November 14, 2018

My Prediction for 2014: Peace in the Middle East

This year, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry will secure a peace agreement in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians, leading to the establishment of a Palestinian State.
I understand that no one believes this will happen. Not the Israeli officials who are dismissive of Kerry; not the Palestinian officials who bristle with each proclamation Netanyahu makes. Certainly not the news media pundits who traffic in naysaying. Yet if recent history has proven anything, it is that change happens fast, faster than anyone predicts.
When I was a child, segregation still existed in the South and African-Americans were restricted to “colored” facilities. At the time people said that segregation would end, just not in our lifetimes. The Soviet Union was a great super-power, dubbed, “the evil empire” by President Ronald Reagan and its dominion was spread throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic nations and even the Eastern half of Germany. Communism would fall, many predicted, but not necessarily in our lifetimes. Apartheid held thrall in South Africa and despite its evil, change never seemed imminent. More recently, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt have seen radical topplings of their long established orders in ways no one would have predicted even a year before. So change happens when we least expect it; and can even happen for Israel and the Palestinians.
President Obama is a closer. He has unparalleled success at getting things done, things that others think are not achievable. True, whatever he accomplishes he gets little if any credit for; and afterwards, everyone complains about the result. Argue about it all you want, but consider a short (and by no means exhaustive) list of his accomplishments: saving the U.S. economy, saving the Auto industry, the capture of Bin-Laden, the death of the top leadership of Al-Qaeda, effectuating the U.S. troop pullouts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the passage of the Affordable Health Care Act. Argue about it all you want, like it or not, for good or bad, he gets it done.
President Obama will secure a peace agreement in the Middle East this year – and it may well be one that many find objectionable – but a settlement both sides can live with is often one where each side feels they have given something up. In truth, the obstacles to peace are many, from the philosophic (Netanyahu wanting Israel to be formally acknowledged as a “Jewish” State), to the strategic (securing the borders), to the intractable (Jerusalem; the “right of return”). Yet all these can be solved, if we are willing to live with imperfect solutions.
Here are the outlines of an achievable peace:
Israel is a reality. Call it a Zionist State, or a Jewish State, or, why not, just call it “The State of Israel.” Hamas doesn’t want to acknowledge it as such – so let them make a 99 year truce. The Western Wall and West Jerusalem and its suburbs will remain Israeli.
The Temple Mount can be leased to international control that allows access by all peoples (including Israelis) and administered by Jordanian forces, also for 99 years. East Jerusalem, The West Bank (following the security line and the Arab Nations Geneva Plan) will become part of Palestine. Israel will give up Israeli non-occupied territory in order to facilitate the West Bank and Gaza being either contiguous or separate as best suits them. An international peacekeeping force, similarly to that enacted as part of the peace treaty with Egypt, will act as a buffer between the two nations. A “Marshall Plan” for Palestine supported by the peace brokering nations (including European and Arab nation partners) will ensure the economic stability of the region.
All Palestinians will have the right to become citizens of the Palestinian State. The right of return should be treated not as a political issue, but as a property issue. A special peace, reconciliation and claims tribunal should be convened to adjudicate the claims of Palestinians who were expelled from their homes. Remedies could include cash compensation, the return of real estate, and a resident visa in the State of Israel. At the same time, any Jewish settlers (who number 300,000 in the West Bank, and another 300,000 in Jerusalem) forced to evacuate should also be entitled to receive compensation from the board, or choose to remain residents of Palestine.
Argue day and night. Hate the solutions. Complain. Those are the luxuries that a peace agreement will afford.
What no one believes possible can happen. Imagine, Shimon Peres once said, that you were a Jew in Poland in 1944 – if someone told you that in a short time Germany would be defeated, Hitler dead, and that there would be a State of Israel – you would say he was crazy. History happens fast. Let’s hope it happens for Israel and the Palestinians this year.