Peace and Security in the Middle East
Dr. Rudolf Hilf - Abd el malik:
to an international symposium
Peace and Security in the Middle East
The fundamental points of departure
The past century was the century of the world wars which began in Europe. It is not over yet. At the beginning of that century the three supra-national empires at the center of the continental world were destroyed: in the West or, better, in the center of Europe the empire of the Austrian Habsburgs, the last survival of the Sacrum Imperium Romanum , the Holy Roman Empire, the successor to Rome; in the East the successor to the Christian Byzantine rulers, the empire of the Russian Czars; and in the middle the Islamic Empire of the Caliphs, the successors to the Prophet -- salla allahu aleyhi wa sallam . One must emphasize the historical roots of the momentous decisions taken at the beginning of the last century in order to grasp the enormity of these events and to comprehend the nature of the task we face when speaking today of peace and security for the region, that is for the Near and Middle East.
By this, we do NOT mean a few percentage points in one or the other questionable partial withdrawal in fulfillment of the Oslo agreements, for which the claim to the term ”peace” process is made with doubtful legitimacy.
We also do NOT mean the continual search for new means of mass destruction on the part of one state or the other when, simultaneously, whole arsenals of such weapons are undisputedly available in other locations and when such are displayed to the entire world in a martial and threatening manner.
We also do NOT mean continually new international conferences about terrorism and strategies of retribution which inevitably generate new waves of terror.
And finally we do NOT mean the mere banter about peace and security among states which in reality continue to exclusively pursue their own narrow interests.
It is our task to examine what has taken the place of the fallen empires and to ask whether this presently prevailing system is capable of guaranteeing peace and security.
What took the place of the devastated empires? For more than 70 years, the region has been a collection of real and artificial nation-states on the European model and a recurring series of revolutionary creations, internal power struggles and interventions by powers from outside the region. The Western powers fought the First World War as ”the war to end all war”. What resulted, however, was not the groundwork for the future peace but the basis for the Second World War.
The region has witnessed ”the peace to end all peace” - a phrase coined by British Field Marshal Earl Wavell and later used by the American author David Fromkin both as the title of his book and as his evaluation of the peace treaties in the Near and Middle East.
There is no need at all to debate whether there has been peace in the region -- or in the world -- since the Second World War. There is none. Not only have the last traces of the false peace treaties of the earlier epoch disappeared, even the collapse of the Soviet Union and thus of the East-West confrontation has not improved on the general lack of peace. The United States may view itself as the ”indispensable nation” without whose participation nothing of consequence can take place in the world, but instead of fully grasping the enormous burden of responsibility to strive for pax et justitia in the sense of the fallen empires, the US faces the equally enormous temptation to judge only according to the yardstick of its national interests, to measure all peoples and races, all nations and cultures, all social and economic structures, even all religions and intellectual movements against its own particular standard. Believing itself to be in possession of a new gospel of freedom, democracy, capitalism, global markets and financing and unquestionably in possession of vast means of power, the US may succumb to the temptation to decide global issues alone. However much power the US may have, what it does not have is the right to do so. This is the problem of pax et justitia which we all face today.
The image which this region has presented over the past 70 years and which it presents today has been decisively influenced by one fundamental fact: The region and its people have been robbed of their right to self-determination. Granted, they had not previously been in a position to freely exercise this right. In the 19 th century they served as the toys and tools of outside powers. The 20 th century, however, is characterized by the weakening or even the loss of identity among the peoples of the region. The process of carving up the Islamic empire, already well underway in the previous century, was completed. The states which emerged accepted European ways, either voluntarily (as in the case of Turkey) or they were left with no other choice. The European powers remained the masters, who were almost exclusively interested in dominating the key geo-strategical positions of the region and, in this century, its key natural resource - oil. The political elites attempted to assimilate themselves to European patterns of thought, in part because their very survival was at stake, but also partly in order to acquire the same power resources which the Europeans possessed. The 20 th century has witnessed a tragic drama of many acts, in which these elites, insofar as they were not direct participants in colonial regimes, attempted to follow all the highways, byways and even the catastrophic detours of Europe: There were experiments with fascist-like political structures, several attempts at liberalism, other examples of national and national-socialist and finally communistic and capitalistic models. Nearly every European political prescription of the last decades was tried out in the hope of raising the strength of one or more of the regional states to the point where it would be possible to regain self-determination. Not only have all of these experiments failed -- or are doomed to failure where they are still continuing, what was worse was the loss -- or the imminent danger of the loss -- of identity among the masses of people in those countries which found it impossible to escape from poverty, oppression and backwardness.
What is the natural result of this situation? It is the search for a both old and new identity which can be found nowhere else than in the Islamic roots of the region. This Islamic resurgence is the ineradicable new accent throughout the region.
What concerns us here is not so much the new spiritual appeal to God, which we must not presume to judge, but rather the increasingly strong response to two centuries of humiliation of the Moslem peoples. It is, in Toynbee's phrase, an entirely natural process of challenge and response.
The fact that European colonialism has, in the meantime, capitulated, is not so decisive in this region, because Europe simply turned its ”peace”, the ”peace to end all peace” over to others. Now, without the counterbalancing influence of Russia (except in Central Asia), the United States, the ”sole remaining superpower”, is in a position to play the ”great game” alone, or, more accurately, together with Israel.
In this connection it is important to emphasize that, in connection with an ages-old Eastern European Jewish religious longing, Zionism, that is, the will to create a Jewish state, entered the region in the late 19 th century as one of the later manifestations of the European national movements of that century. Zionism attracted the sympathy of the world at the end of the Second World War after it became aware of the murder of millions of Jews by Nazi Germany. This was one of the contributing factors why the tragedy of the Palestinian people, who, in those same years, were displaced and deprived of their rights, met with so little resonance in the rest of the world.
On the basis of the already mentioned ”peace to end all peace” the crisis of the region was thus doubly aggravated. Both of these situations confront us with fundamental facts which neither tactical concessions, nor the obstructions of any Israeli government, nor the see-sawing of an American administration which is anything but an ”honest broker” can remove or disguise.
Let us take another closer look at the present situation:
In the region today there is only one truly significant power to be found and that is the United States, which has at its command the entire palette of modern weaponry which was developed as a result of the Second World War and the subsequent arms race with the Soviet Union, which the latter lost. The nuclear arms race alone has cost the United States $5.8 trillion -- that is 5.8 million millions. This is the estimated price tag determined by the Brookings Institution, one of the most prestigious American think-tanks, in a report entitled ”Atomic Audit”. One gets a more understandable idea of what this figure means from the fact -- also contained in the Brookings report -- that just the cost of the maintenance of the readiness of the 10,000 nuclear weapons presently contained in the US arsenal runs to an annual $4.5 billion. An additional some $3 billion have gone into the development and construction of delivery systems ranging from intercontinental rockets to tactical nuclear artillery. This is an overwhelming, insurmountable dimension of power the likes of which have never before been witnessed in the history of mankind. But it would go against all the laws of nature and the experiences of history if this power were not also countervailed by grave weaknesses.
On the one hand there is the domestic economic factor of the ultimately unproductive burden of such a colossal armament, and this will, sooner or later, produce economic and social consequences, especially in view of the fact that the arms reduction process agreed upon by Washington and Moscow is, for other reasons, indisputably also in the national interest of the United States. On the other hand, the huge American armaments industry thrived on the arms race with the Soviets. Now that this factor has been removed, a massive readjustment of financial and economic interests is underway. The weapons industry is seeking new markets and finding these among the financially potent oil-producing countries of the region. The gigantic Arab armament purchases serve not so much to contribute to a military balance of power with Israel - that is, within the region itself. They are also in the interest of the preservation of the American arms producers, and this may even be the prime purpose.
A further weakness lies in the nature of the weapons themselves. After the military and political demonstration of the atomic weapon against Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War, the goal of the US was to preserve its nuclear monopoly. This exclusivity was first broken by the Soviet Union, then by Great Britain and France, then by Israel (with the help of France and with the Americans looking the other way), then by China, then by South Africa (apparently with the help of Israel) and finally by India and Pakistan. Quite clearly, the attempts on the part of the nuclear monopolists to close the membership in the atomic cartel once they themselves have forced their way in cannot meet with lasting success. The military pressures and sanctions applied to Iraq and Iran demonstrate that a country outside the nuclear cartel has little chance in a military confrontation with a member of that club and that the realization of this fact only serves as an incentive to such countries to do everything possible in order to get their hands on the kinds of weapons which would enable them to avoid the humiliation of capitulation.
If the problem had remained confined to the dimensions of the ”big stick”, the intercontinental rockets with their megaton warheads, then perhaps two or three great powers in possession of the required technical, economic and financial means might have been able to divide the world among themselves into security and hegemonical zones. Instead, two new phenomena appeared as though out of hell itself: Since the 1960s, the world's weapons research laboratories have not only been developing new possibilities to escalate the potential of nuclear weapons into the unfathomable dimensions of nuclear fusion. With the goal of avoiding the inevitability of a double nuclear suicide, the weapons developers have brought forth ever smaller versions of the atomic bomb, finally miniaturizing these weapons to the point that, as we learned a few years ago, nuclear weapons can be carried in a golf bag. Alexander Lebed, the former Russian general whose habit it is to speak his piece bluntly, publicly discussed the development of ”nuclear brief cases”, i.e. of atomic weapons the size of a piece of luggage, of which he reported that a hundred pieces were ”missing” from the Russian arsenal. Lebed's allegation was immediately and vehemently denied. Whatever the facts, the discussion pointed out the second development on the political level. The American victory in the arms race with the Soviets and the resulting collapse of the Eastern superpower left the United States without a comparable rival on the world stage, but at the same time it also vastly increased the potential for the proliferation of nuclear weapons throughout half the world without even the necessity of first building up the otherwise requisite gigantic nuclear industrial apparatus. A category of weapon which was once available only to the states which could afford the enormous financial and industrial costs of its production and development is now potentially available to even the smallest of groups. This is the end of all security, and the creation of a national, regional or even a global anti-missile defense system or a totall new ”wonder-weapon” cannot alter this fact.
What does all this mean with regard to the region?
It means that any solution to a regional problem on the basis of military power alone can only be temporary at best, but never permanent. The Europeans were the first to have to face up to this truth, then the Arab nationalists acting under the banner of Abd el Nasir's national and anti-colonial movement. It also became Israel's problem when it acquired the nuclear option in order to secure itself as a kind of military ghetto inside the vast reaches of the Arab world. Today, Israel finds itself strategically overextended and must include areas stretching from Central and South Asia to Africa in its calculations, as these areas now present a potential threat to its security as well at that of the entire regional ”neighborhood”. It has also become America's problem. With its gargantuan arsenal, the United States may be in a position to dominate the entire region, but in doing so it will lose millions and millions of the region's people, who, whether rightly or wrongly, will increasingly attribute their own misfortune, their humiliation and hopelessness to whoever holds the predominance of power. This has always been so, throughout history, unless, of course, the dominant power rules justly -- at least without applying any kind of double standard. It must, to use the religious phrase employed by the people of the region, deploy its power ”in the name of God”, or, better, in consciousness of its ”responsibility before God”, because ”in the name of God” also invokes the great temptation to confuse one's own will with that of God.
This aspect may no longer be an all-too-serious problem in the Western world, as God now leads an existence confined to the recesses of the churches and private piety. The problem in the West is not the search for meaning (as in the region) but the flood of meaninglessness now originating there. But the situation is different in the Middle East, and for this reason a great conflict is inevitable here.
If we take all of the countries of the region together, not one of them can guarantee the security of the Middle East, neither alone nor in alliance with others. Security for a bloc of states is no more possible than for an individual country, no matter how powerful. This applies to Israel as well, with its effort to maintain superiority over any possible combination of Arab states. Behind every success lurks the next failure.
Is there no way out? In order to answer this question, it is necessary to take a wider view from a horizon which encompasses the Orient, the Occident (in the sense of Europe) and the Northeast (in the sense of Russia and all those who will gravitate towards Russia). Two large historical trends are in progress in the latter two macro-regions. In Europe there is the end of the centuries-old warfare among the nation-states and in its place an attempt to built common continental-wide structures. Sooner or later this will also end the predominant role of the United States on the continent as currently manifested in NATO. This will lead to the creation of a European security system. Not long ago the Northeast was characterized by chaos on virtually all levels -- in the political and social structures, in the economic and financial institutions and in the military. There is the urgent necessity to create a functioning state. In the face of the lessons learned from two bloody world wars, the historical trend in Europe is proceeding in the relative quiet of give-and-take negotiations between states in the process of transforming the structures of their sovereignty. But the process in Russia will hardly be able to avoid the employment of force in order to halt the predations of the robber baron capitalists and to check centrifugal forces. One constant will nevertheless remain: Europe and Russia will need each other more than ever before, and this will set new accents on the world political stage in general and in the Orient, in this region, in particular.
Although the United States holds hegemony today, the interests of Europe and Russia (to use this strategic abbreviation) will lie elsewhere. For the most basic reasons involving their own interests, Europe and Russia will and must seek a partnership with the Orient and must regard genuine stability in the Arab and Islamic region as being in their own interest. The prerequisite is that the internal divisions of this region must be overcome from within. Only on the basis of equal rights and equal powers can the Southern and Southeastern macro-region form a true partnership with the European and Russian macro-regions. This means that its lost self-determination must be regained and that its identity can only come from its own Islamic roots, just as the identities of Europe and Russia must be in harmony with their historical roots. These are the great historical processes which count in the long run and which we must recognize. They will open a new perspective for the entire region of the Orient.
In the heady sensation of victory following the second Gulf War, President George Bush pronounced the dawn of a ”new world order”. This, to paraphrase his words, was to be a world in which not naked force but the rule of law would prevail, in which the strong would not dominate the weak, a world in which the community of nations would counter aggressors and in which democracy and free enterprise would be global values. Barely a decade has passed and this ”new world order” has turned inside out. It has become abundantly clear that American hegemony can nowhere serve as the sole instrument of resolving existing conflicts which have not only become deeper and more bitter but have widely proliferated as well. American hegemony will prove no more effective than the European-colonial or the Russian-Soviet systems which went before, not to mention the Israeli hubris born out of both anxiety and arrogance. What is necessary is to take a new look at the region, to gain a new perspective on its history, which cannot be measured with European and Western yardsticks. We should view its present state as one which must lead to self-determination, and develop a vision of its future as one which will provide an identity in harmony with its roots. In contrast to present popular opinion we say: One must honor what one has inherited. This includes the right to re-examine and rethink this heritage (and this is what is meant by the Islamic term i — tihád), which is the only way to breathe real life into what has been passed down. Whoever does not honor his heritage, however, is little more than a fallen leaf in the wind.
Elements of Peace and Security
A Regional Security System
Since the peace treaties (or the peace dictates) following the First Word War the following century has witnessed three differing strategical approaches to establishing control in the region:
1. The first was the direct imperial presence of the European powers in the region, mainly Great Britain and France on the basis of the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 and thus the betrayal of the Arabs, a policy continued by the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and finally leading to the establishment of a new state in the region, Israel, by the United Nations after the end of the Second World War. Only Turkey, under the leadership of Kemal Atatürk, was able to free itself from this imperial iron fist, but in doing so Turkey turned its back on the region and, in abolishing the Caliphate in 1924, dissolved the last religious tie binding the region and the Islamic world together.
The methods of the new imperial masters included the erection of spheres of influence, annexations, the establishment of protectorates, international administrations (mandates) and condominium arrangements. With the gradual withdrawal of the European powers, these various forms of rule provided the foundations for new, sovereign states, but the divisions and thus the defenselessness of the region remained. Self-determination was thus merely a formal principle. In North Africa, French colonialism remained intact until well after the Second World War. In Central Asia, Persia, which had largely succeeded in keeping itself free from foreign domination, eventually fell under the influence of a new great power, the United States, which was new to the region and asserted its (capitalistic) power in connection with the region's newly important resource: oil. The remainder of Central Asia came under Soviet sway and has continued, despite the collapse of the communist revolution, to be subject to strong Russian influence to this day. All of the states which have emerged throughout the entire macro-region are still burdened by the circumstances of their creation.
2. Independent attempts from within the region include the wide range of ”Arab movements” from the secret societies such as al-fatát and al-ahd in Turkish times to the Arab insurrection during the First World War under Husayn, the Sherif of Mecca, and his sons, to the mouthpieces of the Arab-Islamic renaissance such as Al-Misri in Egypt and Rašid Ridá and Al-Mir Ÿ áni in Sudan, and finally the Saudi-Wahhabite variant of the Arab movement after the First World War. Such independent, indigenous movements have never ceased to arise. In this connection it is important to mention the Moslem Brotherhood founded in 1929 by Hassan al-Banná. In every case, however, these independent movements promptly found themselves in a confrontation with the newly established states, the ideologies propagated by these states and the political struggles both within and among them. Finally there was the totally new accent in the region as a result of the founding of the Jewish State and the displacement of a large part of the Palestinian people. The formal political divisions produced by the Europeans were bad enough, but even more debilitating was the spiritual and intellectual confusion brought about by the invasion of foreign ideologies and the impotence of the Islamic movements in the face of the prevailing political structures. It is this perception of political impotence that has led to increasing terrorism, which has always been the weapon of last resort for the weak and the frustrated, not just the fanatic.
Since 1945 the Arab states, under the influence of the ideology of the ”Arab Nation”, have formed a loose alliance known as the Arab League, but this has produced neither a united Arab defense alliance nor any common power structure. The creation of the Arab League did not in any way alter the existing, largely externally influenced power structures.
Not until 1972 was a comparable organization formed at the government level among the Islamic states. The summit meetings of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) certainly represent significant steps towards Islamic unity in the region, most recently and most spectacularly in Teheran in 1998. But despite its financial potential, even this organization encompassing numerous countries of the region cannot fundamentally alter the situation. Nevertheless, the OIC has created the framework for pan-Islamic consultations at the highest levels of government and thus given expression to the necessity of regaining the Islamic world's lost unity.
The last significant thinker to deal with this unity was the great legal scholar Abderrazak Al-Sanhoury in his book ”LE CALIFAT, son evolution vers une société des nations orientale”, written in the period between the two world wars. After the collapse of all of the non-Islamic revolutionary ideologies in the region over the last half a century, and since the states themselves have proven incapable of solving the problem, the only choice -- if we do not wish to travel further down the road towards general, ugly, ultimately counterproductive and blasphemous, anti-Islamic terrorism -- is to return to Al-Sanhoury, to reconsider his approach and to draw new and appropriate conclusions.
3. An indirect strategic dominance over the region was introduced in 1955 with the so-called Baghdad Pact between Turkey and Iraq. Great Britain was the actual initiator of this military alliance to dominate the Orient, which was also joined by Pakistan and Iran. Its new name, CENTO (Central Treaty Organization) indicated its role as a bridge between NATO and SEATO (the Southeast Asian defense pact) and thus as a link in the chain of western military alliance structures dedicated to the ”containment” of the Soviet Union. After the departure of Iraq as a consequence of its revolution in 1958-59 and the withdrawal of Iran following the Islamic Revolution of 1979, CENTO was dissolved. The indirect strategic dominance over the region, however, has been perpetuated by the United States by the more subtle means of its influence with numerous oil producers as well as by indirect and direct military interventions such as in the Gulf wars. The US has reached strategic understandings with Israel, virtually guaranteeing the Jewish State the preservation of its technological edge in weaponry over the other states of the region. Part of this strategy is also the encouragement of Israeli-Turkish strategic cooperation.
The first two attempts at control of the region -- direct rule from outside and indigenous movements from within -- both failed to accomplish their goals. Nor will the third attempt, the present strategy of indirect dominance from outside, succeed in stabilizing the region, much less in bringing peace. The more likely result will be a renewed round of warfare and an expansion and intensification of revolutionary movements which will shake the existing states to their very foundations.
If we can learn anything from the experiences of the last century, then it is that these attempts at direct and indirect domination and division must be reversed. These old recipes must be replaced with a new one, and it must be one with which all of the peoples of the region can live. The new approach must replace the strategy of ”divide and conquer” with one aimed at the creation of a system of security embracing the entire region. Of course, all of the states and forces in the region are well aware that the conglomeration of existing conflicts has produced a complete impasse. A regional system of security therefore cannot be confined to expressions of mutual goodwill and the negotiation of a detailed legal framework, as these alone cannot succeed in coming to grips with the decisive factors of ”power” and ”interest”. A genuine regional security system can only be predicated on the following awarenesses:
• Anything less than a regional security system will sooner or later produce a regional catastrophe.
! The path to such a security system inevitably rests upon an agreement involving a number of principles, and these must deal with the policies of the involved powers both within and outside the region.
• A program must be developed to incorporate these principles into a publicly proclaimed framework which clearly defines the line between hegemony and peace.
• No double standards among the states of the region
Independent of how one defines the dimensions of the region, the regional security system cannot permit the application of any sort of double standard among its member states. This is a decisive principle on which the entire project will stand or fall and it involves three essentials:
! The end of the United Nations sanctions against Iraq as a prerequisite to the creation of a regional system of security.
! The inclusion of the State of Israel as a fully equal member of the regional security system.
! The inclusion of a Palestinian state in the regional security system in accordance with the original intention of the United Nations to divide Palestine into two sovereign states.
• No double standards among the communities within national borders
Because the structure of the region is based not only on nation-states but also on numerous and highly diverse ethnic, religious and linguistic communities (minorities), it must be assured that these communities will be able to realize the greatest possible self-determination including, wherever feasible, the right to autonomy. The millet system employed in the Ottoman Empire under the Caliphs could serve as a model for a more modern solution encompassing the entire region. Such a regional solution would remove the root causes of terrorism.
• A region free of ABC weapons
The region should not contain military bases maintained by powers from outside the region, unless the states of the region have given their collective consent. All of the states of the region should agree that the entire region should be free of atomic, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction and that this status be constantly and mutually controlled. This would provide the basis for all further security agreements, especially a guarantee of balance within the region, a guarantee which could be backed up by the United Nations Security Council.
• A regional High Court of Arbitration
It must be assured that all disputes within the region can be resolved before a regional High Court of Arbitration to which not only the states but also the aforementioned autonomous communities must have access.
In recent years there has been much discussion of the theory that the path to peace in the region lies in raising the general standard of living through the creation of a regional economic community after the model of the European Union. Valid as this proposition may be, it cannot be denied that it also conceals two important aspects:
the cementation of the present status quo of hegemony and
the avoidance of the necessity to confront and seek resolution of the existing conflicts in the region.
Who will be prepared to commit themselves to any significant investment in a region capable of exploding into war at any moment and virtually without warning? Who will be prepared to commit themselves to any significant investment in a region in which the parties to the ever more varied and virulent conflicts present no hope of resolving their differences themselves but pose the constant threat of blowing themselves up in a final catastrophe? No one, of course, with any intelligence, quite apart from the fact that the great wealth of the region continues to flow into channels that contribute little to the domestic economic cycle and the improvement of the lives of the masses.
As a result, the exclusively economic option leads only to a long list of promises, but not to peace.
The only viable alternative is thus to first create a common, regional system of security on the basis of principles which can open the door to solutions for the region's conflicts and in any case reverse the politics of hegemony which have dominated more than a century.
The so-called ”peace process” between Palestinians and Israelis has not merely come to an impasse; it has failed. As a result, sooner rather than later, the fate of the entire region -- the whole of the Middle East and not just the area of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- will be called into question.
Before discussing what can and ought to be done, we need to recognize the causes for the failure. These can be summarized in the following points:
• At the beginning stands the totally misguided peace imposed upon the Arab-Islamic region by the European powers in the aftermath of the First World War. As already mentioned: The British Field Marshal Earl Wavell characterized it succinctly: ”After the 'war to end war' they seem to have been pretty successful in Paris at making a 'peace to end peace'.” As a result, the region lost not only its center of power and political cohesion but also its political identity, which it has never regained. The goal of the ”Great Powers” was not peace but division into spheres of influence, control and exploitation.
• The victors of the Second World War -- now chiefly the United States and the Soviet Union -- did little to improve the situation and much to make it worse by supporting the introduction of a new element -- Israel -- into the region and by casting the Middle East together with all its resources into the role of a pawn in the East-West contest over global hegemony. Under such conditions achieving a real peace was an impossibility. In addition, Israel made the decision to join the ranks of the atomic powers and, in the interest of its own security, to dominate the region militarily as the junior partner of the US.
• In the early 1990s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, there might have been a chance to reach a genuine peace if the United States, as the sole remaining global power, had strived to achieve a just solution for all. But this did not happen. Instead, as in the earlier epochs, the priority was dominance over the entire region for the sake of economic and military interests. In order to achieve these goals, Washington did not shrink from applying double standards. As a consequence we are now as far from a true peace as ever before. Indeed, in the northern tier of the region, a new strategic contest has begun involving new and old nations from Turkey through the Caucasus nations to Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. At stake are the new oil fields and the control of pipelines. Although the US remains the sole superpower, one need not be a prophet to predict that all the world's or the regions's affairs cannot long be controlled by and directed to the benefit a single center of power. And an increasing tendency towards the use of force can be predicted as well. With a greater likelihood than anywhere else in the world, this strategic approach in the Middle East can only lead to the motto of the lost game of chance: ”Return to square one!” In other words, every problem which appears to have been ”solved” in the region since the First World War -- and most of these ”solutions” were failures -- is once again called into question.
• In the western part of the region, in the area of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, seventy years of effort have failed to come up with anything approaching a peaceful balance. Neither the wars nor the international conferences nor the resolutions of the United Nations have changed the nature of a conflict stemming from the attempt to ameliorate the injustice done to the Jews during the Second World War by the Germans at the expense of the Arab-Islamic region, resulting in the exile of a large part of an Arab-Islamic (and Christian) people from its homeland. What is more, the diplomatic efforts from Madrid to Oslo to Wye to Camp David have failed to grasp the fact that there is only one way to peace: absolutely equal treatment for all parties in all aspects of the conflict must take priority over unilateral national interests.
• In contrast to all other regions in the world, the religious quality of the city of Jerusalem / Al Quds remains intimately bound up with the fate of the Middle East, thereby predicating a qualitative aspect of the conflict which precludes such ordinary approaches to conflict resolution as the ”first things first” strategy of muddling through from the periphery towards the center, or, in other words, resolving first the simpler aspects and then proceeding to the more complicated ones and thus building confidence in small ways before moving on to the tougher issues. In the 1970s, when this author, together with Lord Hugh Caradon (the initiator of UN Resolution 242) and former French foreign minister Michel Jobert, founded the European Study Group Middle East, which at that time sponsored two separate international conferences in Bonn, one with the PLO and the other with Israelis, it was my plea that, in contrast to the then as now prevalent strategic logic, the path to peace ought to begin with Jerusalem. At that time I argued: ”You can achieve peace with all of the Arab states, and can even reach agreement with the Palestinians in many number of areas, but if you cannot agree on a formula for Jerusalem, everything that has been accomplished over the course of years will collapse or even explode over this point.
Today we have reached that point and therefore truly new proposals are required, not more superficial compromises for the sake of appearances. At issue are fundamental principles: Two peoples living on the same land can, in the present case, either decide on the principle of separation or they must arrive at a new formula for living together. In the Palestinian view the principle of separation means the removal of the Jewish settlements in Arab areas and at least a partial return of the refugees. From the Israeli perspective it means either the continuation of a ”homeland and apartheid strategy” such as formerly practiced in South Africa or the removal of entire national groups from specific territories, that is, in the hypocritical terminology invented and practiced after the First and both during and after the Second World War in Europe in the 20 th century, the ”transfer” strategy. The principle of separation is, in any case, doomed to failure over Jerusalem / Al Quds. A continued escalation of the terror both from above and below can only lead to intervention, an internationalization of the conflict and possibly to international war. The other path, the search for a new means of living together , cannot be imposed from outside. The two peoples must find their way together, albeit with help from outside. In order to do so, they have less need of shrewd and clever diplomats and politicians than of courageous individuals, to whom authority will then accrue. What we need to do is to point out possible paths and discuss them openly.
Three insights are indispensable:
• The Arab side must accept that Israel is here to stay as a part of the Middle East, not as an appendage of the U.S. or Europe.
• The Israeli side must realize that Israel was established in the Middle East against the will of the native Arab population. Israel forced its entry into the region; it has yet to pay the price of admission. In general, Israel needs to make a generous contribution; a major gesture is required, not a haggling over pennies and percents. That was the mistake made in the Oslo process. This is the only way to break through the mistrust and hatred that has accumulated over the decades.
• There is only one place in the region where this effect can be achieved not only between Palestinians and Israelis but for the region as a whole, and that is Al Quds / Jerusalem.
A solution there would not automatically solve all the existing problems, but it would be the key in the right place and at the right time. Because Jerusalem poses not only a political problem, but, because of its long history, a religious-spiritual problem for all of mankind, I may be permitted to add two concepts relating to God. The one is the Hebrew term ”tschuvah”, which involves the idea of turning around or mending one's ways. In other words, not weapons but genuine ”tschuvah”, the acceptance of the other people in the land as equals, can bring a resolution and security. The other is from the Qur`an al karim: ”La yughayyir Allah ma bi qaumin hatta yu Ÿ ayyiru ma be anfusihim”, freely translated: God will not change the fate of the people before they do not change what is in their hearts.
The alternative is a catastrophe for all.
The International Institute for Ethnic-Group Rights and Regionalism (INTEREG), together with the soon to be revived Study Group Middle East wish to present such proposals and invites therefore as a first step authors from the Region, authors from Europe, America and Russia to give their views.
The fundamental proposal concerns the introduction of a federalistic structure in the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict beginning with JERUSALEM; as the key.
This tactical-instrumental proposal takes cognizance of the reluctancy of both Israelis and Palestinians to relinquish their particular nation-state visions and their tendency to treat any federalistic approach as a watering-down of their ideals, even where this is clearly not the case. Jerusalem / Al Quds thus becomes the test case for cooperation between equal partners, a cooperation which must accommodate the unique national, international and especially religious dimensions of the city. In this manner Jerusalem could become the starting point for a genuine peace, not only for the city but for both nations and the entire region.
An Instrumental paper
The point of departure is the existence of two opposing positions:
the State of Israel = A
the State of Filastin = B
More than 50 years after the rupture of the years 1947/48 it must be accepted that the status quo ante cannot be restored, but the prerequisite for the establishment of peace is the acceptance of the principle of equality:
> Equal treatment of the opposing sides in all issues , ranging from territorial and demographic politics to the question of mutual security. In all cases, concrete and realistic solutions must be worked out which are open and transparent.
> The KEY -- NOT the last point -- is the issue of Jerusalem - Al Quds.
In this context the following possible approaches are proposed:
I) Two sovereign nation-states A and B with a common federative state C governed by both and consisting of both Hebrew and Arab Jerusalem. F = A, B + federal C as a kind of condominium;
II) C governed by two separate but equal Israeli and Arab authorities nominated by the nation-states and including the elected representatives of the population of Jerusalem according to the curia principle (Jewish, Muslim, Christian);
III) C supervised by a High Commissioner of the United Nations (elected by the UN General Assembly) in conjunction with a Council representing the three religious communities.
The International Institute for Ethnic-Group Rights and Regionalism (INTEREG) is prepared to further elaborate such a proposal.
Munich, August 24, 2001