Once again the Middle East has descended into a vicious circle of simultaneous human tragedies. The essence of this often repeated situation had been the irreconcilable difference between the arbitrary interpretation of the basic rights of the various ethnic and religious communities and their diametrically opposed sense of intolerable injustice. The differences between the two sides, Arabs and Israelis, had always been fundamental. The former had believed that what they had called Palestine had been promised to the Prophet Muhammad by Allah and sealed for eternity by conquest and occupation over fourteen centuries. The Jews had derived their right to the land of Eretz Israel and Zion directly from God over two millennia before Muhammad was even born. Jewish immigration throughout the 20th century and the establishment of the State of Israel had been viewed by the Arabs as illegal occupation of their land, and condemned and fought accordingly. The Jews had invoked history and asserted that they only exercise their God-given right to return to the land of their forefathers.
The conflicting historical, religious, political and moral arguments had proven irreconcilable throughout the 20th and the almost decade and a half of the 21th century. It is the tragic irony of the Israeli-Arab conflict that they both had reached the conclusion that their mutually exclusive objectives and interests can only be maintained, advanced and protected by military means. For the Israelis, military superiority is the guarantee of their national survival, while for the Arabs material force is not only the ultima ratio of reconquest, but a symbol of terrestrial honor and celestial glory.
All these arguments at legitimacy however had been secondary to the vital national security interests of a variety of foreign powers that had hoped to establish their exclusive dominance and acceptable level of peace and stability in the region with substantial energy resources and geopolitical significance. And so hostilities and wars, interspersed with negotiations and conferences, had been followed at regular intervals. Ideas like “land for peace” and “two state solution” had faltered on the unsurprising fact that neither side had shown serious willingness to compromise on what they considered to be substantial matters.
Yet, both the Arabs and the Israelis are lonely actors in international politics. Particularly, the Palestinians whose absolutist demands border on the absurd, and their violence so blatantly inhuman, as to rendering their cause too abhorrent even for the Arabs to share. In this context, adding insult to injury, the common Palestinians, who are completely devoid of political and economic power and had been victimized by incompetence, corruption and abuse, remain the most uncritical and enthusiastic allies of their self-appointed and self-destructive leaders. Indeed, infatuation with power corrupts both the rulers and the ruled and, for this reason, absolute power based on terror is unable to create anything constructive. The ultimate results of all the shifting alliances, internal power struggles, uprisings and betrayals within the Palestinian community had been destruction, agony and death. Presently, no Palestinian want war, but no Palestinian believes in peace. On the other hand, the leaderships of Fatah and Hamas, with all their radical offshoots, cling to the myth of war, albeit they all hope to avoid it.
Thus, Fatah and Hamas are on the verge of a self-inflicted disaster. The men who lead the war on Israel and the United States are fanatical fighters but incapable of governing and administering a state in peace. Already, they have partially transferred their military modus operandi from the battlefield to luxurious offices and palaces, arrogantly ignorant of the public resentment and outrage. Moreover, they have dismissed any notion of compromise and tolerance within and outside the narrow confines of their parochial movements. Finally, these heterogeneous movements have never gelled into coherent political and military formations. Ethnic, religious, tribal and sectarian allegiances have always trumped loyalty to national institutions. The ideal of Palestine remains divided into personal fiefs without any hope for meaningful convergence. The plight of the Palestinians seems complete. Their foreign policy had failed and the inner state of their community had sunk into a bottomless pit of irrational hatred and desperation. They are miserable and they are alone.
For Israel the Palestinian question had been like a permanently festering wound that can be treated but never be cured. The consensus in Israel had been that the various Palestinian organizations stand for all that is worst in the Arab character and mentality. Therefore, for Israel Palestinian terrorism had always been a never ending crisis rather than just a problem. To counter this crisis Israel had settled on a stick and carrot strategy. At its core this strategy had defined the war against Palestinian terrorism as only one element of a comprehensive policy. On the one hand, terrorism must be crushed by ruthless force. On the other hand, because the Palestinians lack a sizable and thus politically influential moderate block, Israel had pinned its hope for the future on the young and better educated segments of the Palestinian community to turn away from the culture of violence and hatred. The overriding objective in the minds of the Israeli decision makers had been to enlist the ethos of a modern, globalized world, in which people leave aside their “tribal issues” and focus on promoting cooperation, understanding and prosperity.
Since becoming the dominant power in the Middle East after Egypt’s break with the Soviet Union in the 1970s, the United States had attempted to position itself as the arbiter between the Arabs and the Jews. Starting with President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the United States had tried to reconcile them, in its and the region’s interests. Yet, unending intra- and inter-Arab instability had been turning a potentially useful asset into a political, economic and military headache. With an unbelievable degree of political incompetence and gross ignorance of history, President Barack Obama has decided to withdraw from the region and allow extremism to take over. Yet, in spite of his efforts to diminish the United States’ military and economic powers, it remains the sole indispensable power to guarantee a peaceful and stable world order.
Since Israel has no intention of committing national suicide, and since the Palestinians reject the idea of power sharing, a solution must be imposed on both parties. Moreover, neither a two state solution, nor power sharing will end the vicious circle of Arabs murder Jews and vice versa. Only the combination of uncompromising use of force, when necessary, and a generous financial and economic assistance of the international community, led by the United States, can guarantee lasting progress toward an enduring peace in the region.
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Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi is the Vice President of Frontiers of Freedom.