Middle East Peace


بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

IIFWP Summit of World Leaders on

The World at a Turning Point:

Considering Innovative Approaches to Peace through

Responsible Leadership and Good Governance

August 11-16, 2003

Seoul, Korea


Middle East Peace

Statement by:

Imam Al Sadig Al Madhi*


The basic causes of the present conflict in the Middle East are not homemade. They are imported from abroad. Historically, Moslems, Arabs and Jews have coexisted peacefully for centuries. In fact, in the pre-modern World, interreligious, intercultural and interethnic relations have been generally peaceful. Zionism is a Nationalist political movement among European Jews, who have concluded after their bitter experience in Eastern and Western Europe that they cannot protect themselves without the establishment of a Jewish State. That movement plus the justifiable sympathy for Jews following Nazi persecution resulted, among other political factors, in International support for the establishment of the State of Israel. That remedy was achieved at the cost of the existing population of Palestine. That event, the fruit of an assertive Jewish Nationalism, fuelled Palestinian and Arab Nationalism. That confrontation constituted the initial phase of the conflict. Then the conflict intertwined with the Cold- War (148-1991) and the Middle East became an important front in the Cold-war.

However, as the Cold-war drew to a close, the World had witnessed a Universal rise of Religious fundamentalism, which claimed centre stage in the eighties, and is still manifest among all the Religions of Mankind. The Religious aspect of the conflict became more prominent. Israeli expansionism has come to be influenced more and more by Jewish fundamentalist opinion. Similarly, Palestinian Arab resistance has come to be expressed more and more by Islamicist movements. Lately, and particularly since the events of 11th September 2001, Arab Governments have lost initiative to popular movements. The Palestinian leadership has become increasingly sensitive to the factors shaping popular opinion. Arab Governments have also become increasingly sensitive to Arab public opinion, which has no stomach for the half measures, which have characterized Arab-Israeli peace scenarios so far.

The same half measures have, among other factors, driven Israeli opinion more and more to the Political Right since 1996.

The Nationalist, the fundamentalist and the Democratic constituents of the conflict make a face to face peace bargain in the region increasingly impossible.

Left to itself, the conflict between Regional parties will only grow more polarized, suck into it other fault lines and endanger Regional and World Peace. What should the International community do to avert that probability and promote peace?.

First: The International community, particularly the Euro-American Community must recognize its share in creating this conflict, realize the weight of the Regional factors, which prevent the antagonists from clinching a sustainable deal, and proceed with a determined peace mongering, which should abandon mere mediation and good will stratagems, and engage in assertive arbitration. The process of mere mediation has reached the end of its tether in the Camp David Process, which achieved a partial peace without normalization. In reality, a flaming peace.

Second: Only after the second Gulf War did the search for peace gather momentum in the Madrid Conference (1993). The Madrid Conference capitalized on the optimism, which followed the victory of the International Alliance in evicting the SADAM Regime from Kuwait. Its declaration of principles personified the universal desire for peace, which permeated the Region. However, the Madrid initiative left the follow-up to be undertaken through bilateral engagements, which made some progress in terms of a Jordanian Israeli agreement, and the Oslo accord. The Oslo accord made some progress before being submerged by the factors of greater polarization and confrontation. US President Clinton made a supreme effort towards the end of his second Presidency. However, the terms on offer by the Israelis were not good enough for Palestinian aspirations. After that event, International initiative to make peace in the Middle East fell quite. In fact, the US Republican candidate for the 2000 elections criticized the Democrats for the waste of time and resources in the Middle East Peace mediation. He promised to distance himself from such efforts.

Third: The build up to the war against the SADAM Regime necessitated a promise to give more attention to the search for peace in the Middle East. The questionable legality of the 9th April 2003 War on Iraq, and its unpopularity with wide sections of opinion, particularly in Britain, the main US ally in the war, has made a Middle East Peace initiative, a necessity.

The UN, US, EU and Russian Road Map for Middle East Peace is a step in the right direction. It confirms the responsibility of the International Community in making peace in the Middle East, and it signals a shift from simple mediation, to a type of arbitration.

The two Summits at SHARM ELSHIEKH (3rd July 2003 ) and AGABA (4th July 2003 ) were designed to promote the Road Map.

Whatever are the merits of the Road map, which I shall consider later, the process was grossly mismanaged:

  • There is no justification for the failure to invite two major parties to the conflict, namely, Syria and Lebanon. The selective invitations cast doubt upon the comprehensiveness of the process.
  • The absence of the three other patrons, namely, the UN, the EU and Russia watered down the legitimacy of the process.
  • The Palestinian Prime Minister was presented in such a way, that he appeared more as the hand picked choice of the Americans and Israelis that that of the Palestinians.
  • In the opinion of some participants, the Road Map requires a period of cease-fire to be accepted by the Palestinian resistance, and the Israeli However, other participants insisted upon describing those organizations as Terrorists. If they are so, then it is not warranted to seek cease-fire with them, if they are not, it is counter productive to describe them as such.
  • The way the whole process insisted upon treating President Yassir Arafat seems calculated to provoke him to act negatively. He seems to have reconciled himself to a role in the shadow. Why make it difficult for him to sustain that posture?

It is difficult to see how the Road Map could overcome these obstacles, which have been enhanced by the negative attitudes of many stake holders.

Fourth: Peace in the Middle East is desirable. It is also necessary because without it, the security situation in the Gulf particularly Iraq, will be negatively influenced, and the war on Terrorism will be further complicated. Whatever reservations there are about the origins of the problem, major sections of Arabic, Islamic and Palestinian opinion are now reconciled to the existence of Israel.

However, to make that acceptance the basis for a sustainable peace, and not a sellout like the peace of Versailles’ Treaty, five conditions have to be fulfilled. They are:

  • The right of the Palestinian refugees to return or be compensated according to UN resolution number 194.
  • To dismantle all the Israeli settlements in the territories occupied since June 1967.
  • The right of the Palestinians to self- determination.
  • Abolition of the Law of Return, which entitles any Jew to automatic Israeli citizenship on his or her return. A legislation which makes the state inherently expansionist
  • A security agreement for all the states in the Region which guarantees their security, and banishes all weapons of Mass Destruction.

Such an agreement will not be negotiated by the conflicting parties in the Region. It can only come as a result of assertive arbitration.

Failure to enforce this option would in the short run simply perpetuate the cycle of violence. In the long run it would lead to what I call the Human Rights option, which unfolds as follows:

  • The worldwide prevalence of Human Rights would reduce pressure for Jews to seek sanctuary in Israel, and would peruse the Israeli Government to guarantee Human Rights to all its subjects.
  • If Israel insists upon treating the landmass from the shores of the Mediterranean to the River Jordan as one geographical and historical territory, the population of that landmass will, within a generation cease to have a Jewish majority. The result will be a Rainbow Nation of Religious, cultural and ethnic plurality, which, if governed democratically, will be directed by whichever majority prevails.

Fifth: Assertive arbitration for Middle East Peace is inconceivable without US. stewardship. However, decision making in the U.S is highly influenced by Zionist lobbies.

Although many of the most articulate critics of Zionism are broad minded Jews, a considerable opinion within the Jewish community in the U.S support the strategic  alliance between America and ISRAEL, and would do their utmost to prevent any meaningful American pressure on ISRAEL to comply with the terms necessary for a sustainable Peace Agreement in the Middle East.

Sixth: The issue of Middle East Peace, the war on terrorism, oil, IRAQ, and IRAN, not to mention other related stages are interlocked. There are two possible scenarios open for U.S policy. They are a hegemonistic scenario, and an internationalist scenario. The US has played the major role in the creation of the present World Order. Its role in the Peace which followed the First World War was marginal and it sought to withdraw behind the Atlantic and Pacific Shelters. Therefore, the Peace of Versailles (1919) was bungled, preparing the ground for the Second World War.

In 1918, Jan C. Smuts (1870-1950), The Prime Minister of South Africa advised D. Lloyd George (1863-1945), the British Prime Minister, that if the Peace terms which were going to be imposed upon Germany are sustained, then war will be resumed within a generation. Such short sightedness was avoided in the aftermath of the Second World War. European countries learnt the lesson. American involvement in the construction of the post Second World War system made a great difference.

The US role in the post Second World War succeeded beyond America’s own expectations.

The world witnessed the miracles Of Japan and Germany, and European Union. The greatest reward of all was victory of the West in the Cold War. Such success has always been a temptation for Empire builders to see in it a sign of self vindication and a passport to World Hegemony.

Powerful forces in America will be tempted to go that way. In the areas of our concern that policy will lead to:

  • Support for Israel as a trustworthy ally, and failure to exert any meaningful pressure towards sustainable Peace in the Middle East.
  • Imposition of an Imperial set up in Iraq.
  • Police Iran and try to impose US polices on it.
  • Effectively dictate the terms of production, and sale of oil upon the oil producing countries and by so doing control the consumers of oil too.

Such a scenario will fuel antagonisms in the Regions concerned, meet with massive resistance, and set the World in the direction of a new DARK AGE.

The alternative scenario is for the U.S to deploy its considerable moral and material force in an internationalist direction and so:

  • Be involved in a policy of assertive arbitration to materialize an Arab – Israel Peace Agreement.
  • Conduct Iraq affairs through the UN and pressure self-determination of the Iraqi
  • Accept the fact that Gulf Security includes The involvement of Iran in Gulf Security, and the development of genuine Democracy in Iraq is the greatest support for the rising Iranian Democracy.

Seventh: This and like-minded conferences should act as early warning mechanism to analyze the dangerous fault lines, appreciate their potential, and act to help Mankind help itself from impending disaster. Given the Right stewardship this is a distinct probability.