Israel-Palestine: Hubertus Hoffmann on a New Peace Strategy combining Hawk & Dove, Uzi & Olive Branch
The unsettled and explosive situation throughout the entire Middle East; the dominance of radical forces in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon; the enormous increase in power and prestige of Iran and its allies Hamas and Hezbollah; these show that the old peace strategies and concepts of Israel, the U.S., and the EU have all failed in this important region of the world.
Israel and the Western powers urgently need a credible, realistic, and promising New Peace Strategy. They should learn from the many mistakes and illusions of the past and follow a dual track of hawk and dove; a promising double approach of Uzi – the famous Israeli sub machine-gun - and olive branch, of deterrence and reconciliation.
Peace is possible!
Despite current setbacks - the power gains of radical forces and many negative television images - viewed in a historical context, peace is possible between Jews and Arabs.
The history of Europe proves this. Centuries-old ancestral animosities have been transformed into friendships, for example between Germany and its two largest neighbours France and Poland. At least with its neighbours Egypt and Jordan, Israel has already found a way to coexist. It has good relations with Turkey and has even improved relations with Saudi Arabia through cooperation.
Real peace, however, must be “actively created”, as so appropriately stated by Immanuel Kant.
True peace requires common values and interests, and parallel political goals. It also needs a government-mandated, mutually desired reconciliation between peoples. Peace politics needs immense patience and daily efforts over many years. It must be able to withstand numerous setbacks and disappointments.
Israel, Palestine and its Arab neighbours now need common values, interests, and goals
According to the principles of the UN charter and the values of the U.S., Europe, Israel, and progressive movements in the Middle East, common values in the Middle East can only exist in universal, liberal democratic principles. This is the opposing model to the totalitarian beliefs of Hamas, the Hezbollah and the Iranian president.
The common interests of Israel and its Arab neighbours—with the exception of Syria and Iran—is containment and neutralization of the Islamic totalitarian threat. This threat is life-threatening to all Arab governments and the silent majority of Western-oriented populations, including important states like Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the prosperous Gulf States.
Important common interests could also develop from expanded economic cooperation, above all between Israel, Palestine, and their neighbours Egypt and Lebanon. Necessary to reduce regional youth unemployment, it offers hope for a better future.
One possible goal of a new Middle East peace politics could be the creation of an economically flourishing, free and prosperous free trade zone in association with the European Union. This would extend from Lebanon through Palestine; from Israel to Egypt and Jordan. The EU should begin concrete, intensive work on this long-term goal and not wait until all border conflicts have been resolved.
A new olive branch policy of reconciliation is a matter of survival for Israel
Israel’s military response to Hezbollah’s rocket attacks from Lebanon last year can only prevent attacks on Israeli territory for a limited time. It cannot bring about lasting peace.
Israel’s policy toward its neighbours is lacking, perhaps and fatally so, the common element in successful peace politics: reconciliation.
Israel needs, in the interests of its own survival, a new peace policy consisting of the “Uzi and the olive branch”: a credible double strategy of reconciliation on the one hand, and deterrence through both military operations against terror organizations and conventional and nuclear weapons on the other.
The historical formula for Israel’s survival, surrounded as it is by hostile countries and the threat of Iran-sponsored terrorism, is the “hawk plus dove”. The hawk alone does not bring peace.
In the next one hundred years, Israel will only be able to survive in its historic location, surrounded by a numerically superior enemy rich with petrodollars, when it places reconciliation with its Arab neighbours as “conditio sine qua non” of a genuine Israeli peace policy, and supports reconciliation with just as much energy, imagination, patience, and money as the necessary but insufficient military operations against terrorists. Israel needs a reconciliation offensive to supplement the necessary traditional military and power politics.
Only a genuine, interpersonal policy of reconciliation can instigate real peace in the Middle East and lay the foundation for eternal peace between Jews and Arabs, who already live well together in Israel.
Active power politics, be it the targeted killing of terrorists or the invasion of Lebanon, only brings about a limited tactical advantage and not a lasting peace.
Passive power politics by means of conventional or nuclear deterrents can only prevent the utilization of those same weapons by an enemy army. It cannot prevent the asymmetrical warfare of terrorists—the real threat to Israel.
Power politics is the necessary complement to peace politics. Alone, however, it is insufficient for the security and peace of Israel.
In other words, Israel needs a new peace policy, which is credible externally, consisting of “a thinking heart” and a “loving mind”. This was how the Catholic Archbishop of Opole, Alfons Nossol, described from experience the difficult reconciliation between Germans and Poles.
In Israel, the roots of this Olive Tree of Peace have long since been neglected due to understandable frustration, assassinations, and a bunker mentality influenced by Old Testament thinking (“eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”). The Tribe of Israel’s tree of peace has been dying slowly for many years.
Can Israel afford this?
One of the most intelligent societies in the world threatens to fall into the trap of its deadliest enemy.
An active policy of reconciliation would work like an antidote against the hostile propaganda of Hamas, the Hezbollah, and the arch enemies in Damascus and Tehran.
Only this would make lasting peace for the children of Israel possible.
Reconciliation politics are the only credible way to publicly document that Israel is not the aggressor, but has acted in self-defence. Israel needs the sympathy of the world; Hamas and the Hezbollah need only money and weapons from Iran and hate-filled, young suicide bombers.
Reconciliation is the only effective method to drain the swamp of suicide bombers. It can put a stop to the perpetual motion machine of hatred, violence, and retribution.
Coming to terms with expelled Palestinians
If it is correct that true peace requires real reconciliation, Israel must aggressively pursue coming to terms with the Palestinians expelled from its territory and to reach out the hand of reconciliation to this group in self-interest. Only in this way is reconciliation credible and can Israel win the peace.
To this end, Israel can draw on European “best practice”. There, millions of people were driven from their homelands following WWII, including twelve million Germans in the East, among them my own parents. They were peacefully integrated into their new country and made lasting peace in Europe possible through reconciliation and the renunciation of violence and a return home.
A double strategy of power and reconciliation is needed
The old fundamental belief, that the return by Israel of the occupied territories through a just treaty would result in a long-desired peace, has failed spectacularly. The release of the Gaza Strip—regrettably without the necessary and meaningful inclusion of positive reconciliation with the Palestinians —has not resulted in an increase in security, but has produced a vacuum filled by the radical Hamas. This step is both useless and counterproductive. It derives from the misguided planning and assumptions of the White House and the Israeli government under Sharon. Hamas and its supporters in Tehran are not just concerned with borders, but the total destruction of Israel and its power in the Middle East. Many millions of people throughout the Middle East sympathize with this goal.
To date, Israel and the U.S. lack any promising double strategy of power and reconciliation, the Uzi and the olive branch, hawk and dove. Only through such a double strategy was NATO able to neutralize the threat of the Warsaw Pact. NATO’s strategy was spelled out in the 1967 Harmel Report: a dual approach of defensive capability and détente. Only through the NATO double track decision of 12 December 1979 could the nuclear threat to Western Europe by Russian SS-20 rockets be eliminated through an arms build-up consisting of Pershing II and Cruise missiles and the offer of an arms control agreement, the so called Zero-Option. These were spectacular winning strategies on the part of the West in Europe, towards an overwhelming threat. These strategies are also valid in the Middle East.
The Uzi, or hawk, ensures that Israel is neither threatened by nuclear or conventional weapons and is able to at least constrain terrorism. These self-defence measures are not only necessary but also guaranteed by the UN Charter. Israel needs a strong military now as ever.
The Israeli government has forgotten Eric Hoffer, U.S. philosopher: “a war is not won if the defeated enemy has not been turned into a friend.”
As a hare waits for the snake, Israeli governments have waited so long for a “just” peace agreement between neighbours, above all with the Palestinians. This has seemed unachievable for decades.
Israel has quite simply built its peace policy on the wrong foundation and on an error: first strength, then successful negotiations.
A single-minded policy of strength on the part of Israel seems to offer little hope given current realities and trends: Mission Impossible.
Worse still, the one-sided policy oriented toward the “Uzi” and the “Hawk” has brought more and more enemies with it and left behind the few who were understanding and sympathetic. As a result, it is the radical Israel-haters who have been strengthened, not the peacemakers.
Now finally—late but not too late—Israel must plant an olive tree for peace, tend to it and develop and implement a credible double strategy of the Uzi and the olive branch, hawk and dove. This must become the primary task of Israeli, American and European Middle Eastern policy today.
What does this double strategy look like in detail?
Summits, high-level meetings, and conferences are necessary but are often self-deceiving mirages lacking long-lasting substance. This can be seen on hundreds of past occasions. They only make sense following a long term, successful implementation of a double strategy reaching the minds and hearts of the Palestinians and other Arab neighbours.
Israel must, of its own volition, extend the hand of reconciliation to the Palestinians with a thousand concrete gestures. This new Israeli strategy must credibly document the will to work towards peaceful cooperation and reconciliation. The new political leaders must come out in favour of this.
Here are but a handful of examples of the hundreds of small and medium sized steps which could be taken to promote reconciliation – implementing olive branch and dove – between Israel and its Arab neighbours:
- Appointment of a new cabinet member responsible solely for the reconciliation policy of the Israeli government focused on the Palestinian Authority and Lebanon. The position must come with its own staff and a large budget. Otherwise this important pillar will be buried, as now, in the standard procedures of other ministries.
- A fundamental report on all best practice examples by the government taking advantage of the thousands of grassroots projects of peace movements like One Voice, who have enormous knowledge and networks and a focus on fast track actions and longer term recommendations.
- An annual report to Parliament by the government on the progress of reconciliation, as done in many countries on arms control and environmental protection.
- An Ombudsman of the Parliament collecting all complaints of Palestinians and others and attempts to resolve them.
- A release policy of Palestinian prisoners, such as the 250 recently announced, who have no blood on their hands. This would be best combined with an official “let’s turn enemies into friends now!” campaign of the Israel government combined with an amnesty for crimes less serious than planning deadly attacks.
- Israel should finance a USD 5 billion Israel Reconciliation Fund which could finance the equipping of several hospitals, schools, and kindergartens in Palestinian areas with, for example, the financial support of Washington and Brussels.
- Improving the economy with the Palestinian Authority: for example smoothing the flow of goods like flowers or fruits from Palestine to Europe to stimulate youth employment.
- A USD 10 billion Palestine Fund which would compensate Palestinian families for the loss of their land. After fifty years, a similar structure has been set up by the German Government and German industry to compensate WWII slave workers, whence more than 1.5m people received USD 7 billion within two years.
- Several Joint Action Committees in all major areas of politics with the PA, including economic cooperation, customs, prisoner exchange, and internal prevention of suicide attacks.
- One key area of cooperation is media and education. A joint School Book Committee should steer a path away from teaching hate. Best practices examples are the very successful common schoolbook commissions set up by former enemies Germany, France, and Poland.
- Cash release for the Palestinian Authority to fund rebuilding in the West Bank and reduce the high unemployment there.
- Members of the Israeli government should invite their Palestinian counterparts for round table discussions and private reconciliation dinners to develop personal relationships and trust.
- Establishment of an Israel-Palestine Truth and Reconciliation Commission as successfully set up in South African after the end of apartheid in 1995. The mandate of the commission was to bear witness to, record and in some cases grant amnesty to the perpetrators of crimes relating to human rights violations, reparation and rehabilitation, especially organising suicide attacks and human rights violations against the Palestinians. Anybody who felt he had been a victim of violence could come forward and be heard at the TRC. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from prosecution.
All conceivable humanitarian gestures should be realized in one wave starting with first actions this summer. In other words, Israel should begin a reconciliation offensive on the level of the Yom Kippur offensive. It should strive to win over the hearts and the hopes of moderate Palestinians who have grown tired of murder and unemployment.
Alongside the Camp David proposals of Ehud Barak, former Israeli Prime Minister and now both Defence Minister and leader of the Labour Party, Israel should develop an overall plan for a new ordering of its borders. Within this scheme, the centre of Jerusalem could be entrusted to the care of UNESCO as a world heritage site. The administration would be determined in a treaty between Israel and Palestine. The settlements in the West Bank should be reduced to a minimum and the border wall torn down after assassinations have substantially declined.
"The military invasion of southern Lebanon in 2006 was, with its overwhelming use of force, next to the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the second fundamental Israeli policy mistake of recent years. Geographically, Lebanon is a natural peace partner for Israel and should be treated as such."
Lebanon as prime peace partner
The military invasion of southern Lebanon in 2006 was, with its overwhelming use of force, next to the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the second fundamental Israeli policy mistake of recent years. Geographically, Lebanon is a natural peace partner for Israel and should be treated as such.
The return of the Shebaa Farms - only 10 sq. miles of land contested by both nations - should ultimately result in a peace treaty. Only by a new peace offensive will Hezbollah be isolated. The moderate Lebanese should become Israel’s main partners for peace. A Joint Committee of the Israeli and Lebanese government should start work on a peace treaty.
Palestine needs a new elite
Peace cannot be founded on the tainted Fatah leadership, whose corruption is legendary and whose credibility among the people is lost. Palestine needs a new, younger leadership elite. Palestine needs younger, dynamic personalities with political responsibility.
The EU should make this a support priority. The old guard must relinquish political authority to a new, untainted and credible leadership. Only in this manner will Palestine prosper. There are several of these outstanding personalities to choose from.
This new elite must put forward a new, progressive design for a free Palestine. They should develop a counter-concept to the totalitarianism of the supposed Islamic dictators à la Hamas, who are not concerned with peace and the mercifulness of the Prophet, but rather naked power for themselves. Otherwise, Palestine will sink further into an orgy of violence and murder.
This new elite must also relinquish the right of return of Palestinian refugees to the land of Israel, similar to the displaced Germans after 1945. Instead, the Palestinians should make their way toward a modern, tolerant society with the help of a Marshall plan sponsored by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, the U.S., and the EU.
U.S. and EU engagement in Palestine only makes sense with a new, clear policy of freedom, progress and the transfer of power to a new untainted generation. Otherwise, the process of decay under Fatah will only be extended – it would be like pouring water onto sand.
Hamas has gone too far and will lose
Hamas has gone too far with its brutal civil war against Fatah. The conquest of the small Gaza Strip will be a pyrrhic victory, comparable to the invasion of the Sudetenland by the Wehrmacht. In the end, Hamas will be pulverized and absorbed. Hamas is neither economically nor militarily capable of holding the Gaza Strip in the long term.
A clever military rollback policy by Fatah supported by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) should be initiated in the next few months to prise Gaza’s Egyptian border from Hamas and return it to the control of Fatah, blocking arms smuggling from Egypt too. The first stage would be taking control of a ten mile wide corridor on the Egyptian border, like closing a bottle with a cork. Later, a total rollback of Hamas from the Gaza strip would follow.
A new hawk and dove, Uzi and olive branch strategy including new and creative elements of peacemaking is the best option to win against the totalitarian threat of Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah.
* German entrepreneur and geostrategist Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann is Founder and President of the World Security Network Foundation, the largest global elite network on foreign and defense affairs – www.worldsecuritynetwork.com