Friday, December 19, 2014

Drawing lessons, both positive and negative, from Egypt and Jordan

As I sit here in Boston and try to imagine a day when Hamas and their fellow Palestinian terror groups will finally give up their dream of murdering every Israeli civilian, I can't help but also think about how these gains would be supported in the long term. Disarming them would of course be a significant step forward in and of itself,  but unless a certain measure of normalization can be achieved, it's hard to see how peace will be maintained. In order to achieve this the Palestinian leadership would have to demonstrate a willingness to build and strengthen ties not only on security matters but when it comes economic cooperation as well.

Unfortunately, there are not many good examples that I can think of when it comes to comprehensive cooperation between former enemies. If anything, the trend seems to have run in the opposite direction, and often the best we can often hope for is a cold peace.

Israel has this kind of peace now with both Jordan and Egypt. With the former, peace was made and the net result was better cooperation on security, some tourist traffic to Petra and a few bright spots in environmental conservation and education. With the latter, the security of the State of Israel was certainly enhanced, the possibility of improved bilateral relations around natural energy is currently an attractive prospect, and as with Jordan, Israel has seen Egypt go from a looming threat next door , to a somewhat reliable partner. These were important gains and certainly made Israel a safer place for everyone who lives there, but they also did not lead to major breakthroughs in bilateral trade or cultural understanding.

Looking at the current Israeli-Palestinian peace process, perhaps the situations with Jordan and Egypt are instructive. These two examples should demonstrate to the Palestinian leadership that peace with Israel is possible. Yes, there are things about the Palestinian situation which are unique, but nonetheless, if two Arab nations can make peace with the Jewish State, then surely a third, aspiring Palestinian state, should be able to do the same. At the same time, I would guess that a forward-thinking Palestinian leader might want to take advantage of an opportunity missed by both Egypt and Jordan, and seek meaningful economic and cultural ties between a future Palestinian State and Israel.

Crafting a peace process and outcome that will both end the violence and create a meaningful path forward is surely a tall order, but perhaps in this struggle which so many have described as uniquely vexing, a unique solution is just what's needed. 
Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2014.

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