Peace by Ending the Occupation in the Levant

The creation of a Palestinian Arab state in the lands taken under Israel’s control in 1967 war has been the pre-ordained solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. This solution was imposed upon Israel as terms of a unique UN resolution (242) that called for Israel to become the only nation in history to relinquish lands captured from aggressors in a defensive war.

The UN resolution itself specifies that the boundaries in a final agreement should be defensible for Israel—the intention was not that Israel return to the 1948 borders—regardless of the unrelenting pressure of world powers for her to do so.

The ostensible purpose of Israel withdrawing from the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza Strip has been the creation of a Palestinian Arab state in these areas, even though when they were under the possession of Jordan and Egypt, those countries entertained no such idea (Jordan annexed the West Bank in 1950). Had Israel lost the 1948 war, with certainty the entire land of Israel, not just the West Bank and Gaza, would have been carved up and incorporated into the invading border nations—and no independent Palestinian nation would have come into existence.

Not merely because of lust for additional lands by the invading nations would this have occurred, but for a more fundamental reason. Historically, the Arab populations of the Levant area which include Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Modern Israel, and the Sinai Peninsula are the same ethnicity. Apart from Egypt, the boundaries of these countries were created by the British in the early 1900s after they seized these lands from the Ottoman Empire—artificially creating separate nationalities. The infamous grand mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the future leader of violent Arab opposition to Jews being in Palestine, signed a petition to the British military governor demanding that Palestine be included among the borders of Syria and that any borders between Syria and Palestine be removed.

A further stubbornly ignored fact in the Arab-Israeli conflict is that while Arabs in the mandate of Western Palestine left freely (at the request of the invading Arab nations), after the 1948 war, centuries old Jewish communities were universally expelled from Arab nations—with the vast majority settling in Israel.

It is estimated that the financial loss of the Jews forced from Arab lands exceeded the financial loss of the Palestinians who left of their own accord by 50%. Whereas the Palestinian Arabs not only have remained separated in refugee camps in the countries they fled to (apart from the those who fled to Jordan), they continue to receive large financial assistance from UN agencies because of their on-going refugee status—with no foreseeable end in sight. In comparison, Israel absorbed an equivalent number of penniless Jews from Arab lands with assistance from no one.

And therefore, if one argues that the 1948 boundaries were “fair,” this only applied before the expulsion of Jews from Arab lands. Currently, 45% of Israel’s Jews identify as Mizrahi and over 50% of Jews in Israel have at least partial Mizrahi ancestry.

These facts aside, pragmatically the land size of a proposed Palestinian state, even if encompassed all the West Bank and Gaza, is too small to be a viable country. Inherently it would be unstable. Gaza the antecedent to such a country highlight this: 1.5 million Arabs were given independence and soon thereafter elected a government that is dedicated to the destruction of Israel—subjecting the people of Israel to unrelenting rocket attacks and other terrorist action. The 2021 bombardment of 4,000 rockets fired by Hamas targeting Israel’s civilians yet again has proved the untenability of the situation.

The creation of a Palestinian Arab state that includes the West Bank and thus leaves Israel’s key population centers with an 8-mile width is a recipe for unrelenting aggression—certain to be a continuation of the failed Gaza experiment—not a recipe for peace, but for on-going war.

One solution is to not treat the issue of stateless Palestinian Arabs in isolation, but as part of broader and more complex challenges faced large populations of Sunni Muslims (Palestinian Muslims are almost entirely Sunni).  Namely, to include those Sunnis who live under oppressive rule in Syria, those who have fled to Europe, and those who reside as temporary citizens of the wealthy oil nations but with no path to citizenship.

The first, obvious, and just solution is to create a Sunni Muslim homeland in the one nation in the Middle East which is truly occupied—Syria.

Here is why:

In Syria, the Alawites (an offshoot of Shia Islam) make up 10% of the population or about 1.8 million of Syria’s 18 million population; and yet rule the rest of the Syrians of which 74% are Sunni Muslim and 10% Christian. Syria, which is 6.5 times the size of Israel and with less than 20% of its population density, is artificially Alawite controlled because foreign governments supply its brutal Alawite dictator, Bashar Assad, with military troops and advanced weapons that allow him to maintain his rule. Without this support from Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia, the Alawite regime would rapidly collapse.

The Syrian government has shown no limitation in the extreme way it will kill its citizens to maintain power—including leveling cities and using chemical weapons against women and children. Five million refugees have fled Syria and 400,00 have been killed in their civil war. Were these 5.4 million Syrians not citizens of Syria—even though they alone represented three times the Alawite population?

Bashar Assad has proven to be the leader with the least legitimacy to lead a nation in this world. The status quo of Dr. Assad and his small minority maintaining power by terror, brutality, and foreign military intervention is not sustainable. Though he has managed to cling to power with a parasitic tenaciousness that has exceeded his contemporaries such as Muammar Gaddafi —Bashar Assad will fall from power and Syria will eventually become a Sunni ruled country—the only questions are how far in the future, the total number of dead and displaced before this occurs, and what type of government succeeds him.

Bashar Assad should be pressed to leave, paid off to “retire” to a luxury European chateau. Alternatively, maintain strict boycotts of his foreign supporters until they withdraw and accelerate the demise of his regime. (It should not go unnoticed by the Arab world that as soon as Russia attacked Ukraine that severe boycotts began, but for the long-standing oppression and brutalization of Syrian Arabs by the Russian army—on-going world silence). Failing these, the Arab nations should consider forcibly removing him from power.

After the fall of Assad, Syria should be entrusted to a coalition of Middle Eastern Arab countries who are required to transition control to the people of Syria in a set time frame such as 8 years. Syrian law should mimic Israeli in that any Sunni Muslim can become an automatic citizen of Syria.

Though not the specific intention, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by the United States reversed the domination of the majority Shias there by a Sunni minority. Having a Sunni majority rule Syria would be the corresponding change to reset the Middle East into a more stable balance.

This is not meant to imply that minorities in any country should be mistreated or not have rights. But it does recognize the reality that to stabilize the Middle East for all its citizens, the control of a country needs to reside with the majority as would naturally occur in a democracy.

Creating a Sunni Muslim state in Syria would solve many what seen as unrelated challenges with a single solution—providing a homeland for those mentioned above: the majority Sunni Muslims of Syria, the Palestinian Arabs who want to live as citizens of a nation under Muslim rule, the many displaced or disenfranchised Sunnis living as second class citizens living in Europe (such as those who fled from Syria itself), and the large populations Sunni Muslims who reside as temporary residents in Arab countries but without a path to citizenship.

An additional benefit would be that it would end the current terrorist government of Iran’s plan to extend their rule from their western border to the seashores of Lebanon.

The transition period should be managed by the Arab nations in the Middle East which would allow for legitimacy and prevent an extremist ISIL, Al Qaeda, or Muslim Brotherhood type group from seizing power before a proper government could be established. Having those nations manage the transition period will also allow them to provide financial support that goes directly toward nation building and self-sustainability—and not to bad actors that misuse and misappropriate the financial aid monies to maintain power and place in personal foreign bank accounts (as so often has occurred in the Middle East).

While the thesis above could sound improbable and fanciful—that is only with a near-sighted perspective. If we could glimpse Syria 20 years from now, the probability that Bashar Assad is still clinging to power is near zero—he will surely be gone—one way or another.

Turning to Jordan. Jordan represents the other large area of the Levant (and part of mandatory Palestine).  Jordan has a similar size population as Israel, but with over three times the land area. It is 95% Muslim and of those, 93% are Sunni. It is ruled, albeit less oppressively, but also by a leader who has limited credible legitimacy—the monarch (a kind way of saying dictator), King Abdullah. A Hashemite whose family is indigenous to Arabia and not Jordan.

The Hashemites came to power through the intervention of the British when, in 1921, they split off 75% of mandatory Palestine, renamed it Transjordan, and gave it to the original Abdullah as part of a payoff to the Hashemites to not attempt to reinstate Abdullah’s brother Faisal by military force on the Syrian throne. In the present, the King Abdullah of today is only able to maintain his rule because of the support of the United States, other Western countries, and oil rich Arab nations. While there is limited outcry for the overthrow of King Abdullah (except from within his family) at the present time, it certainly should be the legitimate right of all Sunni Arabs with national aspirations to live in Jordan—certainly no less than the non-native Hashemite family of Arabia who rule it.

Returning to the Palestinian Arabs living in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza and those Palestinian Arabs living as refugees without path to citizen in countries like Lebanon or Syria itself, they should be given the right to immigrate and become citizens of a free Syria or Jordan—traditional Levant areas of the Middle East—and thus allowing them the option of being part of majority Sunni nation and fulfill nationalistic aspirations. And those Arabs that choose to stay in Judea and Samaria fully incorporated into the State of Israel could potentially become naturalized citizens or be given limited municipal self-rule (the options would be for the sovereign state of Israel to decide).

And therefore, while most of the world clings to a “two-state” solution—with more extreme elements such the BDS movement attempt to undermine Israel’s legitimacy completely, the focus for the national aspirations of Arabs should be in their own plentiful lands of the Levant.

In fact, the relentless focus on the two-state solution which is in actuality a “non-solution” is a diversion, distraction, and disservice from Arab peoples achieving sovereignty of the areas of the Levant that are truly occupied, Syria and Jordan. While a “stable” Jordan under the dictatorship of King Abdullah may serve the interests of the West and the puppet regime of Bashar Assad may serve the interests of the Russia and Iran, they do not serve the interests of those who live in these countries or the Arabs of the region. True peace and stability will be achieved when Arab peoples become true sovereigns in their own lands—and the land of Israel, the area of the Levant which is not under occupation, is left to its rightful owners, the Jewish people.

About the Author
Dr. Cary Schnitzer is the Chief Medical Officer for a large medical care delivery organization. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Physics from Arizona State University, Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Arizona, and a Master of Medical Management Degree from the University of Southern California. Dr. Schnitzer has been an advanced student of Torah study for many years, learning in both the United States and Israel. He is the author of the book: Understanding Adam’s Sin and Its Rectification.
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