Friday, October 19, 2007

Mideast Peace Plan

Le plus ca change!

Shortly after the start of the Oslo process, discussions on various groups on Internet led me to put my take on a reasonable solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Six years later, after Yassir Arafat torpedoed any hopes for peace anyone had at that time and launched another terrorist war, I took another look and realized virtually nothing had changed.

Another six years have now passed, but still little has changed and the same mistakes are being made. If anything, peace is much further away than it has been at any time since long before the Oslo Process started. I believe what I wrote a dozen years ago is still relevant.

The following is what I wrote then, unchanged except for the introduction I added in 2001.

I wrote the following outline in January 1995, in response to a question from someone on an Internet discussion list called mideast-peace. I find it amazing that very little has changed in the time since then; as I write this, in April 2001, very little would need revision other than dealing with the fact that Israel has completely left Lebanon without an agreement.

I still feel this forms the outline of a reasonable agreement and all parties would be better off if they had agreed to something along these lines years ago. This is what I wrote then:

Let me try to start the ball rolling by out the outline of a fairly comprehensive vision for peace and prosperity. I will concentrate primarily on relations between Israel and its neighbors, leaving the numerous intra-Arab disputes for intra-Arab solutions.

(Unstated in all the analysis below is the assumption that there must be peace in all respects, with an absolute and total end to the terrorist attacks which have continued to be launched against Israel and an end to the anti-Zionist and anti-semitic propaganda propagated by virtually all the Arab countries.)

Foremost are the relations between Israel and the neighboring Arab states. I'll take them one by one.

1. Israel and Jordan. There's basically little problem left there, with the peace treaty being enthusiastically welcomed by both sides formalizing a de facto peace that has already endured. This, actually, has been the prime benefit so far of the DOP between Israel and the PLO, since it helped give King Hussein the backbone to do what he's wanted to do for many years.

2. Israel and Egypt. The peace treaty has endured, but hopefully the cold peace will eventually warm. Nothing much tangible needs to be done on this front, although Egypt could help speed the peace process along by adhering to the spirit of peace. (In general, the peace process is a case of Israel giving up tangibles such as land in return for intangibles, making it crucial that the Israelis be convinced that the intangibles are actually being given.)

3. Israel and Lebanon. Although there is no signed peace treaty, this will also be a relatively simple matter if Lebanon can get its act together. The problem here is really an internal Arab problem, since Lebanon is, de facto, no longer a sovereign nation. Lebanon must reassert its independence, eliminating the rampant terrorism launched from its soil with the support of Iran, Iraq and Syria and reclaiming its independence from Syria. In reality, there is no dispute between Lebanon and Israel. All that needs to be negotiated are the assurance that cross border terrorist attacks will not take place. This will probably require some phased, mutual withdrawal by Syria and Israel, but that is a matter of logistics (at least from the Israel point of view--from the Syrian point of view, which regards Lebanon the same way Iraq regards Kuwait, it's another matter--Lebanon's real problem is not with Israel but with Syria as well as the destruction of its social fabric brought on by the civil war itself brought on by the PLO) rather than principle.

4. Israel and Syria. This is by far the most difficult area, both because it contains the only territorial problem as well as the intransigence of Syria. The basic starting positions here are that Israel needs to retain part of the Golan Heights for security purposes, while Syria insists on regaining every square inch. (One historical note: the fact that the Golan Heights were ever a part of Syria is actually an historical accident. Originally, they were to be part of the Palestine Mandate to be included in the reestablished state of Israel, but were traded--for other considerations--by Britain to France, which added them on to Syria.) The only feasible solution here which can reconcile Israel's legitimate needs and Syria's emotional demands is similar to the way the territorial disagreements between Israel and Jordan were resolved. The solution is a partial symbolic pullback by Israel, the technical transfer of sovereignty to Syria, and a permanent lease back to Israel of most of the portion of the Golan now under Israeli control.

Next comes the relations between Israel and the non-contiguous Arab and Muslim states. (Remember that Iran is not an Arab state, but is a clear problem.) Aside from the nuclear weapon programs (no small matter, but one which must be resolved) of Iran and Iraq (among others), there will be no serious problem there, no tangible concessions needed from anyone unless one considers the end of hostile policies such as the Arab boycott and the end of support for terrorism a tangible concession. Here the obvious bargain truly is simply peace for peace.

Perhaps the most complicated area is the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, where any lasting agreement will require that Israel make rather one-sided concessions and that the Palestinian Arabs give up some of their grandiose dreams and demands. There is no alternative to a territorial compromise, and both sides must exhibit flexibility. The basic principle must be that, wherever feasible, heavily Arab-populated areas be placed outside the negotiated borders of Israel while heavily Jewish-populated areas be placed within the borders of Israel. Thus, all or virtually all of the Gaza Strip would be permanently transferred to Arab control, while the disposition of Judea and Samaria, much of which is sparsely populated, would be more of a checkerboard. Most of it would probably wind up under Arab control, but the natural border with Jordan would remain under Israeli control. Arabs living in the areas to be annexed to Israel would have the option of becoming Israeli citizens or remaining as permanent resident aliens with rights to be negotiated but which would essentially give them all the rights of citizenship except the right to vote. Similarly, Jews living in the areas to be under Arab control would be given similar options. (Dual citizenship for both Arabs and Jews is one possible option.)

Initially, the legal status of the Arab controlled areas would be something akin to autonomy, but once the peace proved stable and enduring (perhaps ten years) the residents could choose any form of government they wanted as long as it was consistent with peaceful relations with Israel. While the most sensible step would be incorporation into the rest of the Arab portion of Palestine, ie Jordan, they would be free to establish a third Palestinian state if that was their desire.

The final piece of the puzzle is outside financial assistance. All of the states have borne tremendous military expenses because of the conflict, while the Palestinian Arabs have virtually destroyed their economy through the Intifada. They will all need outside assistance, but they also need to be weaned from that assistance. While it is in all their interests to proceed along the general outlines I've described regardless of outside financial assistance, it would be wise of the rest of the world to help to heal the wounds, perhaps along the following guidelines.

First of all, the foreign debts of Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria would be provisionally cancelled. (The provision is that any nation which attacked another without first being attacked itself would have its debts reinstituted, with cross-border terrorism considered an attack.) The world's economic powers would then annually contribute to a rebuilding fund which will start at 12 billion dollars the first year, to be divided up with 2 billion dollars going to each of Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Arabs in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. This funding would decrease by 200 million dollars per year, so it would be phased out after ten years, at which point each state or entity would be committed to being totally self-sufficient. Also, during this ten year period, each entity would be prohibited from taking on any foreign debt.

That's the overall vision. Obviously, some pieces could be changed, and the details of its implementation will not be automatically agreed to. It should, however, at last give us something positive to discuss on mideast-peace.

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