Is a Comprehensive Middle Eastern Peace Possible?
There is a glimpse of hope for the “solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is a hopeful outcry that the Annapolis meeting will be the opening of a paradigm shift toward a comprehensive Middle Eastern peace. If only partial solutions to one or more problems are agreed upon, it will be a waste of time for the participants and the cycle of vicious violence will prevail. (From East Jerusalem) LET US IMAGINE that the Annapolis meeting will be a launch for the people process in all tracks: Israel with Palestine, with Syria and with Lebanon. Let us support that another parallel track will be opened between the US and Iran, either directly or indirectly. Let us imagine that the region will find solutions to the territorial issues, the Golan Heights, Shebaa Farms, the Palestinian territories; and the Palestinian refugee problem that is a joint issue involving Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. Let us also imagine finding solutions to other concerns such as the issues of borders, settlement expansion, and Jerusalem. Then a formula for regional economic cooperation will be created. The Iranian nuclear project will become only peaceful or it will be dismantled all together and possibly in conjunction with a parallel process of dismantling the Israeli one. Let us suppose that all of this happens followed by the 22 Arab States declaring normal relations with Israel. A new Middle Eastern Union will be established and become an additional peace project to the European Union. Eventually, this Middle Eastern Union will become part of a wider Mediterranean Union that will bring the Middle Eastern countries and the European Union together. The logic of the Hamilton-Baker report leads to what is described above. One can also find the seeds of such a plan for a comprehensive Middle East solution in the International Crisis Group reports. Previous American presidents and senators from both the Republican and the Democratic parties, and many European departments have also called for a similar resolution. FACTORS TO CONSIDER This line of thinking is a realistic one, in the sense that it takes in consideration the factors listed below: The problems of the region are interconnected therefore they should be solved together. Solving the problem in one track while leaving out the others will result in motivating those excluded to play the role of spoilers which, in addition to spoiling countries, includes Hamas inside Palestine and Hizbullah inside Lebanon. The solution in the Middle East should bridge the gap with political Islam and include them in the process of reaching a comprehensive formula for peace. There is a lot of historically accumulated anger and frustration in the Middle East. This frustration and anger, combined with rising poverty, corruption, and authoritarianism creates extreme responses. Therefore, the solution should not only address the symptoms of violence and terrorism, but also the root causes by providing the people of the region with real peace plans including economic development, and support at all levels, political, social, or economic. Israel and the West have great historical responsibility for what is going on in the region. Thus, they should initiate change, doing so through a radical paradigm shift. The reconciliation process is very important for the international peace to prevail. If these are the conditions to reach real peace and prosperity in the Middle East, why are they not implemented? Why are antagonistic camps disseminating hatred, doubts and war language? HOPE The Annapolis international meeting offers a glimpse of hope for a comprehensive solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if not to the Israeli-Arab conflict as a whole. While the Annapolis meeting will focus on the Israeli-Palestinian track and the building of Palestinian institutions, it is now clear that there will be a second meeting after Annapolis that will be held in Moscow next March discussing the Golan Heights issue, therefore concentrating on the Syrian–Israeli track. If these inclusive processes are accompanied by another indirect track with Hamas (coordinated with Abu Mazen) regarding a possible reciprocal ceasefire with the Gaza Strip and the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, at the expense of not playing the role of the spoiler to the political agreement Abu Mazen might achieve with Israel, Hamas might accept. In all tracks: Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine with Israel, peace is badly needed. Let us hope that the Middle East will be rescued this time.