The Middle East and the United States: A Historical and Political Reassessment

By David W. Lesch | Go to book overview

16
The Specifics of the Meaning
of Peace in the Middle East

Mohamed Sid-Ahmed

It is hard to explain how a "peace" process should have come to occupy the political center stage in the Middle East even though the very concept of peace, when adapted to the specific conditions of the region, has yet to be defined. It should not be defined in terms of what Israel will receive in exchange for evacuating Arab Occupied Territories in accordance with the land-for-peace tradeoff contained in United Nations (UN) Resolution 242: first, that is not a definition; and second, the day that Israel evacuates the Occupied Territories, it will be the way in which the Israeli government defines "peace" that will determine future relations between the parties. All the protagonists must have their say when it comes to defining peace. As long as Israel retains possession of Arab land, it is in a position to dictate what peace means, usually by defining it in terms of its security requirements at the expense of Arab national security. 1

There are also good reasons to believe that the Israeli government has its own definition of peace. After the Gulf war proved that the Israeli government is not immune from Arab missile attacks, Israeli strategists have become aware that Israel's continued occupation of territory can no longer guarantee its security. True, the damage wrought by the Iraqi scud missiles was limited, but there is no guarantee that Arab or Islamic missiles, which could eventually be fitted with nuclear warheads, will not be used. That is why key Israeli politicians--Shimon Peres, for instance--believe that economic and technological supremacy, in the form of a Middle East market, can be a better and more effective guarantor of Israel's security, even if this entails a pullback from Arab Occupied Territories.

Peres's belief is not shared by other powerful forces in Israel who are strongly opposed to any withdrawal, and, prior to his assassination, Yitzhak Rabin was not ready to alienate them. It would seem that the path of least resistance for the Israeli

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