Time for a Middle East Peace Plan

For over half a century, we have watched as the leaders of the world community have struggled, impotently, to create a peaceful solution to the Middle East question, a region which lies at the heart of the world, geographically, spiritually and culturally, a region which symbolically represents the hopes and dreams of Humankind.

And what do we see? Downward spirals of violence, acts of brutality, torture, stealing of property, terrorism, mutilation, murder, rape, desecration of cemeteries, separation walls, illegal settlements, hatred. In fact, not a bad mirror image of what Humankind has become, in a world where international law exists only on paper and serves as a basis to be manipulated and broken, in a world in which powerful nations wantonly arm and support terrorists and manipulate them into power in strategic regions. We have evolved little since the time of the apes.

This may be what we have become; it is not necessarily where we wish to be and is certainly a statement which will be examined by our peers in the future, who will judge us on our capacity to find solutions to problems. It is perfectly clear that all those engaged in the process for the last sixty-four years since Israel was formed in 1948, along with all the approaches attempted, have failed for numerous reasons.

We are not speaking only about Israel and the Palestinians; we are speaking about an escalation of violence across the entire region, spreading throughout Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar. The common denominator is not Moslems, it is a lack of respect, it is intrusion by foreign powers which have proven utterly incapable of concentrating on their own problems within their own borders.

Bosnians, Croats, Serbs, Albanians, Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Moslems got along for centuries in the Balkans before foreign powers started meddling. They married each other, they had families and they rejoiced in their cultural diversity; across the entire Middle East, Sunni and Shia, Sufis, Wahabis, Salafists, Khilafites, Deobandis, Ashariyah, Alawi, Qadiani, Ahmedi, Druze, Dawoodi and Bohra lived side by side just as Orthodox Christians, or Roman Catholics or Presbyterians, Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans and so on live side by side elsewhere.

The common denominator in all these cases is respect for human life, this being the mainstay of all religions, which are codes of behaviour in subservience to the respective God. So, if the common denominator binding these people together is peace and respect and the common denominator behind the problems is intrusion and the fomenting of sectarian violence, we can see that it does not take much to turn a peace-loving, law-abiding, God-fearing individual into a marauding monster. All you have to do is give an adolescent male a machine-gun and sooner or later he is going to point it at someone. After the first, it's just another kill.

Downloading, in a top-down approach, an entire State into a region inhabited by others was perhaps the most risky venture of the United Nations Organization, one bound to create problems, and as Israel was implanted at the cost of expelling Palestinians from their homes and farms, it was not unnatural that the process would be met with resistance. The State of Israel, however, exists and has been recognised by international law, such as that exists.

The resulting situation is the need to find the best of a number of bad solutions, yet a solution it would be.

If we accept that what is written above is true, then it makes sense to focus on the common goodness in Humankind, whatever their religion, whatever the more complex economic, historical, cultural and developmental vectors make individuals so unique and it does not make sense for vested interests to fan the flames of sectarian violence.

What is required is an international forum with some power, and it is by now obvious that the United Nations Organization is an excellent humanitarian umbrella but useless as a forum of law-making and implementation because it has been corrupted and insulted by certain of its founding members. There are two options: admit it has failed in this respect and form a new international legal forum which has clout and consequences for those who breach its terms, or reform it to give it a new lease of life.

The new organism has then a very clear policy to follow: invite all the parties engaged in a lasting peace plan to a round table in which the broader issues form policy and the details are left until last, after Statehood has been achieved. With Statehood comes responsibility and with responsibility comes respect for the law.

The law is very clear here: Israel's borders and those of the Palestinian Authority are those set up and agreed upon multilaterally in 1948. The right of abode within each of these areas is an issue to be discussed between both parties. It would appear that areas annexed and urbanised by Israel should be returned immediately or else should incur a rent over a fixed period of time during phase-out and such money could help to set up the Palestinian Institutions. Nobody asked the Israelis to seize land that is not theirs.

Israel's Constitution includes clauses calling for and granting the right of abode to Jews from around the world, so there is no argument that there is no space for the colonists. As for compensating the Palestinians whose properties were seized in 1948, then that is covered under the UN Resolution of the time and it should be the UNO that finances this  in other words, the world community. It is like buying a peace covenant.

Surely, this process could be pursued after Statehood is agreed upon and once this has been determined, the rest is a question of details, since there is no turning back. After this, there is one final question to be solved, and that is establishing Jerusalem as a beacon of hope for Humankind - an international city, home to the new or re-empowered UNO, a city belonging to everyone and nobody at the same time.

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey


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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey