The “Arab Spring” has devolved into the Jihadi Winter. The Cairo 2009 strategy of “leading from behind” and “outreach” to radical Islamic regimes is bearing bitter fruit and global contempt for the USA. “Negotiations” between the Palestinians are interrupted by terrorist attacks on Israelis, continued calls for violence and a refusal of the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel’s right to exist within secure borders and with full diplomatic relations with a second Palestinian state (Jordan was shaped as the first one in 1947). When Israel defends herself or builds a few settlements, the world declares “Apartheid! Racism! Colonialism!” And those are the nice words.
It is time for honesty about USA foreign policy and the realities of the Middle East. Millions of lives, scores of national economies and our pursuit of justice demand serious accounting, not ideological epithets tossed back and forth on the airwaves and Internet. In the following paragraphs, I will outline a pathway to peace, with the understanding that any accord is fragile and the cohesion of nation-states and tranquility between nations requires ethical courage and constant vigilance. I will not cater to radical Zionists that wish to displace all Arabs from Judea and Samaria. I will also refuse to listen to replacement theologians and leftist activists that reduce Israel to Western colonialism and deny her place in the community of nations.
There are multiple 20th century narratives concerning the Middle East, from the miracle of Zionism to the tragedy to Palestinian diaspora. All of them contain some truth and no one timeline (with its inherent selectivity) can capture the complexity. The pathway to peace requires understanding history and a willingness to lay down the grievances of the past to forge a better future. Recounting terrorist incidents and family tragedies without forgiveness and willingness to create something new only compounds the current impasse. The way forward is rooted in present reality and future hope, not bitterness or nostalgia.
Here are some “mile markers” on a road to peace:
1. Israel is not going away. Much can be negotiated – and has, with Nobel prizes awarded for the attempts – but existence in peace with diplomatic relations is the starting point.
2. A Palestinian State dedicated to peace, economic cooperation and freedom of conscience must be the goal. There will be no new state without renunciation of terrorism. This new state is another “given.”
3. The Palestinian demands for “right of return” for 1947-49 refugees cannot include every distant descendant and must involve relocation in the new state as much as possible, not overwhelming a Jewish State with angry radicals. Realistically, many can return home in Israel, with others welcomed in a new Palestine.
4. Jerusalem can be the capital of both states. The Temple Mount and other holy sites need oversight from outside bodies as well and the consensus of each nation.
5. The new Palestinian leaders must renounce deception, winking at radicals and the long-term goal of annihilating Israel. There cannot be one set of phrases for Western consumption while other agendas are promoted to radical constituencies. No more Temple denial, Holocaust denial or distribution of the Protocols and other scurrilous literature.
6. Israel should freeze settlements if # 1 is unequivocally announced and terrorists are arrested and prosecuted.
7. There should be immediate economic joint-ventures creating thousands of new jobs for underemployed Palestinians.
8. The USA must be the leading mediator at serious peace talks. No other nation has anything close to the objectivity America displays. China wants oil, period. Russia wants imperial power and access to warm water and economic control. All the nations surrounding Israel have much to gain from peace, including the blessings of free trade, tourism and culture exchange. Iran and Syria can be marginalized and a new coalition of freedom-affirmation nations may be emboldened to resist the mad mullahs.
9. The EU needs to stay on the sidelines and enter a new season of humility and repentance for her anti-Semitism and capitulation to radical Islam. Without reverting to the national-racial depravities of the 19th and 20th century, European nations must reaffirm first principles of freedom and arrest their decline toward de facto Sharia. No European nation has the moral strength and objectivity at present to lend any weight to negotiations.
10. All of these principles for peace require unprecedented courage on the part of Israeli and Palestinian leaders. The PA must change their textbooks and include an Israeli State. Israel must welcome a fledgling state next door and create economic and travel pathways for prosperity. Before the ink is dry, death threats will come to all involved. But the lessons of Begin and Sadat are instructive. There has been no war between Israel and Egypt (or Jordan) since Camp David (President Carter’s greatest achievement). Bill Clinton called Arafat after the another broken accord and accused Arafat of ruining the chances fro pace and destroying their personal legacies. Arafat, child of the 1940s jihadi cries of the Mufti of Jerusalem (a joyful visitor to Auschwitz), could not, in the end, let go of his hatred and eliminationist ideology. Israel has proven her willingness to cede land for peace. It is time to find a PA leader who welcomes peace for generations yet unborn.
All peacemaking requires the best of human nature. All peace accords are subverted by human depravity. Israel is a moral good for the world. A peaceful Palestine could point the way toward Islamic cultural revitalization and political moderation. Real peace is a goal worth working for. May “open covenants, openly arrived at…” guide leaders that desire a better future.