- Safe Democracy Foundation - http://english.safe-democracy.org -

Reaching a Just Peace in the Middle East


By Walid Salem (for Safe Democracy)

Walid Salem explains how false peace, in which one side controls the other side without fulfilling any of its obligations, has been one of the biggest impediments to ending war in the Middle East. Salem gives three examples on how unilateral peace of control has gained support among intellectuals throughout the world, but clarifies that neither peace of control, nor conflict management solutions, nor confidence building measures will bring an end to the violence. In order for the wars to end, peace must be based upon equality of both sides and not on control of one side over another. Following this process, Salem gives a possible strategy to achieve peace between both Israel and Lebanon, and Israel and Palestine.

[2] Walid Salem is a political analyst and the director of Panorama [3], the Centre for the Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development, East Jerusalem office.

ON JULY 27TH PRESIDENT BUSH stated that he could never accept false peace in the Middle East.

And I realized that the problem of false peace has been troubling the Middle East for the past six decades. We have only ever had false peace. Peace of deterrence, one-sided peace, patronizing peace, peace of control, peace of conflict management without conflict resolution: no matter what you call it, the peace has never been based upon a shared vision. It has never been whole, lasting, nor worked to resolve the issues, or answer the peace question as two University of Stanford researchers, Lee Ross and Byron Bland, put it.

This false peace is the real problem in the Middle East. It is what has caused treaties between Israel, Egypt, and Jordan to go cold, the collapse of the Oslo accords, and the continued fighting between Israel, Lebanon, and Syria.

Without real grassroots support from people on both sides false peace will continue to fail.

There is no clear international consensus on the definition of peace. For President Bush, peace in the Middle East will only be possible by crushing Hezbollah and Hamas, and probably Syria and Lebanon too. But those who consider Hezbollah and Hamas to be integral parts of the social and political fabric in Lebanon and Palestine do not share this concept of what peace entails.

Another vision of peace in the Middle East is one that grants security to Israel and independence to the Palestinians. But this is vision is also contentious. What about Palestinian security? Should the Palestinians only be formally independent while in practice under Israeli control?

And will Israel be independent if it keeps control over the Palestinians? Or will it need external aid in order to have enough resources to control the Palestinians?

Peace of control or false peace has a great deal of support among intellectuals. Many argue that Israel has the trauma of the Holocaust, and that it has big security concerns, and that the Palestinians should therefore seek to understand the viewpoint of the Israelis by practicing nonviolence. They also argue that the Palestinians should be modest in their political ambitions. There should be no right of return to Palestinians, and territorial concessions in the West Bank and the sharing of East Jerusalem with Israel should be accepted. They also argue that the Palestinians are weaker and must be reserved in their demands to avoid harsh Israeli punishment, and impediments to their national aspirations.

The Palestinians will argue in a different way, stating that the Palestinians are in fact the stronger of the two sides. They have the Islamic and Arabic support of two billion people, and a will to be steadfast and bear oppression. In the short run the Palestinian people must suffer, but in the long run they will find justice against aggression.

Other Palestinians will argue that they accept non-violence as a strategy, but are unwilling to accept political impotence, calling therefore for a solution to the refugee issue upon the principle of fair distribution of justice. Jerusalem, they also argue, should be divided as a whole (both East and West) to be shared by Israelis and Palestinians.

Another intellectually supported vision of a peace of control has to do with conflict management as an alternative to conflict resolution. But conflict management can be used as a tool of manipulation of one side over another. For example, many call for an Israeli-Palestinian hudna as a conflict management solution, without the cessation of the building of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory. In these cases, the hudna is a manipulating device to calm Palestinians while Israelis continue to grab their lands.

The real question that must be asked is how to transform conflict management solutions into mutual agreements for conflict resolution. In regard to the reciprocal hudna, settlement expansion and the construction of the dividing wall should be frozen immediately, so that Palestinians do not feel deceived, and real peace can be achieved.

A third example of intellectual support of peace of control is in the use of CBM’s (Confidence Building Measures) between Israelis and Palestinians.

On the Palestinian side, CBM’s are viewed as conflict management tools aimed at prolonging the occupation. Implementation of CBM’s must include agreement in advance about the goals desired and the timeframe in which they will be accomplished.

True peace, peace of reconciliation must be built upon the equality of both sides of the argument, not on a control of one side against another.

With Lebanon a true peace must be based upon a cessation of all hostilities, release of prisoners, the withdrawal from Sheba farms, the establishment of a normal relationship, respect of airspace, sea and land borders, and the support of Lebanon’s internal national dialogue in order to integrate Hezbollah’s armed forces into the Lebanese army.

With the Palestinians, true peace, peace of reconciliation must be based upon the freeing of prisoners, a reciprocal hudna, the freezing of settlement expansion and wall construction, and the autonomy to the Palestinian government. And once all of this is achieved, a set of aims must be determined with a logical timeframe in which to accomplish them, and both sides must take on their unilateral and bilateral responsibilities.

Peace of control only leads to more war. The time has come for true, just peace of reconciliation to lead the way.

Safe Democracy would like to invite you to subscribe to the weekly electronic newsletter, with analysis and commentaries from our international experts (click here). [8]