The Hopelessness of a Middle East Peace Process: The Ability to Find "Security for Israel, Justice for Palestine" Will Remain Elusive until the People of Israel and Palestine Renew Their Trust in Each Other

By Kalhousova, Irena | The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

The Hopelessness of a Middle East Peace Process: The Ability to Find "Security for Israel, Justice for Palestine" Will Remain Elusive until the People of Israel and Palestine Renew Their Trust in Each Other


Kalhousova, Irena, The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs


Since the Second World War, no other conflict has attracted as much constant attention as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But with approximately ten thousand fatalities, the conflict's victim count ranks 50th in post-WWII conflicts. The conflict receives a disproportionate degree of attention from international organizations such as the UN, which has sent more disapproving resolutions to Israel than to any other country.

Interest in the Conflict in the Middle East

A conflict between Jews and Arabs in and around Jerusalem is simply too emotionally, historically, politically and religiously charged to go unnoticed. Neither Christians nor Muslims can remain indifferent to a conflict that takes place on such significant land. In addition, Jews have always been, for better or for worse, a very distinctive minority in the Western world as well as in the East.

The role of Western and Arab countries in the formation of the Israeli state and "un-formation" of the Palestinian state has elevated the Arab-Israeli conflict to prominence in international relations. This regional and mainly territorial struggle has therefore a dramatically larger impact than conflicts that have taken place on greater swaths of land and affected millions of people. In the West, it has become a question of duty, and perhaps honor, to transform the Arab-Israeli conflict into a Middle East peace process.

Israeli-Arab Relations

A Middle East peace process must take place on two fronts. On one hand, peace requires reconciliation between Israel and other states in the region; on the other hand, peace must bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While Israel's conflicts with other Middle Eastern nations have not always ended in the past with a peace treaty (only Egypt and Jordan have signed one), Israeli-Arab relations have significantly improved in the past few decades. Many states cooperate more or less on an economic, martial and even political level with the Jewish state. Israel has become a legitimate player even in the eyes of states which refused to acknowledge its existence for many years.

And although relations between Israel and most Arab states in the region are by no means good, the last Arab-Israeli war took place in 1973. Since then, mutual disputes have been settled on a diplomatic level. The next step to Arab-Israeli reconciliation should be a peace treaty between Israel and Syria. Both countries embarked on indirect negotiations before the appointment of the Obama administration. Syria's emergence from international isolation is dependent on these negotiations. They will also strengthen its role as an important player in the region as financial aid and international investment mitigates the present economic problems. In return for peace, Syria would return Golan Heights to Israel and expel Hamas leadership from its territory (and thereby end its intermediary role between the regime in Teheran and Hezbollah).

The Threat of a Nuclear Iran

But for many people in the Middle East, Israel remains an eyesore. Iranian President Ahmadinejad leads the movement that denies Israel's right to exist. Even though it has been commonplace for Middle Eastern leaders to call for Israel's destruction, Iran's nuclear program presents a particular threat and worry to Israel. A nuclear Iran would completely change the balance of power in the Middle East.

As a Shiite and non-Arab nation, Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons would weaken the position of Sunni Arab regimes and thus lead them to develop their own nuclear programs. Nuclear armament would spread throughout the Middle East among states that are politically unstable and economically weak. Countries such as North Korea, Pakistan or Russia would collaborate in nuclear research and supply nuclear technology (albeit less reliable) at a better price.

Role of Non-State Players

As threatening as this scenario may be, Israel warns of another danger that a nuclear Iran poses.

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