A MIDDLE EAST PEACE PLAN
THOMAS L FRIEDMAN| NYT NEWS SERVICE
THERE is so much going on in the Middle East today, it’s impossible to capture it all with one opinion. So here are two for the price of one.
Opinion One: Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, reported last week that the imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti ‘released an unusual statement from his cell. He called on his people to start a popular uprising against Israel, to stop negotiations and security coordination and to boycott [Israel].
Barghouti recommended that his people choose nonviolent opposition.’ Barghouti, as Haaretz noted, ‘is the most authentic leader Fatah has produced, and he can lead his people to an agreement. ... If Israel had wanted an agreement with the Palestinians it would have released him from prison by now.’ I had gotten to know Barghouti before his five life sentences for involvement in killing Israelis. His call for nonviolent resistance is noteworthy and the latest in a series of appeals to and by Palestinians coming from all over to summon their own ‘Arab Awakening,’ but do it nonviolently, with civil disobedience or boycotts of Israel, Israeli settlements or Israeli products.
I can certainly see the efficacy of nonviolent resistance by Palestinians to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank on one condition: They accompany any boycotts, sit-ins or hunger strikes with a detailed map of the final two-state settlement they are seeking. Just calling for ‘an end to occupation’ won’t cut it.
Palestinians need to accompany every boycott, hunger strike or rock they throw at Israel with a map delineating how, for peace, they would accept getting back 95 percent of the West Bank and all Arab neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem and would swap the other 5 percent for land inside pre-1967 Israel. Such an arrangement would allow some 75 percent of the Jewish settlers to remain in the West Bank, while still giving Palestinians 100 percent of the land back. By Palestinians engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience in the West Bank with one hand and carrying a map of a reasonable two-state settlement in the other, they will be adopting the only strategy that will end the Israeli occupation: Making Israelis feel morally insecure but strategically secure. The Iron Law of the peace process is that whoever makes the Israeli silent majority feel morally insecure about occupation but strategically secure in Israel wins.
After Anwar Sadat flew to Jerusalem, Israelis knew there was no way morally that they could hold onto the Sinai and strategically they did not feel the need to any longer.
The first intifada, which focused on stone-throwing, got Palestinians Oslo. The second intifada, which was focused on suicide bombing of restaurants in Tel Aviv, got them the wall around the West Bank; Israelis felt sufficiently strategically insecure and morally secure to lock all Palestinians in a big jail. Today, nothing makes Israelis feel more strategically insecure and morally secure than Hamas’s demented shelling of Israel from Gaza, even after Israel unilaterally withdrew.
Unabated, disruptive Palestinian civil disobedience in the West Bank, coupled with a map delineating a deal most Israelis would buy, is precisely what would make Israelis feel morally insecure but strategically secure and revive the Israeli peace camp. It is the only Palestinian strategy Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu fears, but it is one that he is sure Palestinians would never adopt. He thinks it’s not in their culture.
Will they surprise him? Opinion Two: One of the most hackneyed cliches about the Middle East today is that the Arab Awakening, because it was not focused on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, only proves that this conflict was not that important. Rather, it is argued, the focus should be on Iran 24/7. The fact is, the Arab Awakening has made an Israeli- Palestinian peace settlement more urgent than ever for two reasons.
First, it is now clear that Arab autocracies are being replaced with Islamist/populist parties. And, in Egypt, in particular, it is already clear that a key issue in the election will be the peace treaty with Israel.
In this context, if Palestinian-Israeli violence erupts in the West Bank, there will be no firewall, the role played by former President Hosni Mubarak, to stop the flames from spreading directly to the Egyptian street.
Moreover, with the rise of Islamists in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria, Israelis and Palestinians have a greater incentive than ever to create an alternative model in the West Bank ‘a Singapore’ to show that they, together, can give birth to a Palestinian state where Arab Muslims and Christians, men and women, can thrive in a secular, but religiously respectful, free-market, democratic context, next to a Jewish state. This is the best Palestinian leadership with which Israel could hope to partner.
One reason the Arab world has stagnated while Asia has thrived is that the Arabs had no good local models to follow the way Taiwan followed Japan or Hong Kong.
Fostering such a model that would stand in daily contrast to struggling Islamist models in Gaza and elsewhere would be a huge, long-term asset for Israel and help to shape the world around it.