FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Only Path to a Middle East Picnic?

by JOHN GOEKLER

There’s a phenomenon in complexity science called “path dependence”. It’s the kind of blind persistence ants display when following pheromone trails back to a table from which the picnic basket has long since been removed. It’s a common failing of politicians, too, when they persist in supporting polices that have already failed. A current example is the blind commitment of American policymakers to the chimera of a two state “solution” in the Middle East.

The potential to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians through a two state model is near zero. Few on any side are genuinely eager for such an option, and objective realities stand against it. The most obvious roadblocks are water, Israeli settlers, security responsibilities in a Palestinian state, human rights for non Jews in Israel, the physical separation of the West Bank and Gaza, and the “right of return”. Equally important, if less obvious, are the conflicting interests and interventions of regional and global powers.

These and other inconsistencies undermine the potential for success of any two state structure, regardless of what boundaries might be delineated. They indicate that the most viable and resilient model for a just and lasting Middle East peace is a single, democratic, non-ideological state.

Extremists on both sides – ardent Zionists and Islamists – despise such a concept. The former argue that Jews must have their own state in order to be secure; the latter that any emergent state must be Islamic. Both positions are path dependent.

The presence of a Jewish state has not made Jews in the Middle East and elsewhere more secure. Rather it has made them less so by providing a rallying point for Al Qaeda and other enemies. An Islamic state cannot offer necessary protections and freedoms to Jews, Christians and others. Nor have Islamic regimes to date proven able to deliver the kind of economic and social development the region will need to recover from 60 years of war and occupation.

To move toward resolution, the narratives underlying both the Israeli and Palestinian positions must be addressed openly and honestly. Despite a masterful 50 year public relations campaign by Israel – and the acceptance of its perspective by much of the western world – Palestinians were deprived of their homeland through a UN-imposed partition, two wars and what would now be labeled ethnic cleansing. Most are still denied basic human rights within Israel and the occupied territories. Millions more live in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Gaza.

This situation has become a festering sore that has poisoned relationships throughout the region and beyond. It is a primary excuse of jihadist groups for their war on the west and modernity, and a rallying cry for radicalization through the Islamic world. The United States, which provides some $3 billion each year to Israel in mostly military aid, is seen as sanctioning and abetting this behavior.

The Israelis are not the only intransigent party, however. It would be hard to find an entity more consistently corrupt, incompetent and self-defeating than Fatah, the traditionally dominant Palestinian faction. More concerned with personal power and graft than the welfare of their people, mainstream Palestinian politicians have routinely suppressed reformist movements, and either ordered or sanctioned actions intended to torpedo peace initiatives.

Hamas, the Islamic movement originally supported by Israel as a counter to secular Fatah, is generally less corrupt. But it is hardly more effective. Like Fatah, its efforts are largely posturing and theater. Its support among Palestinians – who elected a majority of Hamas candidates to the legislature in 2006 – stems mostly from the fact that it is not Fatah, and is still feebly resisting the Israeli occupation.

This dysfunctional blend of politics, corruption, mythology and rhetoric has produced a strategic stalemate. The deadlock is increasingly painful and expensive for all sides, and increasingly dangerous. As the pressures of its internal contradictions and unmet expectations build, some kind of explosion is inevitable. Unless the United States and other nations intervene quickly and vigorously to achieve a different outcome, it is likely to dissolve into greater violence and disorder.

Several factors could combine to tip the scales toward chaos. The first is simple demographics. Palestinians will soon outnumber Jews within the disputed boundaries. Second is the “porosity” of globalization. Individuals, ideologies, weapons and technologies can now transit borders with relative ease. Third is the “evolution of lethality”. Because of increasingly powerful weapons, small groups and even individuals may now fight nations with a reasonable chance of success. Fourth is shifting public opinion in the US and Western Europe away from Israel in the wake of its most recent assault on Gaza.

These looming realities mean Israel cannot hunker down behind a wall – regardless of its height or the boundaries it defines – so long as its neighbors feel aggrieved. Deterrence, Israel’s fundamental strategic paradigm throughout its existence, is dead.

To find a way out, the solution space must be enlarged. The process should begin by focusing on a simple strategic question – what is the desired future? The answer cannot simply be, “A state in which Jews feel secure.” Or, “A Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders.” It must be an answer that speaks to security, equity and sustainability for all.
Regional powers must be part of this process from the beginning. No agreements can be kept without addressing their interests and enlisting their support. Some model of truth and reconciliation must be facilitated – both in its creation and operation. Palestinians and Israelis each have their own victim narratives and believe themselves the aggrieved party. Trust building on all levels must precede meaningful negotiations on larger issues.

Contrary to conventional thinking, the diversity of the region is an asset. Its rich variety of people and traditions constitutes a deep body of wisdom. While it is harder initially to facilitate agreement in such a diverse system, agreements and relationships, once forged, tend to be resilient.

Barack Obama has, to date, expressed no inclination to consider anything other than a two state structure within the rough confines of the 1967 borders. Should he persist with this path, it is likely he will become the 12th US president in 60 years to fail in an effort to bring forth a stable and secure Middle Easy. It is a failure he can ill afford in the midst of America’s economic crisis and military entanglements. More important, it is one he need not suffer. It is the right time – and Mr. Obama is the right person – to expand the solution space and begin to bring to a close almost a century of separation and conflict.

JOHN GOEKLER is a trainer, facilitator and consultant specializing in applying emerging scientific understandings to organizational effectiveness, transformative policy and global security. He is the founder of Change Factors, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
Murray Dobbin
Is Trudeau Ready for a Middle East war?
Jeiddy Martínez Armas
Firearm Democracy
Jill Richardson
Washington’s War on Poor Grad Students
Ralph Nader
The Rule of Power Over the Rule of Law
Justin O'Hagan
Capitalism Equals Peace?
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: From the Red Sea to Nairobi
Geoff Dutton
The Company We Sadly Keep
Evan Jones
The Censorship of Jacques Sapir, French Dissident
Linn Washington Jr.
Meek Moment Triggers Demands for Justice Reform
Gerry Brown
TPP, Indo Pacific, QUAD: What’s Next to Contain China’s Rise?
Robert Fisk
The Exile of Saad Hariri
Romana Rubeo - Ramzy Baroud
Anti-BDS Laws and Pro-Israeli Parliament: Zionist Hasbara is Winning in Italy
Robert J. Burrowes
Why are Police in the USA so Terrified?
Chuck Collins
Stop Talking About ‘Winners and Losers’ From Corporate Tax Cuts
Ron Jacobs
Private Property Does Not Equal Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Mass Shootings, Male Toxicity and their Roots in Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
The Fordist Academic
Frank Scott
Weapons of Mass Distraction Get More Destructive
Missy Comley Beattie
Big Dick Diplomacy
Michael Doliner
Democracy, Real Life Acting and the Movies
Dan Bacher
Jerry Brown tells indigenous protesters in Bonn, ‘Let’s put you in the ground’
Winslow Myers
The Madness of Deterrence
Cesar Chelala
A Kiss is Not a Kiss: Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children
Jimmy Centeno
Garcia Meets Guayasamin: A De-Colonial Experience
Stephen Martin
When Boot Becomes Bot: Surplus Population and The Human Face.
Martin Billheimer
Homer’s Iliad, la primera nota roja
Louis Proyect
Once There Were Strong Men
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones
David Yearsley
Academics Take Flight
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail