Paper #32. A Case for Peace

  • former government official
  • Middle East & North Africa, Security, Strategy
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Abraham, 4 millennia ago, was not placed favorably into the contested region on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. No wonder. As the first monotheist guided by the instructions of Yahweh, he was rejected by all sides.

Over its storied history, this area has endured endless wars and conflict among Jews, Christians and Muslims – to name a few. On November 29, 1947, Jews achieved the UN resolution to establish a Jewish state — Israel — a partition of the much larger, League of Nations-approved British Mandate (Palestine) that Arab countries rejected. On May 15, 1948, the last British soldier left the area. On that night, five Arab countries invaded Israel to open the first of a series of major wars – the War of Independence. Subsequent wars between Israel and its Arab neighbors include: Sinai Operation (1956); Six-Day War (1967); Yom Kippur War (1973); Lebanon War I (1982); and Lebanon War II (2006). In 1964 the Arab League (22 countries) established the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) as an official body representing the Palestinian people seeking independence and living in two areas captured in 1967 Six-Day War. Frequent deadly confrontations between Israel and Palestinians continue today.

Strong religious feelings among Jews, Muslims and Christians regarding holy sites have deeply sharpened and complicated emotions and perspectives not just among local people, but around the world. Nearly 200 UN resolutions and a UN peacekeeping presence since 1949 have failed to bring a final peace into the area. Two major peace agreements have been achieved since 1948– both facilitated by the US government.

First, Israel and Egypt agreed to a peace following the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The war came at a heavy price for both sides, yet, both countries claimed victory. President Carter was invited to facilitate what became known as the 1979 Camp David Accords. This was an ice-breaking agreement as Egypt went head-on against the Arab League’s Khartoum Resolution of 1967 that produced three no‘s: ”no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.“ These no‘s stayed intact for 12 years.

Second, Jordan agreed to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, primarily to settle water and land rights, with President Clinton facilitating. The larger reason for this treaty aimed much higher. A year earlier – September 13, 1993, Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn with President Clinton signing as a Witness. These accords were considered a stepping stone to a future peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians. The Agreement between Israel and Jordan was a complementary, value-added agreement, as Jordan is home to a large population of Palestinians.

The Oslo Accords by all accounts have failed badly, with nothing to improve the situation for 27 years. This despite numerous attempts by many facilitators from the UN, Europe and the US. Sadly, Anwar Sadat – the Egyptian President who received the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Israel’s PM Begin for the Camp David Accords was assassinated in 1981 by anti-peace Egyptian fanatics. A few years later, Israel’s PM Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli fanatic. These two agreements were considered Peace-for-Land deals offering a kind of “Win or Lose Game” where each side thought they had a Win. But the hopes tied to these arrangements soon proved to be a Cold Peace at best. The situation was not attractive to any country or leader involved.

The 27-year stalemate between Israel and Arab countries did not apply to the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.

Soon after signing the Oslo Accords, the gloom reality of sharp disagreements led to a series of armed confrontations. A major split among Palestinian groups resulted in Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip, while the Palestinian Authorities controlled the West Bank. A major attempt by Israel to disengage from the Gaza Strip in 2005 by removing 10,000 Israeli settlers from flourishing settlements has failed badly. A series of Intifadas in the West Bank and three mini-wars with Hamas in Gaza have continue to scar the region with endless violence.

It is beyond our scope here to list the many initiatives for peace or any form of normalization between Israel and the Arab world. Even the Egyptian and Jordanian treaties with Israel are maintained in the background in a remarkably cold fashion.

Trump’s Way to Peace

When Donald J. Trump entered the race for the US presidency in late 2015, few gave him any chance of winning. Experts regarded his chances even lower after the media degraded his long agenda of desired actions as – “Wishful thinking”, “Too ambitious”, or empty “Election promises. ” Most items on his list had one common denominator – Economics, and to many peoples’ surprise – Basic Human Rights. But one item on the ambitious list earned him the label of lunatic unworthy of any attention – “Peace between Israel and Palestinians.” The central question is, what makes Trump believe a successful peace agreement is possible when all of the past 12 American Presidents since Truman, including two Nobel Peace Prize winners (Carter and Obama), failed to achieve that? We will return to answer this central question.

The answer begins with Trump’s study of the exceptional loss that the Arab and Islamic world has endured over nearly 8 decades. This community lost out by implementing the widest economic-diplomatic boycott of any one country in history. The boycott started long before the establishment of Israel as pieces were put into place during the Palestine Mandate era. Then in 1945, the newly-formed Arab League issued an all-out boycott. This call was answered in kind by all Arab, Muslim, and many other countries around the world. By 1987 over half the world was boycotting Israel as depicted in the graphic below.

Notice the participation of the four of the most populated (among five) countries in the world: China, India, Soviet Union and Brazil. Compare this picture with the more recent map below revealing how now all four mentioned countries have strong economic and diplomatic relationships with Israel, along with Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain (as of September 15,
2020) – then Oman, Saudi Arabia – unofficially, and most recently, Sudan.

According to well-informed sources, the last three countries listed are engaged in negotiations facilitated by the Trump Administration aimed at another multi-state peace agreement with Israel.

Trump’s Mediation: A Dynamic Process

When Trump entered the White House in early 2017, the leaders of Israel and Palestine were invited to present their views, wishes and conditions for a final peace before the new President traveled abroad to visit them. Weeks later he visited Saudi Arabia and then Jerusalem. He skipped neighboring Ramallah, home of the Palestinian Authority, which had provided no response or no plan. This two-country visit was the start of formulating the master-plan called “The 100 Plan,” the long-awaited Middle East peace plan announced in January 2020 (refers to 100 years of conflict).

This Plan is a network of multiple roadmaps in the middle-East and a few African countries in cooperation with and facilitated by the US. Each roadmap for a country involved in this network obtains milestones, not necessarily connected to an adjacent framework or necessarily dependent on another country achieving its own milestones. Some of these milestones mark diplomatic steps recognized by the US – simply representing existing facts and realistic situations. Example: The US recognized Israel, but not its capital city of Jerusalem for more than 70 years. The US Congress voted nearly unanimously to move the embassy to Jerusalem 25 years ago. So with one stroke both steps were realized, but not before securing consent and commitment from Israel for the principle of a two-state solution.
The central approach of Trump’s framework to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians is built on maximizing the number of one-on-one peace agreements among many states in the region. This approach based on the belief that tenets of mutual economic interests provide the confidence and means to build necessary paths for securing durable all-around peace. President Trump’s focus in other regions in the world involve economic and trade pacts in North America, with Asian partners and with China. He continues with this focused drive as agreements are now in place with the UAE, Bahrain and soon Sudan.

The Abraham Accords Peace Agreement between the UAE and Israel specifically cites, “ establishment of peace and full normalization between them can help transform the Middle East by spurring economic growth, enhancing technological innovation…” Israel’s agricultural and aerospace products, and other world-leading innovations, are of great benefit to its neighbors and around the world. The Accords further state commitments to cooperatively advance stable peace and prosperity and to “pursue regional economic opportunities.” These all serve to promote the culture of peace across the region. A betterment of all people’s lives has only positive outcomes. With this agreement the future holds far more hope than the pain and price of lives lost over decades of conflict and war.

This approach breaks from the past, sharply negating the previous formidable impasse of endless head-to-head maneuvering in Israeli-Palestinian relations. Instead, Trump wisely offers agreements for constructed economies, well financed to all involved nations in the region. This innovative approach is bound to melt down persistent gridlock, as the Palestinian default position of defiance will no longer sustain itself as the region around it flourishes. With President Trump changing the game plan to a long ball option, the short game impasse focused on the Palestinians has ended. The shared economies package that Palestinian leadership ignore to the detriment of their people, also diminishes their relevance to a way forward. Trump has suggested a timetable of 4 years to achieve a greater regional agreement and the first few months may prove to shorten this timeline.

The 100 Plan also impacts past and current global information campaigns as it alters the global perspective. This occurs since the multi-layered approach promotes sharing the benefits of prosperity with many people in many regions. The former compromises of cold deals no longer resonate, while the advancement seen in the reality of enhancing millions of lives of can only deliver a positive message. In this, Trump’s focus on what can be achieved for all people in all regions through economic cooperation creates a constructive message that needs to be heard around the world.

Trump’s approach and successful actions bring the long sought after peace to the region. He overcame past obstacles and decades of impasse with an approach of peace through economic cooperation. This benefits the people of the region and the world. More than the previous agreements for peace cited in this paper, the Abraham Accords build a core foundation for lasting peace. This President has truly earned the Noble Peace Prize. He more than any predecessor has broken down old walls, and enabled a new way to secure peace for all the neighboring nations of the Middle East.

Author: former government official

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