirty-one years later. The European continent is more divided than ever, as NATO has expanded into all the countries of the old Warsaw Pact. Russia feels isolated from its neighbors, as Germany has become re-united and is now the economic powerhouse of the EU. It is almost as if Germany won WWII because the West won the Cold War. This situation is about as far from my winning peace essay as could be imagined. Yet German Chancellor Angela Merkel has the audacity not only to preach to the Russians but also to suggest that the only peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians is the one that would allow the PLO sovereignty over the West Bank. She is afraid Israel will become an “apartheid state” if it doesn’t withdraw from the West Bank. Merkel’s perceptions and lack of understanding can only be described as infamy.
So much for a so-called special relationship between Israel and Germany. But there is more. Germany and Europe have become free riders on the coattails of a NATO alliance totally dependent on US power. In this age of economic weakness, NATO has outlived its usefulness; it has become a complete anachronism. Meanwhile Russia has begun the inevitable push-back against NATO expansion, as the voters in the US now support candidates (Trump and Sanders) who don’t believe in NATO or its post-WWII mission. The majority of Americans now believe that Germany is big enough and strong enough to defend itself. Would the US government really sacrifice Boston, New York or Miami for the sake of Berlin? Once again, the question of extended nuclear deterrence has come into the language of European security. And once again, Ostpolitik has become central to a potential for European peace.
But Merkel has completely ignored reality in both Europe and the Middle East. Syria, Iraq and Lebanon have all become entangled in an intense struggle for sectarian supremacy in the Middle East. Yet the Chancellor presumes to tell Israel what it must do in such a chaotic security environment. She states in no uncertain terms that the Two-State Solution is Israel’s only choice for future peace. What chutzpah! The so-called Two-State Solution is exactly in the same place it was in 1985, or at least 1993 (Oslo). Israel perceives this Palestinian state as an island (surrounded by Israel) where Jordan will remain an absolute monarchy in perpetuity. The PLO, on the other hand, perceives a West Bank state as a bridge eastward toward an eventual democratic Jordan, and linked through this enlarged Palestinian community with Shiite Iraq and Iran. Apartheid has simply nothing to do with any of this. For a German chancellor to advocate such a flawed concept is not only a misreading of history, it is a misreading of reality.
Is Merkel so misinformed about the nature of Israel’s enemies that she would parrot such drivel? The occupation of the Palestinians is legal because Israel was never the aggressor in either 1948 or 1967. Does Merkel believe otherwise? Is Germany ready to sell Israel down the river and allow the PLO’s vision — the Two-State-Solution as a bridge to Iran — to become a reality? What makes Merkel think that Israel needs to accept any West Bank Palestinians into any political entity other than direct face-to-face negotiations? Or is she just being a puppet for the Obama administration, following the US Democratic Party line to put pressure on Israel and threaten to take this issue to the UN in order to punish the Israeli people for voting for Prime Minister Netanyahu? Maybe the Republican leadership needs to investigate this constant US pressure (and Germany’s involvement) and then inform the American people about this issue and how NATO expansion has made Europe unstable and dangerous.
The risk of nuclear war with the Russians is real. Ash Carter, Obama’s Secretary of Defense, said as much just a few days ago. Furthermore, now that Russia has directly entrenched itself in the Syrian civil war, the proxy nature of the old Cold War has once again come to the fore in the Middle East. We are now living in a period of history which could be even worse than anything experienced during the Soviet occupation of Germany and Eastern Europe, or even the wars between Israel and its Arab neighbors. If nuclear deterrence breaks down in Europe over NATO expansion, what is to prevent an atomic arms race all across the continent?
The same is now true in the Middle East. Iranian compliance with the Obama nuclear deal will only be purchased at the expense of further Iranian misbehavior within the Arab world. Iran brazenly demands that sanctions against its vast support for regional and international terrorism be lifted. What if they are not lifted? Can the nuclear deal hold without such a dramatic tilt toward Tehran? Certainly not in a Trump administration, and Hillary Clinton is much father to the right on this issue than Obama ever was. Meanwhile, Russia has sent advanced ground-to-air missiles to Iran. What will happen once these systems become operational and the Iran sanctions remain in place? Until a regional solution for the Middle East is established, Israeli-Palestinian peace has become a non-starter.
The world is in a very precarious position. Israel should listen carefully to Russian ideas before allowing Merkel and Obama to gang up on the Jewish state. If Obama and Merkel feel that there is no alternative other than the so-called Two-State Solution, then it might be wise for Israel to point out an alternative. In recent years, I have added a third peace plan to those already published in 1985. It includes a fourteen point nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East as a complement to the Inter-German Plan in my prize-winning essay. I call the concept the Zone of Peace. It has been published on these pages on numerous occasions. It envisions a Middle East without recourse to missiles — a region (from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf) where dialogue replaces war and terrorism.
With or without nuclear weapons, Israel’s conventional security border must, in perpetuity, be located on the heights leading to the Jordan River. Anyone who does not understand this reality has simply no sympathy for the future of the Jewish state. If Chancellor Merkel falls into that category, Israeli-German relations will decline into animosity. Unless there is a German initiative on the equal security future of all European nations (including Russia), the nuclear Sword of Damocles will remain a dangerous force in all world politics.
Perhaps it is time to inform President Putin of the Christian Science Monitor’s Peace 2010 international contest. I am certain he would find its European security concept interesting. Germany must understand that there is an alternative to the Two-State Solution, and that is the nuclear-weapons-free Zone of Peace and the Inter-German Plan. With the world unraveling, nothing else seems to be working in our 21st century’s broken geopolitical system.