May
18

more solutions- peace in the middle east:

A Radical Approach to Middle East Peace: No More Peace Talks
Year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation, people around the world have dreamed of Middle East peace…most specifically, peace between Israel and the Palestinians. And over those same units of time, people have been optimistic, or tried to be optimistic, or forced themselves to be optimistic with each new set of “peace talks,” only to leave disappointed, discouraged, and desperate.

But what if, in fact, the path to Middle East peace involved an approach that completely turned this seemingly foregone conclusion of diplomatic negotiations on its head.
In that vain, I propose a radical approach to Middle East peace – a ten-year moratorium on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
On the surface, it seems not only radical…but crazy. How we can expect peace to be created if we don’t start with getting political leadership to the bargaining table?
But let’s start out by asking this question. How successful has that approach been so far?
In each United States Presidential administration, our chief executive has been judged by his (and perhaps soon her) ability to drag Middle East leaders kicking and screaming to the negotiation table, spending countless energy and money in diplomatic efforts and the bribery of additional foreign aid.
And to what end? Little. Or perhaps none.
And why?
Well let’s start out by acknowledging that Israeli and Palestinian leadership simply don’t trust each other. What progress can we expect in peace negotiations between leaders that cannot put faith in each other’s commitments?
Add to that the fact that Israeli and Palestinian leadership – at least current Israeli and Palestinian leadership – have power that is in many ways built out of the conflict. They have no incentive to build peace, as their bases of support are built upon a foundation of dislike for the other.
And what happens when there is a public perception that peace talks are being productive? A terrorist group or radical individual with no interest in Middle East bombs a bus or takes a machine gun into a mosque, taking innocent lives and sending everyone back to their own corners.
And, ignoring all of those factors above, even if Israeli and Palestinian leadership could come to agreements, would it truly be peace, or only peace treaties? Is true peace building a macro-business, or is it a micro-enterprise? Israel and Jordan have had a peace treaty for fifteen years, but do Israelis and Jordanians live in peace? They certainly don’t like each other. Is that what peace is about?
What if, in those ten years in which there was a moratorium on peace talks, we took all of the money and all of the energy that has been invested in the business of peace and instead invested all of that capital in cross-border, cross-cultural person-to-person projects built on a foundation of practical quality of life issues, such as the need for clean water and air, cooperative efforts to combat regional health issues, even partnerships on music, theatre, sports, and so on?
As an example, consider the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, a university-level program based in the south of Israel that brings together Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian students to work cooperatively on environmental issues. Young people who were raised to see each other as being the enemy learn to understand that, not only do they share the same environmental concerns, but that their geographic proximity creates an imperative for them to work together. Along the way they learn to appreciate one another’s varying narratives, work together on cross-border projects, and create that vital building block of trust. And then they go back home and continue to work together with one another on projects that improve quality of life throughout the region.
What if, over the course of a decade, our resources were dedicated to create thriving institutes like the Arava not only for the environment, but also for health, for business, for technology, for the arts, and more? After those ten years would we have quietly created a generation of leaders with the trust that would allow them to negotiation in good will and good faith?
Even one moved by this idea might ask, “Ok, but aren’t we sacrificing any progress over the next ten years?” To that, I ask, “What would we have sacrificed if we had done this ten years ago?”