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A Fair Road to Middle East Peace

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Since Israel was carved out in 1948, creating the largest refugee population at that time, a few things have stood the test of time: Israel enjoying a free hand without facing any consequences whatsoever, Arab refugees never having their concerns really addressed, the US pursuing a sugar daddy policy towards Israel and ignoring pleas for a more compassionate and balanced approach, and the United Nations failing to do any better than thumb-sucking.

Over the years, the dynamics of the Arab-Israel conflict changed, most notably after the Iranian revolution: the mullahs in Tehran promptly recognized the crisis and, ambitious as they are, engaged themselves in the proxy war against Israel through Hezbollah, a Shiite militia group formed to resist the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

The current war, entering its twenty-eighth day, has already claimed almost a thousand Lebanese civilian lives, displaced more than a quarter of its population, destroyed elements of the country’s infrastructure, and pushed the country’s recovery from past war damage back by a decade, if not more. What both sides don’t realize is that ruining lives is not in anyone’s best interest.

One can argue that the Israeli military should have shown more prudence before lunging into a wholesale assault on Lebanon, for they knew they were more than capable of inflicting incomparable damage. It’s a pity that after almost 60 years of brutality against the Arabs, they have failed to grasp what constitutes the right way to act and react.

We urgently need a resolution acceptable to both sides without further delay and before more innocent lives are lost. The task is not easy and is now in serious jeopardy after the recent UN draft proposal jointly worked out by France and the United States was flatly rejected by Hezbollah, Lebanon and Syria.

As opposed to the Iraq war, where the United States invaded a sovereign country for no palatable reasons, the irony of the Lebanon-Israel war lies in both sides claiming to be exercising their right to defend, their right to exist, and each blames the other side as the aggressor. Surprisingly enough, both sides make sense.

Here is where the slippery slope to peace gets a bit tricky. Standing in the way of an effective and long-lasting peace is a now well-defined binary object: either the terrorist organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, supported by the rogue states of Syria and Iran, or the heavy handedness of the Israelis and their disgraceful attitude toward their Arab neighbors.

For a peace resolution to be effective everything above must change. And a meaningful change can only be attained with sincerity and accountability. The resolution must be fair to both sides, keeping them on an equal footing. Israel shouldn’t receive the kind of preferential treatment they have always enjoyed under the US umbrella. If Israel wants good neighbors, it’s time they start behaving like one.

Following a cease-fire, Israeli forces should be required to leave Lebanon immediately. Before the UN forces take over, the Lebanese army can do the job temporarily. Whether they can do a thorough job is anybody’s guess, but as long as Israeli forces remain in Lebanon, a cease-fire will not work.

The buffer zone that has been proposed should be on both sides of the border. Having one comprised only of Lebanese territory just highlights the partisan treatment the Arabs have become accustomed to.

Why there should not be any buffer zone on the Israeli side when they routinely abduct Arab leaders? If the objective is to prevent the kind of incidents that led to this war, it should also address the concerns of the Arabs: only couple of weeks before this all started, Israel abducted two Palestinians from Gaza.

Let’s remember that invoking moral authority in an environment of distrust requires fairness and equality. Asking Hezbollah to disarm following the Security Council Resolution 1559 of September 2004 is the right thing to do, but lest we forget Israel ignored Security Council Resolution 425 of March 1978 calling for its unconditional retreat from Lebanon for 22 years.

The double standards must go.

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  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    I see the ridiculous apologists are still hard at work.

    a few things have stood the test of time: Israel enjoying a free hand without facing any consequences whatsoever, Arab refugees never having their concerns really addressed, the US pursuing a sugar daddy policy towards Israel and ignoring pleas for a more compassionate and balanced approach, and the United Nations failing to do any better than thumb-sucking.

    You forgot to mention the surrounding Arab nations promoting an ongoing war of extermination against Israel.

    One can argue that the Israeli military should have shown more prudence before lunging into a wholesale assault on Lebanon, for they knew they were more than capable of inflicting incomparable damage.

    If one was informed one might point out that the damage they’ve done in Lebanon is a tiny fraction of what they could do if they were actually trying to launch a wholesale assault.

    It’s a pity that after almost 60 years of brutality against the Arabs, they have failed to grasp what constitutes the right way to act and react.

    Odd, what is the right way to react to people who want to exterminate you, your family and your neighbors? A big hug?

    We urgently need a resolution acceptable to both sides without further delay and before more innocent lives are lost. The task is not easy and is now in serious jeopardy after the recent UN draft proposal jointly worked out by France and the United States was flatly rejected by Hezbollah, Lebanon and Syria.

    Clearly demonstrating that Israel is in the right and should receive more support.

    If Israel wants good neighbors, it’s time they start behaving like one.

    You must have missed the last decade of history in the region where Israel displaced its own people to give back huge amounts of land and was rewarded for it with kidnappings and further terrorist attacks.

    The buffer zone that has been proposed should be on both sides of the border. Having one comprised only of Lebanese territory just highlights the partisan treatment the Arabs have become accustomed to.

    As proposed the buffer zone consists only of Israeli occupied Lebanese territory, so the Israelis are giving up their occupation of the territory, which seems more than generous.

    Why there should not be any buffer zone on the Israeli side when they routinely abduct Arab leaders?

    How can you even pretend to discuss this subject intelligently when you can’t admit there’s a difference between abducting soldiers and arresting terrorists?

    Dave

  • http://levantagain.blogspot.com/2006/07/what-are-we.html Don Quijote

    Well said. It is about time that people start writing the truth, instead of the one sided balderdash we’ve become acustomed to.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Don, this article IS thinly disguised ‘one-sided balderdash’.

    Dave

  • Will

    Oh Thomas Friedman, you are seriously out of touch man.

    Sadly, in this particular scenario, the only solultion is all out war with the winner standing. These two sides are never going to get along. Forget about peace treaties and U.N. troops.

    This situation is the perfect example of States steeped in religion. (Let’s face it- Israel is a Theocratic Democracy just as much as Hezbollah is an Islamic Democracy.) Let’s not forget folks, Hezbollah was Voted into power.

    Therefore, when a god is on your side, how can you be wrong? How can you reconcile with your enemy? How can you get along? Judaism, Christianity and Islam- All three Major religions believe they are god’s favorite. This Is a BIG problem. And don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t.

    The only way to establish peace in the Mid-east (or the world for that matter) is the path of secularism. (Not Theocratic Democracy as KIng George of the U.S.A. believes)

    When human beings begin to see that we are all interdependent upon each other…(The Scientific way of seeing the world) maybe just maybe we can have peace.

    Too bad Carl Sagan never became a political leader…..

  • miki

    Dear Mr. Friedman,
    I haven’t seen in my life an one sided article as is yours. If the purpose of the article is to promote your book, than you missed the point. It is so disgusting that only hisbalah people and their supporters will probably buy it.
    I think that your positiopn for a right road to peace, its in reality a right road to auto distruction for Israel.
    It would be a good idea to come to Israel, live some time there under the arab terorism and then rewrite your book
    I ask myself if your position is not more one- sided than that of the head of the palestinian authority.

  • Hal

    Is it in the best interest of the United States to support Israel, the only stable democracy in the entire region? Israel is defending herself and the US should support any sovereign state defending herself from terrorism.

    Do I feel for the Lebanese civilians? Of course, everyone should, however it is the weakness of their own government which has brought this on. So, what does the Israeli Defense Force do? Drop leaflets, in Arabic, urging civilians to leave areas which will be bombed as where Hezbollah is targeting civilian populations specifically.

    As it were, if XYZ Terrorist Group were to invade Mexico, kidnap two US border control agents, and then set up shop and start bombing the Southwest US, what do you think the US would do? Do you think the rest of the planet would show support for our right to defend ourselves?

    Every war creates hostilities for the enemy; this current war is no exception. There is no doubt that more Islamic fundamentalists will b e generated from the propaganda of the current action in Lebanon, however what do you propose? Two simple statements remain the most clear in this time of turmoil:

    If Hezbollah disarms, there will be no more war.
    If Israel disarms, there will be no more Israel.

    I promise you that Israel wants to live another day, we cannot simply turn the other cheek to Jihad. You’re a history buff, you remember the crusades. This is something that has occurred throughout time with a few decades of peace sporadically interspersed. This will also continue to occur as long as Jews in Israel have not been driven into the sea and her neighboring Arab nations refuse to recognize the sovereign Jewish state.

    Flip the script; can you picture 500 million Jews calling for the destruction of the sole Arab nation of 5 million?

    Should the armies of the Arab nations succeed in their quest to rid the world of Israel, what’s next? I’ll tell you this, attacks like 9/11 will occur much more often to Western Europe and for us domestically. It is absolutely in the best interest of the United States to support Israel. Without Israel, who would the Arabs pick on?

    Hal from Texas

  • Ralph

    The problem with Lebanon is that it never received the support it needed to disarm Hizbullah. If the UN and the western countries helped Lebanon rebuild its army so that it can reign over its territory, Hizbullah would have never been able to attack Israel from Lebanon. Lebanon is paying the price today for not having focused its effort on resolving this major issue of having a state within a state. Lebanon needs to be a sovereign country and rule over its land. Perhaps Israel is actually doing Lebanon a favour by weakening Hizbullah.

  • Dave

    I agree with the author, if you want proof and are even minded watch this video on the multi billion dollor media spin by Israel and US to maintain their positions.

  • Lumpy

    Is q bit thomas friedman or is someone very much confused?

    As for the article, it is indeed thinly veiled anti-israeli propaganda. Putting all the blame on israel is NOT a balanced solution.

  • http://secondvibe.blogspot.com Q Bit

    I see the ridiculous apologists are still hard at work.
    I see that you are still myopic.

    You forgot to mention the surrounding Arab nations promoting an ongoing war of extermination against Israel.

    And what exactly did Israel promote? Free snacks and candies for Palestinian children?

    If one was informed one might point out that the damage they’ve done in Lebanon is a tiny fraction of what they could do if they were actually trying to launch a wholesale assault.

    That’s as bad as your logic could get. I hope you do a better job in the future.

    Odd, what is the right way to react to people who want to exterminate you, your family and your neighbors? A big hug?

    Hugging the Palestinians would heal a lot of scars though, and go a long way developing the bridge of trust. The Israeli response is totally out of whack. It’s quite possible that Israel had their invasion pre-planned. Hezbollah’s kidnapping only gave them an excuse (like the 1982 scenario.)

    Clearly demonstrating that Israel is in the right and should receive more support.
    Not really. It only demonstrates how one sided the resolution was.

    You must have missed the last decade of history in the region where Israel displaced its own people to give back huge amounts of land and was rewarded for it with kidnappings and further terrorist attacks.

    Well, you are giving up the land that you occupied by force — not exactly a philanthropic gesture.

    As proposed the buffer zone consists only of Israeli occupied Lebanese territory, so the Israelis are giving up their occupation of the territory, which seems more than generous.

    You are not making sense at all. So occupation of Lebanon is the right thing to do? Well I suppose when getting away with murder is the norm, giving up the occupation of the Lebanese territory must be considered generous.

    How can you even pretend to discuss this subject intelligently when you can’t admit there’s a difference between abducting soldiers and arresting terrorists?

    You can twist as much as you like — there are thousands of palestinian political prisoners languishing in Israeli jails and not all of them can be branded as terrorists– you know that too but you are not willing to admit.

  • troll

    interesting that someone with tunnel vision would point out another’s myopia

    troll

  • troll

    oops – that’s a personal attack – sorry Dave…I’ll rephrase

    interesting that someone – whose comments on this topic on various threads reflect what appears to be (self imposed PC) tunnel vision – would point out another’s myopia

    why should an Arab recognize the state of Israel – ?

    what has she done for him lately – ?

    troll

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    why should an Arab recognize the state of Israel – ?

    Because not doing so gets them beaten and bloodied and abused by the rest of the world on a regular basis? Or perhaps because they’d like some of their equally bogus cobbled together states to be recognized as legitimate – read the history of Saudi Arabia recently?

    what has she done for him lately – ?

    Shown that it’s possible to take nearly destroyed wasteland and turn it into a productive economy with twice the concentration of population the rest of the region can support?

    Remember, I’m pro-Arab, just not pro-terrorist. I’m against the terrorists mainly because their approach to the situation does more harm to Arabs than it does to the Israelis. Arabs should be learning from and working with Israel to their mutual benefit and the extremists prevent that.

    Dave

  • don graber

    mr freidman are you just ignorent? or senile? What are you talking here? isreal wishes to live in peace, can you say that at any of the arab contries?

  • troll

    *Because not doing so [recognizing Israel] gets them beaten and bloodied*

    Israel’s raw military power used to safeguard conquered territory is a required condition for asymmetrical warfare and therefore terrorism in the region

    *Shown that it’s possible to take nearly destroyed wasteland and turn it into a productive economy*

    it has been amazing to see what socialism and subsidies can accomplish though I’d bet that this lesson is lost on Palestinians in the ghettos of Gaza and the west bank

    *Arabs should be learning from and working with Israel to their mutual benefit*

    we agree

    troll

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    why should an Arab recognize the state of Israel – ? (troll)

    Because not doing so gets them beaten and bloodied and abused by the rest of the world on a regular basis? Or perhaps because they’d like some of their equally bogus cobbled together states to be recognized as legitimate – read the history of Saudi Arabia recently? (Dave)

    Dave your response doesnt answer the question. Your response explains why you would think they would want to recognize Israel. It probably would save them a lot of bloodshed and suffering. So yes you would think they would want to recognize Israel…but they don’t. Doesnt it say something that they put themselves (and the rest of the region) through hell to attack Israel?

    The question was why they should, morally, ethically, judiciously, recognize Israel…NOT what external factors (world pressure, backlash, violence, military response against them) might convince them they want to recognize Israel.

  • http://secondvibe.blogspot.com Q Bit

    @Hal: You missed the point. The crux of the problem is what is “fair” to Israel is not necessarily “fair” to the Arabs and vice versa. And there is so much hatred and mistrust, neither side is willing to give up something for greater good of the region.

    I never said, Israel should disarm — I said, if you are asking Hezbollah to disarm because of the UN resolution, keep in mind that Israel paid no attention to another UN resolution for 22 years.

    @ Dave:

    Of course the Arabs should recognize Israel — not because if they don’t they are beaten up by Israel, but because it is the right thing to do.

  • Dean

    Who is in noncompliance?

    U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION 242

    NOVEMBER 22, 1967

    The Security Council, Expressing its continuing concern with the grave situation in the Middle East,

    Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security,

    Emphasizing further that all Member States in their acceptance of the Charter of the United Nations have undertaken a commitment to act in accordance with Article 2 of the Charter,

    Affirms that the fulfillment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:

    Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;

    Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;

    Affirms further the necessity

    For guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways in the area;

    For achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem;

    For guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every State in the area, through measures including the establishment of demilitarized zones;

    Requests the Secretary General to designate a Special Representative to proceed to the Middle East to establish and maintain contacts with the States concerned in order to promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement in accordance with the provisions and principles in this resolution;

    Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council on the progress of the efforts of the Special Representative as soon as possible.

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    Israel has violated over 500 resolutions passed in the past 4 weeks by the UN. Nothing new…

  • pleasexcusetheinteruption12

    The American people bitch and whine the UN doesnt do anything ever..when the U.S. and Israel are the very ones incapacitating it by their deliberate and hushed up violation of 1000s of UN resolutions. The UN is only as powerful as its memberstates will and power to enforce its decisions. I think it’s incredibly hypocritical that Americans complain how weak the UN is when the U.S. is the one undermining the UN. There’s a difference between disagreeing with U.S. political interests in Iraq and being weak. Just because the rest of the UN has a different political agenda than the U.S. doesnt mean they are weak and the longer we deny this fact, the more we alienate the rest of the world.

  • denisan

    Dave #8: The video you recommended is great – Peace, Propaganda & The Promised Land – anyone who thinks they are well-informed should watch it. It is an outrage that the American public is so manipulated by the propoganda of power.

  • http://Sharara sharara

    Some said that israel is srounded by arab terrorists…and forgot that it was planted in 1948 after world war 2 and the legend of the holecaust was still very hot …England & Europe wanted to get rid of the jews and keep’em away so be it…NOW the world & finally the US are realizing the Zionist plan to control the world.. The holecaust theory started to get old..so?..a new theory
    has been adopted after 9/11 under the Title TERRORISIM a very common term in the Israeli vocabulary…No wonder they practiced it to achieve Israel,and still.. daily in the Occupied countris. israel’s independence was in 1948 and only after19 years of its age(1967)0ccupied 5 of her nabouring Countries and NOW after 30 years she’s STILL occouping 3 and still claiming that its the small Democratic,Peacful Country. ..with the world biggist necular arsanal. to cut the story short I’d like evrey Israeli and those who believe of what they say to read THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE OF ISRAEL in 1948…PLEASE READ IT…..and YOU will know how things changed,and you WILL see the ugly unmasked face is looking over us NOW.
    Thank You