In July of 2014(!) the following was sent to several major publications, none of which chose to give it the light of day. Revisiting this piece, I am made to cry when I consider “what if….”. Too late for about 4,000 people, but never too late for the rest of us.
An immodest proposal for Mideast peace
The background and rationale
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results defines insanity. This IS the Israeli-Palestinian dynamic. A perpetual, mutually destructive, march toward catastrophe is reinitiated repeatedly by absurd provocations on the part of Israel and the Palestinians (alternating) with achingly predictable results. No less predictable (and ever futile) have been the reactions of all interested parties.
A monumental shift in strategy is essential. Unfortunately it is less than likely that any initiative will emanate from either intractable parties. Each has legitimate plaints that have been nurtured (and that are regularly reinforced by actions of its adversary) and magnified to the point that all other perspectives are preempted or trumped. Crucially, each denies the legitimacy of the other’s plaints and, even the other’s right to exist. This is a classic situation where, because the basic requisites for constructive direct negotiations are lacking, intervention is mandatory.
Given the main actors, absent intervention there is no realistic hope for a salutary outcome. Playing to local politics is the only game at which Netanyahu, Abbas, and Hamas leaders all excel and at which all unanimously seem happy to participate ad infinitum. This has cost thousands of lives, disrupted arguably millions of additional lives, and cost billions of dollars.
This insanity can only be stopped by intervention from nations with vested interest in a peaceful solution and the clout to enforce it, as well as, secure its efficacy. Neither Netanyahu with his predictable reactions and monotonous recitations of tired rhetoric, nor Abbas or Meshaal with their pathetic duplicity are the kind of visionaries that would be expected to suggest a novel way out. No original or creative idea has emanated from either side’s leadership in years. Original thinking is defeated by reflex and stifled by adherence to tired dogma. Both sides are so mired in a combination of victimhood and vituperative denigration of the other that their brains cannot spare the needed bandwidth for creativity or even mere logic. The proposal outlined below is based on wholly practical premises and zero ideology. It is as neutral as it is neat and should appeal to all sincere peace-seeking actors in this complex drama. Its discussion will have the additional benefit of exposing the hypocrisy of extremists on either side who claim to desire nothing more than peace.
Ample data exist to show the enormous monetary costs associated with the situation on the ground since the dawn of Israel’s contested arrival on the international scene as a full- fledged nation sanctioned by United Nations resolution. Quite apart from the cost in lives (and in way of living), costs for supporting military or revolutionary infrastructures for both offensive and defensive purposes have been enormous to say the least. Although there is no turning back of the proverbial clock or putting the genie back in the bottle, there can be real benefits to be derived from diverting for constructive purposes sums allocated to military budgets and to civilian expenditures associated with this ceaseless conflict.
The Proposed construct
Israel and Egypt would designate an area analogous, but not necessarily contiguous to the current Gaza strip in the Northwest part of the Sinai for the establishment of a new Palestinian Gaza. This new state, totally demilitarized, will be initially administered by the appropriate UN agency (on the way to full-fledged, democratic, statehood) and its safety and integrity guaranteed by both UN and the EU (or NATO) forces. Its homes, infrastructure, and some industrial facilities mirroring current reality, will be financed by international donations and built, in large part, by the very people intent on settling there.
All peace seeking violence-renouncing current inhabitants of Gaza will be invited to enter and have safe passage for their families guaranteed by the same forces that will undertake their protection in the new state. These forces will also undertake the inspection of everything being conveyed into the new state. The new entrants must enter unarmed and will each get immediate citizenship as well as temporary homes while the permanent structures are being constructed. The new state will have open borders with both Israel and Egypt, with nothing more than typically conventional customs inspections for items considered contraband by the charter of this arms-free state.
A new pacifist state will have been created and in its wake will remain, unmasked and subject to retaliatory military action, the vengeful and hate-mongering core of fanatics whose claims to wanting anything but the destruction of its enemy will forever ring hollow, even in the ears of its current compatriots. Israel will be made to vow a certain ceasefire with the “old” Gaza in order to allow for the latter to show its hand under the new circumstances – negotiate or continue futile trading of missiles.
The establishment of this new Gaza state will be funded by money diverted from military and security budgets, as well as significant contributions from Saudi Arabia, the EU, the US, and United Nations funds. With little prodding, many NGOs and religious organizations that currently decry the state of semi permanent conflict and its monetary toll, will reallocate funding towards a more constructive end than their current, humanitarian remediation efforts,
travel, promotion, and lobbying exercises in futility. To avoid repeat of misallocation of funds evident previously in all but a few of recipient nations everywhere, control over disbursements will remain at least partially in the hands of the donors, under strict rules of transparency at all stages.
The good intentions and peaceful proclivities of sincere peace-loving people and organizations will be confirmed and readily manifest by their participation in, or overt support of, this construct. The hypocrisy of all others, whether they operate from within today’s Gaza, Israel proper, the West Bank, or elsewhere in the world, will be exposed and if necessary dealt with by severe sanctions imposed by international consensus and/or international armed force where appropriate.
As part of the peace process initiated by the implementation of this construct an Oslo-like peace conference will be held immediately. This conference will be monitored/facilitated by senior United Nations and EU diplomats of appropriate credentials and previously demonstrated impeccable neutrality. No local actors will be excluded from this conference except by unanimous consent of the PLO (as representative of all Palestinians, including Hamas members) and the government of Israel, each of which will be unconditionally free to name its own delegates. The rebuilding of new and amelioration of existing infrastructure in the West Bank with supervision by donor nations will be a primary agenda item, with a view to creating a viable and potentially prosperous state that will relieve any but the most fanatical Palestinian of any desire to attack Israel as opposed to building and enjoying his or her newly created state. During the process of this conference and of the building of the new Gaza entity Israel will be enjoined from any and all new settlement building and from any extra-territorial policing or military retaliation for individual acts by the inevitable fanatics. A joint NATO-UN force populated by soldiers from strictly neutral (politically and religiously) states will be stationed in both the West Bank and Gaza to enforce the ceasefire that will, obviously, be a central aspect of this effort.
In a near analog to the 1948 creation of the state of Israel, but without dissent leading to hostile action by parties opposed to its creation, a new Palestine could be created and possibly made to thrive in peace in a way that neither the old Palestine nor it’s partitioned sibling, Israel, were able to afford. This new state will have doubly significant legitimacy. The one formally conferred by the United Nations and the second by the patently manifest choice of its collective citizenry to populate this clearly defined peaceable land and enjoy the economic opportunities availed by a compassionate international consensus.
Although seemingly idealistic at first glance, this proposal possesses much rationally calculated underpinning. From a strictly monetary cost-benefit analysis it ought to gain Universal support, with dissent arising only from two camps. Arms manufacturers and their advocates in diverse corridors of power and various (not necessarily aligned), and fanatics who always put profit and doctrine, respectively, ahead of the interests of humans and of peace. These two camps will undoubtedly tout flaws in this surely imperfect construct and will seek to pre-empt it. The invincibility of this proposal will rest on its being impervious to any fiscally or logistically based rational attack. Only ideology and superstition will underpin opposition to it. Further analysis will show that this proposal’s elegance rests on two factors: Its focus on peace and the fact that it may shame many sanctimonious fundamentalists to support it while exposing the rest for what they are.
A brief list of the beneficiaries should serve to highlight the argument in this construct’s favour. Palestinians in general and most of Gaza residents in particular should drool in anticipation of this construct’s adoption. Israel as a whole and in particular its residents in the southwestern region most vulnerable to Hamas and its delegates’ mischief and terrorism ought to rejoice at the prospects of not only peace but the establishment of two stable and potentially co-operative nations on its borders. The US and the European Union will both have benefited economically and strategically from peace in the region, as, arguably, will much of the world.
Finally, as previously stated, this proposal is undeniably imperfect. It is, however, an attempt at a novel approach to a problem that has suffered from a dearth of appealing solutions. Taken as a starting point for well- meaning and constructive discussion, it may just contain some ideas on which to build a viable solution to what has so far been an intractable problem that few have dared believe solvable.