Time to leave the merrygoround of violence in the middle east

a. Let the democratic majorities decide

Today it takes just a few persons to block any peace efforts in the IP (Israel Palestine area) regardless of the will of any democratically elected government or even any government with popular support. Only some Kalashnikovs or semtex   or rockets are needed.

The area is victimized by a culture of violence. Automatic reprisals from either side only fortifies this situation. Deciding who is to blame is like quenching a fire with gasoline.

Is it possible to put the brakes on this development? With a more realistic perception of the conflict and the real issues at stake, supported by an attainable change in mindset, this can be done.

What realistic perception? That all actions that the IPs engage in are distorted by 60 years of conflict. As little as 5 years of a continual armistice will give a completely new perspective on the issues. The problem is to anticipate this new perspective.

What are the real issues? For the Palestinians whether it is more important to develop their own state which cares for its citizens or to kill Jews. For the Israelis whether a Palestinian State is a threat or an opportunity.

What is the necessary mindset? It is that attacks are felt by the IPs as a threat to their basic and separate national goals. The minimum to translate this attitude into policy is an  armistice agreement.

Is it possible to imagine such an agreement? I present here one of many possible versions to show that is possible to think realistically along these lines. I want to stress that it is not the content in itself that is important but the thinking behind it. All too many supporters on either side are caught on the merry go round. It is time to get off and look around.

b. A sketch for an armistice plan in the IP area

Step 1. The Gaza Strip is turned over to Israel and its residents are offered housing and startup capital in Palestine.

Comment: The thought here as in the following step is that an area has not the identical value for Israel and Palestine.

For Palestine the Gaza Strip is a disaster, surrounded and separated by Israel, where Palestinian citizens live in squalor and without hope. For Israel, the gain would be a unified territory up to the Egyptian border and one border less to police.

Step 2: One or more Israeli areas with mainly Palestinian population are incorporated in the Palestinian state.

Comment: It is obvious that Palestine will not turn over the Gaza Strip without gaining something as valuable to them. The areas in question are however more valuable to Israel sq meter for sq meter than for the  Palestine. No Israeli government would turn over land on a 1 to 1 basis and on the other hand no Palestinian government would agree to exchange 10 of the strip to 1 of Israeli territory no matter how many of Palestinian origin live there. Here lies the central basis for negotiation.

But these two steps are only the foundation for armistice negotiations.

Step 3. The settlers are offered resettlement funds and compensation. The armistice is in force first when almost all the settlers have left Palestinian territory and almost all Palestinians have left the Gaza Strip.

Comment: The whole armiostice plan builds on the thought that the IPs have a furture where the main obstacle is the present culture of violence. The Palestinians, quite reasonably, refuse to be treated as “natives” with the end result a reservation (like the Gaza Strip as a matter of fact). The Intifada and the suicide bombings are a desperate substitute for the jets the Palestinians lack. But the armistice plan offers the Palestinians increased security and an increased number of their citizens in a Palestinian homeland. It offers the Israelis increased security and clearer borders. For the settlers an honorable retreat (after all the Strip has to be settled) to the advantage of Israel.

Step 4.  The world community foots most of the bill.

Comment: It is obvious that IP cannot pay for everything out of their own resources. The outside world will have foot a large part of the bill. The world community must weigh the costs for their part of compensation to settlers and Gaza residents against the political and economic costs of the present conflict. Above  all the political costs of fortifying terrorism as a way of life on both sides of the border.

Step 5. The world community must receive a return on their investment.

Comment: Nobody can guarantee a future free from violence. However a violent future is guaranteed as long as torture is not forbidden by IP constitutions or corresponding instruments and as long as the foundations for ethnic cleansing are laid in the schoolbooks. It would simply mean that the world community would be financing continued and increasing violence and violations of human dignity and rights.

Therefore, as a minimum: Torture is forbidden in the constitutional instruments in IP with full transparency for the world community in the implementation of this. b. Until a peace treaty is signed (an utopian step at present) all school books up through gymnasium or high school must be approved by a suitable UN organ.

c. The bitter reality

Violence within IP can decline if there is a reason to rethink the situation but it will take a long time before it disappears completely. Today suicide bombers and state terrorists are heroes because they can brainwash not only themselves but their countrymen into thinking that their actions are necessary for the survival of their people. With an armistice agreement, negotiated by the IP, where both parties trade something worthwhile for something even more essential, the men of violence become a threat to the national goals and existence of the IPs. That means that terrorists are changed from popular heroes into outcasts. This is as obvious to them as to everybody else. Therefore an immediate increase of violence during negotiations and immediately afterwards in order to sabotage any armistice agreement. The members of the larger organized groups, however, have an incentive to gain power by spending their efforts in shaping the future of IP by peaceful means. The smaller groups can only continue with the only thing they know – the murder of innocents. Can the IP citizens put love of country and a will to build their own future ahead of their anger? Or will they let a few extremists among both nations determine their future?This and a perceptive and determined leadership from their politicians is necessary to marginalize these few and leave the merrygoround for good.



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