Perhaps in the category of “What do we have to lose”, this out of the box proposal by a long time contributor to this journal proposes a thoroughly radical solution to the most intractable problem of the modern world. It may not have much chance of adoption, but then nothing else has worked so far. –Ed.
by Sam C. Holliday
Ambassador Tony Quainton in Challenges to the Peace Process Today (http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/item/2009/0709/comm /quainton_arabisraeli.html) has outlined the difficulties in achieving a viable peace and has questioned some of the current assumptions about the nature of a two state settlement. He concludes that it is not a question of process, but of substance. He states there will be no peace until some long and deeply held beliefs are changed. Therefore, we need to look outside the conventional wisdom on this seemingly intractable problem to find a new road map with a higher probability of peace and security.Peace in the Middle East, including the Levant, has always faltered on hatred, xenophobia, tribalism, power seeking, and rigidity. All attempts since the Oslo Accords have been risk adverse, incremental steps toward a peaceful Palestinian state. Since 1993 proposals by many brilliant statesmen, with vast experience, have failed to overcome dreams of those called Palestinians. The radical Islamic movements (Hamas, Hezbollah, and others) make future attempts even more pointless. Therefore, it is time to consider another approach—a new way to achieve peace and security in the Levant.Such a way is outlined in this essay. Since this approach does not conform to conventional wisdom, it probably will be considered risky, impractical, and doomed—even if innovative and attractive. It is true that this way will be difficult to implement, yet it offers a better hope for long-term stability, and peace, in the Middle East (including the Levant) than anything attempted.
The Desired Results
Every effort should be made to advance that which unites, rather than that which divides, those living in the Levant. The correct use of the words the Levant and Semitic would be an important step. The words Palestine and Israel will always divide. The Levantine Aurignacian culture was located at the eastern end of the Mediterranean by 10,000 BC. In ancient history this region was called the Levant. The names Philistia, Phoenicia, Israel, and Judah were introduced after 1,000 B.C. and those of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan came later. Various peoples have moved through this region and some have stayed. The Semitic-speaking people were nomadic pastoral tribesmen from Arabia. There have been many rulers, which divided the region in many ways. It is thus possible for many to claim historical justification for the same territory. However, most of those that remained in the Levant spoke some Semitic language, i.e. Aramaic, Hebrew, Phoenician, and the various dialects of the southern group of Semitic languages (which have become Arabic). Therefore, all of those living in the area could be called Semitic—not just Israelis. And the area can accurately be called the Levant.Although stability in the Middle East is the primary objective, it is not the only objective. A solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is essential to neutralizing the world wide Islamic movement. On 11 September 2009 Osama Bin Laden stated that for over twenty-five years the driving force behind the Third Jihad has been American support of “your Israeli allies who occupy our land of Palestine.” And he is not alone. Muslim extremists everywhere are motivated in large measure by their resentment of U.S. support for Israel and its actions. Many take this to the extreme of seeing an American crusade to humiliate them and their religion. On 16 October 2009 Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. told the National Council of U.S. Arab Relations that a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is “…the prerequisite for the restoration of peace within the realm of Islam.”
The Strategy and Rationale
A coalition of the willing, led by the United States, should imposes a federation of eight sovereign states in the territory of the former (1920-1948) British Palestinian mandate. This federation should be called the United Levantine States (ULS). ULS would initially have the eight city-states of Haifa (northern Israel), Tel Aviv (coastal Israel), Judea (central Israel), Beer Sheya (southern Israel), Nablus, Al Khali (Hebron), Gaza, and Jerusalem. It could be expanded.
- There should be no reference to Palestine, Israel, Palestinians, or Israelis.
Tel Aviv, Haifa, Judea, Beer Sheya, and Jerusalem would be majority Hebrew city-states and all those living there (Hebrew, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Arab, etc.) would be referred to by Hebrew names. Nablus, Al Khali (Hebron), and Gaza would be majority Arab city-states, and all those living there (regardless of their religious, cultural, or ethnic identity) would be referred to by Arabic names.
- There would be a ULS Assembly with representatives from each of the eight city-states.
This assembly would meet in Jerusalem; however, the assembly would only have authority over the religious sites in Jerusalem. The ULS Assembly would primarily be a place for the eight city-states to meet to discuss common problems, and to hopefully resolve them to the mutual satisfaction of all.
- Order, and the safety of those living within each city-state, would initially be the responsibility of the coalition. However, as soon as any of the eight city-states can demonstrate the capability and willingness to maintain order, and can protect all minorities within its territory, that responsibility would be transferred to the authorities of that state.
- For an indefinite period the sovereignty of the three majority Arab city-states would be limited—until each had demonstrated: (1) its ability to neutralize all terrorists (including those associated with Hamas, Fattah, Al Aqsa martyrs’ Brigade, and Islamic Jihad) within its territory, (2) that it has severed all ties with those who do not recognizes Jews as equals, and (3) that its government is of, by and for the people.
- Until each city-state has earned sovereignty: (1) its territory would be violable, e.g. the coalition forces could take action necessary to neutralize terrorists and to maintain order, (2) it could not make alliances with other states, and (3) there would be limits on the types and number of weapons permitted.
The success of such a federation will largely depend on how the coalition is formed and how it performs its responsibilities. It will require the implementation of a bold strategy in a manner that will produce the desired results. It will require determination and tenacity to overcome doubts, hesitation, complexity, confusion and competing arguments.The U.S. must lead this coalition. However, “in country” presence of the US should be invisible. Any American in Al Khali (Hebron), Nablus, and Gaza should be an Arabic speaking Muslim. The primary functions of the US would be to provide logistical support for the “in country” forces of the coalition, to assist local and state officials in achieving effective, corruption free government, to encourage economic viability, and to assist in the implementation of financial reforms–including transparency. Initially the Israeli Armed Forces would perform any military operations. Arabic speakers from Muslim countries of the coalition would conduct all police/constabulary operations in Al Khali (Hebron), Nablus, and Gaza. All humanitarian activities would be performed by non-governmental organizations.Why should the idea of Palestinian and Israeli states be dropped? Why should the names Palestine, Israel, Palestinian, and Israeli be relegated to the past? First, Palestine is an artificial creation. In 1920 the British wanted a name for their mandate, which had been carved out of the Ottoman Empire, between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River. They selected Palestine since that name had been used in the 5th century BC by the Babylonian Empire to refer to an area south of Jerusalem. Today Arabs use the name Palestine to refer to the total area of the former British mandate. However, that territory was granted its independence as Israel in 1948. Therefore, there are two names for the same territory. Militant Arabs will always claim that Zionists are occupying their land, i.e. Palestine, and call for the liberation of “their home land”. There will never be peace in the Middle East as long as there are those who think of themselves as Palestinians and Israelis, for each will always want to reclaim their “home land”—which requires the elimination of other. The terminology suggested here provides a means of living in the present and future rather than in the past. It is a way to get rid of much baggage. This would change several long and deeply held beliefs.Second, the political power of the militant Arabs (Hamas, Fattah, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah) is based on the struggle of “Palestinians” against the occupiers of their land “from the river to the sea,” plus the vitality of intimidating, coercive organizations. Only if people think they are “Palestinians” do the current leaders have political power. Therefore, the surest way to achieve new and different leadership would be for the people to think of themselves as members of the area in which they live–the areas around Nablus, Al Khali (Hebron), and Gaza. These people need to realize they are free to establish their own government. Each of these three city-states could adopt its own constitution with a fully empowered legislature, local-level governments, independent judiciary, and elect their representatives to the United Levantine States Assembly. This would change other long and deeply held beliefs. Third, as long as those living in Nablus, Al Khali (Hebron), and Gaza think of themselves as “Palestinians,” it will be impossible for new, pragmatic, leadership to emerge. Any elections in the West Bank and Gaza in the near future will probably reelect the current leadership. The emotions and feelings that the militant Arabs have instilled, their domination of the local media, and their effective organizations would probably produce a majority of the votes. Today it is through the militant Arabs that the people satisfy their aspirations. Regrettably, the prospect of a better life, the solution of everyday problems, an improved standard of living, and the elimination of violence will not now satisfy the aspirations of the people. Therefore, new pragmatic leaders, with weak organizations, and limited access to local media that campaign for a better life for the people would probably be defeated. However, with decentralization, the “Palestinian cause” will have less appeal, while improvements in the lives of people will have greater appeal. Only after changes in the hearts, minds, attitudes, and beliefs of the people will elections produce the critical new leadership.Fourth, it is necessary to avoid the territorial issues noted by Ambassador Quainton. If done, this would change other long and deeply held beliefs.The PlanHow is the bold, high-risk strategy outlined here converted into a plan, and how is that plan implemented so as to produce the desired outcomes?
- It will require a radical change of focus on all of those involved and the international community.
- It will require bold action and an end of incrementalism.
- President Obama would announce that the approach outlined here (after it had been revised by his administration) is the “new road map to peace and security in the Levant”; he would call a conference of those countries that want to join the US lead coalition to bring stability (a climate of order and satisfaction) to the Levant.
- At that conference, the plan based on this “new road map to peace and security in the Levant” would be developed, responsibilities for its implementation would be assigned, and a timetable would be adopted.
- All members of the coalition would sign a treaty that pledges their united efforts to take those actions needed to achieve the outcomes specified in the plan, and to counter any opposition to the plan.
- The plan would be implemented as soon as possible.
- No attempt should be made to include in this plan a massive multi-lateral aid program to develop any of the eight city-states. No attempt would be made to solve the Palestinian Diaspora problem. It would be agreed that future economic development would be accomplished through normal commercial activities after stability had been established in all of the United Levantine States (ULS).
It is important that the United Nations be excluded from the coalition. Debates in the UN, UN resolutions, and actions of the UN have been major reasons peace has not been achieved. Idealism, and illusions of “one-worldism”, has provided cover for failures in practice, corruption, and the most terrible of outcomes. Concern for the Palestinian Diaspora has made any solution impossible. Those in the permanent UN agency have been neo-colonialists, which have prevented the development of moderate leaders. The UN has facilitated generations being kept in permanent “refugee camps” that breed terrorists. Debates in the UN have given militant Arabs hope that some day they will control the territory of the former British mandate. The UN has repeatedly attempted to have its resolutions accepted as “international law” to be the final authority in political disputes–rather than encouraging government of, by and for the people.Everyone in this new federation should be encouraged to accept religious and cultural differences, and to understand how to live in multicultural societies. Schools that teach militant Islam should be closed. The media, specifically the new Arab controlled media, should be encouraged to show the advantages of cooperation over conflict, order over chaos, and peace over warfare. To some this might seem a fantasy since it is so different from what can be observed today. However, this is how hearts, minds, attitudes and beliefs are changed—how aspirations are changed. Changing aspirations is the most important aspect of any solution for the Levant, and the only way to achieve long-term stability and peace. Having a common identity as Levantines, rather than separate identities as Israelis and Palestinians, would be an important step in the correct direction. Getting those who live in the Levant to think of what they have in common rather than being in conflict with each other would be even more important.As soon as possible all eight city-states should use a common currency, and have strong economic ties. Benelux might be a good model. In time Jordan, Lebanon and Syria might be included in the ULS to create a more viable economic entity. Ambassador Quainton has proposed this. These are all issues that should be discussed, and if possible resolved, in the ULS Assembly.
The assembly of the United Levantine States would become the primary forum for resolving issues regarding borders, refugees, Jerusalem, and actions of extremists. However, any resolution proposed by the assembly would require adoption by each of the individual states of the ULS, since each is sovereign.The establishment of the assembly of the United Levantine States would void all resolutions by the United Nations regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This will be a direct challenge to those who advocate world governance by the United Nations, since it would claim the primacy of state sovereignty. This step would contribute to returning international law to its proper role—the role it had before the advocates of world governance manipulated it. The word international means between or among nations, i.e. between sovereign states. Therefore, international law is the way sovereign states agree to resolve disputes between, or among, themselves. International law should never be twisted into resolutions or rulings, by non-elected bureaucrats, which trump the laws of sovereign states.Conclusion The strategy and plan outlined above will certainly have many detractors, and if adopted they will require skill and effort to realize their full potential. It will require what Napoleon referred to as “luck”. Napoleon’s greatest successes were the result of audacious and determined implementation of high-risk strategies. Before appointing a Marshal, he would ask if that person was lucky. He was not thinking of random chance. He wanted Marshals who took risks, were not incrementalists, but would implement bold strategies in a manner that would produce the desired results—which in hindsight others would call lucky. This is what is needed to achieve stability in the Levant.
Copyright © 2009 Armiger Cromwell Center
Sam C. Holliday is a graduate of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, a former director of Stability Studies at the U. S. Army War College, and a retired army colonel. He earned a master’s degree in public affairs from the University of Pittsburgh and a doctorate in international relations from the University of South Carolina.