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Middle East Peace Programs

E. Glaubach: The Middle East in 2010

More than any international conflict in history, the heinous ongoing conflict in the Middle East has shaken the global agenda again and again and continuously sends shock-waves through the international community.

Meanwhile, world leaders, religious leaders, policy makers, and individuals everywhere are wrestling with fundamental questions relating to the mere concept of human security in our era and for the following generations everywhere on earth, in light of the poor reality of numerous conflicts among and within nations throughout the world.

The concept of human security is, however, interrelated and complementary with other fundamental notions in international affairs and contemporary dialogue, including human development, human rights, political stability, and above all peace through the entire system and structure of humankind.

In the Middle East, peacekeeping and security missions during last decades reflected a potent irony for the United Nations: in a region where practical engagement was ostensibly needed most, multilateral action was reduced to its least meaningful form. The Middle East is no doubt  one of world’s most troubled intersections of religion, history and geopolitics. Meanwhile the impact of the United Nations on this volatile conflict was almost nonexistent.

The U.S. special envoy Senator George Mitchell is continuously being sent by President Barack Obama to the Middle East to try to enhance peace talks. Sen. Mitchell is quite often travelling between Ramallah and Jerusalem and indeed succeeded in establishing a new version of talks, namely "Proximity Talks." But unfortunately, it looks like both the Palestinians and the Israelis are keeping the "peace process" for the sake of the process instead of having real and tangible peace negotiations.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict, is an ongoing dispute between two peoples, Jewish Israelis and Arab Palestinians, who both claim the right of sovereignty over the land of Israel / Palestine. There have been many conflicts in this area between peoples, and this particular conflict has complicated roots. Conflict in the area started again in the late 19th century, as Zionists from Europe began to settle in the land, then controlled by the Ottoman Empire, and expressed their desire to create a modern state in their ancient homeland. Their settlement went against the wishes of the majority of the population there at that time, who were Muslim and Christian Arabs.

There has been much violence, controversy, and negotiation between both sides throughout the 20th century and continues to this day. The central contentious issue of who controls the land remains the same. Both Israelis and Palestinians make nationalistic claims to this piece of land based on history, ethnicity, religion, and culture. Israelis, as represented by the state of Israel, have sovereignty over most of the land, which they established after two major wars: the Arab-Israeli War in 1948 and the Six-Day War in 1968. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority seek control over part or all of the land. Palestinians want to establish an independent, viable, and sovereign state of their own on this land.

Most Palestinians accept the West Bank and Gaza Strip as the territory of their future state. Most Israelis also accept this solution. An attempt to achieve this solution was seen in the Oslo Peace Process, in which Israel and the PLO negotiated but did not achieve a mutual agreement.

Vocal minorities on both sides advocate other solutions, most of which contradict the goal of "two states for two peoples." In both communities, some individuals and groups advocate total removal or transfer of the other community.

Unfortunately, this conflict, in a small area of the planet that continues to fester, has not yet met with successful peaceful resolution despite several past attempts from many sides, and it negatively impacts the entire Middle Eastern region. In fact, this ongoing conflict and dispute on this very small piece of land affects several billion people across the globe.

Major issues between both sides

Since the Oslo Accords, finalized in 1993, the government of Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) have been officially committed to an eventual two-state solution. The main unresolved issues between these two bodies are:

  • The status and future of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, which comprises the areas of the proposed state of Palestine
  • Israeli security and recognition of Israel’s right to exist
  • The nature of a future Palestinian state
  • The fate of the Palestinian refugees
  • The settlement policies of Israel and the ultimate fate of settlements
  • Sovereignty over Jerusalem’s holy sites, including the Temple Mount and Western Wall complex

The refugee issue arose as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The issue of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem arose as a result of the Six-Day War in 1967.

One notable peace proposal, presented by the "quartet" of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations, and the United States on September 17, 2002, was the "road map"  for peace. Israel accepted the “road map” but with 14 “reservations.” The current Palestinian government rejects the proposal.

Israel implemented a controversial disengagement plan in 2005 when it removed all of its civilian and military presence from the Gaza Strip, namely 21 Jewish settlements there, and four from the West Bank. Israeli governments have continuously stated that further withdrawals may be undertaken if the peace process continues to be stalled.

But the fierce conflict resumed after extremist group Hamas took over the Palestinian government located in the Gaza Strip. At present there is a fierce internal and civil struggle going on between Hamas and Fatah (PLO) led by the Palestinian president Mr. Mahmoud Abbas.

The obvious consequence, in order to continue the peace process, is the necessity of a united leadership within the Palestinian community. In 2009, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia convened the various Palestinian parties with the aim of uniting the leaders and the conflicted sides of the Palestinian leadership and promoting the Arab Peace Initiative endorsed by the Arab League.  

We should of course bear in mind the significant role that Iran and Al-Qaida play in the Middle East, serving as the main suppliers of cash, ammunition, terrorist training, and ideological inspiration for Hamas and Hezbollah through Syria, which obviously has its negative impact on the peace process.

Need for spiritual inspiration

The world is witnessing many tragic conflicts among nations, but the horizon of hope and peace is still unseen. Many scholars, philosophers, and leaders of humanity have come up with great ideas and ideologies with the intention to create a better world. One outstanding person among them at the current time is Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon, who heralded a concept for world peace that no doubt equals in its spirit and strength the divine prophets of  the holy scriptures. His name and deeds are well known. The statement that "A prophet moves religion and the world to new heights" applies to Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad (peace be upon him), Buddha, and also Dr. Moon.

The Middle East, being the cradle of believers in God, deserves an Abel-type solution. Abel is described as "righteous" in the New Testament. Dr. Moon appears as such a person. In whatever he does, he invests his best efforts to fulfill God's expectation. His work may bring salvation to the nations of Middle East. Inspired by him, peace pilgrims have been coming here since 2003, visiting Jerusalem, Gaza, and Ramallah, meeting and encouraging the conflicted neighbors in the region.

An extensive and unforgettable campaign worldwide involving more than 15,000 people concluded at the Fatah-Hamas Summit in Mecca on February 8, 2007. Under the auspices of Saudi King Abdullah, Palestinian Authority Chairman (PLO) Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Meshal together with Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Unity Government, reached an agreement which included the following points:

  • The new government would avoid armed clashes and bring peace among their factions.
  • The new government would respect past peace deals and agreements which the Fatah-dominated PLO had signed with Israel.
  • The leaders were assigned the mandate to forming the new government and bringing it to the Palestinian Legislative Council for approval within five weeks.

Let us pray that wisdom and the spirit of peace may guide the future actions of the Israeli and Palestinian leadership and all others around them. AMEN.

Note: For additional background information, see New World Encyclopedia entries such as Israel, Palestine, and Oslo Accords.

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