September 16, 2006

Peace in the Middle East

In all the discussion on the recent Lebanese-Israeli conflict, I find it disheartening that I have seen no discussion on what peace in the Middle East might look like. Certainly, there has been discussion on how to resolve the conflict, with the expansion of UN troops in southern Lebanon, but nobody has addressed how this will promote longer term peace and stability to the region. With the war in Iraq and the US posturing with Iran, I believe that the question of what peace might look like is becoming increasingly important as a guide to our actions and policies today.

I would suggest, peace is attainable only when socially cohesive groups of people feel relatively safe from attack either from foreign powers or from militants within their own community, and able to exert some influence on their future lives through their good conduct and hard work. Put a little more simply this would imply economically sound, sovereign nations are a necessary precondition to sustained peace.

In the context of the Middle East this implies that Israel can only achieve peace and security through a prosperous and strong Lebanon and Palestine; that Iran will only act responsibly on the international scene if it does not feel threatened by Israel and the US.

Returning to the recent conflict, I can only see Israel's massive destruction of southern Lebanon as hindering its long term chances of peace. The destruction has certainly slowed economic development in Lebanon, strengthened Hezbollah support among some Lebanese, and generally made the elected government look weak, undermining the very processes that were leading to a stronger Lebanon.

The suppression of Palestine is similarly counterproductive. In some ways, the poverty in Palestine can be compared to that in the Weimar Republic, which the Allies duly learnt from, as seen by the contrast in the conditions of the peace treaties following the First and Second World War.

I am not suggesting that Hamas and Hezbollah are right to attack Israel, or that Israel is wrong to defend itself. Israel is now a well established country, and despite extremist Arab posturing to the contrary, it would be unthinkable to the international community for it to be destroyed.

While there are a myriad of other problems to be sorted out in the Middle East, I would like to consider the implications of strong Arab states, as I believe this gives us an interesting perspective on how a peace might be achieved.

More later ...

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