New architecture for relations / For peace to emerge, Israel must recognize shared interests with its neighbors (WASHINGTON TIMES COMMENTARY) By Prince El Hassan bin Talal 02/24/12)
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I expected to be criticized from many sides when I decided to give
the keynote address recently to 12th Annual Herzliya Conference,
regarded by many as Israelís most important annual forum for debating
its involvement in global affairs. But in speaking via teleconference
to the Israelis, I overruled objections from my closest advisers,
family and friends.
The Israeli audience mainly focused on their issues of military and
physical security. So, there was understandable reason for concern at
my participating in such an event, considering the state of Israeli-
Yet, I was willing to accept criticism for being radically moderate
in speaking to the Israelis and in trying to advance peace.
I am not a novice on this issue. I have spent countless years trying
to achieve a lasting and honorable settlement to the decades-old
conflict. However, it has been a long time since Iíve felt this
pessimistic about the situation on the ground.
There are simple truths that justify such pessimism and lead me to
conclude that peace is unattainable for the foreseeable future.
One such truth is that the Netanyahu government does not accept that
the security of one people cannot be built on the insecurity of
another. It is tragic that those in power in Israel need to be
reminded that, like them, the Palestinian people have experienced
loss of lives, of families, homes, and whole communities. They have
felt the same despair over years of turmoil and war.
Another truth is based on a law of diminishing returns. It says that
the more Middle Eastern states, including and especially Israel,
spend on armaments, the less they feel secure.
Yet another truth is that this continued hostility has cost us all
greatly. Since the 1991 Madrid Conference until 2010, the region has
lost an estimated $12 trillion in missed economic opportunities,
according to the Strategic Foresight Group.
Every single country in the region has suffered, regardless of its
political perspectives. The per-capita income of all countries would
have been double what it is today.
Security through weapons cannot bring peace: Only peace, a peace with
justice, can bring real security.
There are several necessary conditions for peace.
First, we must negotiate with our enemies. We cannot choose our
negotiating partners. Well-meaning friends do not need a mediator.
The role of Washington as Israelís interlocutor to the rest of the
region may be comfortable, but it is not pragmatic: Secretary of
State Hillary Rodham Clinton has even recently proposed that the
United States should pivot away from the Middle East toward the Asia
Pacific region. It seems Washington is also pessimistic about
prospects for peace.
Second, we must have the will to move from enmity to at least mutual
recognition of shared interests, equal sovereignty and common
Third, we must not use negotiations as a delaying strategy,
continuing policies that forestall true peace.
None of the conditions for peace exists today between Israelis and
Palestinians, or between Israel and the Middle East states.
Prior to the outbreak of the second intifada, or Palestinian
uprising, one-fourth of the Palestinian workforce traveled daily to
Israel for work. That traffic has been reduced to a trickle. Today,
Palestinians view Israel solely through the experience of occupation
and diminishing livelihoods, especially in the Gaza Strip.
When a majority of Israelis come to believe that peace with the Arabs
is not possible, then the Palestinians and other Arab and Middle East
societies will come to the conclusion that peace with Israel, even if
possible, is not desirable. This is already the sentiment among
growing sections of Palestinian and Arab society.
Consequently, those Israelis who would wish to live with Palestinians
on terms of equal sovereignty and shared aspirations will be treated
as fools. Palestinians and Arabs who cling to the hope of peace will
be cursed as traitors.
Recent political changes in the Middle East will not contribute to
peace, either, at least in the short term. In the long run, the
revolt against calcified authority in our region may create more
liberal regimes, but in the short term we can expect chaotic
governments that will create more security problems for Israel. The
cost to Israel of its unwillingness to negotiate territorial
concessions will only grow.
Israelís reliance on nuclear power as its ultimate security has led
others to justify their search for the same type of security. Today,
we live in a region divided by walls and cast-iron mindsets. We are a
laboratory for new kinds of weaponry - from nuclear to biological,
cyber, radiological and chemical threats. We are a breeding ground
for rogue, extremist and nonstate actors.
As my brother the late King Hussein put it, ďThere are extremists on
both side of the divide, but if we listen exclusively to them we
shall all lose.Ē
A new architecture for relations is necessary, and I firmly believe
that a solid cornerstone could be built around the three baskets of
the Helsinki process - economy, security and human dignity - as well
as on the experience of the Eastern Bloc after the fall of the Berlin
It is time to peer through the looking glass. Does Israel want to be
part of this region or an outpost of the West? Does the Arab
Awakening arouse anxiety or fear in Israel?
It is time to engage with the Arab Spring and its winter offshoots.
It is time that Israel reorient its definition of security away from
arms and towards relationships based not on occupation, but on human
Prince El Hassan bin Talal is a special adviser to Jordanís King
Abdullah II and was the national security adviser for both King
Abdullah and the late King Hussein. (© 2012 The Washington Times,
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