Is it fair, or decent, or even possible to dream of brighter days during these dark times? I confess that my natural state is that of a guarded, cynical political realist. As a corrective, I try to entertain avenues of optimism, hoping to find a vague promise of better days to come. The following scenario is admittedly chimerical but perhaps worthy of exploration, if only to hold on to a floss-like line of hope.
Israel is currently on the brink of an impending Gaza operation of unfamiliar scope and scale. This grim reality foreshadows horrific consequences including thousands of Palestinian and Israeli civilian causalities, a new rubble-riddled Gaza skyline, an overflowing cesspool of mis-/disinformation, a flurry of valid and totally off-the-mark international condemnations, enough PTSD to last ten lifetimes, and countless dead Hamasniks and IDF soldiers. An arsonist couldn’t wish for a more incendiary situation.
Let me make a few things clear before I propose my quixotic pipedream. First of all, beyond any doubt, the Israeli and Palestinian leadership have failed miserably in serving the best interests of their respective citizenry. Next, a forceful Israeli response to the October 7th massacre is vital to maintain Israeli deterrence in the region. There is no moral equivalency in the tactics of Hamas and Israel. Israel must do whatever it takes to bring the hostage’s home. When the cannons are finally silent the Israelis will lose no time getting rid of their irresponsible leadership (one can only hope the Palestinians will do the same). Finally, the assorted two-state, one-state, and no state positions of both the Israeli and Palestinian camps have been as effective as chicken soup is to stage four brain cancer.
Now here comes the visionary paradigm shift that will require the diplomatic brilliance and finesse of a magician. I am no Saudi Arabia superfan, but if the Saudis, with some serious American handholding, can be the bold, diplomatic arbiter of order than maybe, just maybe, our beloved Middle Eastern neighborhood can usher in a future full of promise.
Picture this: Israel is six weeks into its Gaza ground offensive, over 20,000 folks (both combatants and innocent civilians) have perished, strombolian eruptions are persisting on the northern border, Iran has threateningly mobilized its air force and navy, posturing its willingness to ‘bet the house,’ diasporic Jewish communities are experiencing violent hate-crimes at incomprehensible levels, and traditional and social media sentiment is in near complete support of the Palestinian people.
Meanwhile, under the gold plated, crystal filled ceilings of the Al Yamamah Palace, MBS and company have devised a master plan which not only selfishly expedites Saudis Vision 2030 initiative, but also positions the oil rich nation as the chief peacemaker, and prosperity promoter of the region. The menacing monarchy crafts a cash-first plan which calls for an immediate halt to the hostilities, gets Iran to ‘cool their jets,’ puts forth a credible rebuilding plan for Gaza and the West Bank that will make the new Palestine resemble Dubai instead of Damascus, empowers moderate Palestinian leaders and positions them as the heads of a governing body for all Palestinians, and presents the Israeli and Palestinian people with an American-hechschered and co-financed plan that creates two states for two peoples, based on a hybrid version of the Oslo Accords, Arab Peace Initiative, and the Realignment Plan. This Saudi-led initiative would infuriate and elate Israelis and Palestinians almost equally, and would change the face of region for generations to come.
Saudi Arabia, together with the US, can leverage the power of the pockets, coupled with diplomatic artistry that resembles Caravaggio more than COP27, and solidify themselves as the leaders of the Middle East and the new Muslim world. A dream may only reflect the thoughts of the dreamer, but in dark times like these, it’s important to share them.