Michael Jansen
The Jordan Times (Opinion)
April 29, 2010 - 12:00am

In an article titled "The false religion of Mideast peace", published this week in Foreign Policy, Aaron David Miller argued that it is not possible to achieve peace between Arabs/Palestinians and Israelis.

A State Department regional expert who advised six US administrations, Miller looked at past failures and drew the wrong conclusions. First and foremost, he based his argumentation on a string of false premises - which I will not tackle in this article - and did not deal with the main issue - which is the topic I plan to address: the presence of Israel, a colonial and colonising entity on the strategic Levant route from North Africa to the eastern Arab world. Global complications have also arisen because Israel occupies a land holy to three of the world's faiths.

Part of the reason for Miller's failure is that he does seem to see Israel for what it is, an expansionist interloper planted and sustained by external powers in a highly sensitive region. He revealed the lack of understanding of this hard fact in the article “Israel's lawyer", published in The Washington Post on May 23, 2005.

He started out with a correct assessment: "I am not a lawyer by training but I know one when I see one. For far too long many American officials involved in Arab-Israeli peacemaking, myself included, have acted as Israel's attorney, catering and coordinating with the Israelis at the expense of successful peace negotiations.

If the United States wants to be an honest and effective broker on the Arab-Israeli issue, then surely it can have only one client: the pursuit of a solution that meets the needs and requirements of both sides."


US policy cannot afford to be run by Israel's advocates if there is to be peace in this region. However, he then put forward a completely false argument that spoiled his original contention.

"The case for Israel-first advocacy is compelling. Israelis live in a dangerous neighbourood, they have only one real friend and critically important security requirements that the United States is committed to furthering. Practically speaking, Israel sits on land Arabs want, so without Israel's trust and confidence there can be no peace process."

The case for "Israel-first advocacy" is just an excuse for pro-Israel bias. Israelis live in a "dangerous neighbourhood" largely because they made it dangerous by waging unending war on Palestinians and neighbouring Arab states. Israel has "only one real friend" because its policies have alienated both old and potential friends.

The US commitment to Israel's "security" has transformed this small state into a regional hegemon with a military "edge" over all potential antagonists. Finally, Israel does not "sit on land Arabs want", it sits on land that rightfully belongs to Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese.

The Palestinians, who have lost their entire country to Israeli occupation and colonisation, are prepared to recognise Israel within borders fixed in 1948-49, thereby giving Israel 78 per cent of the Palestinian homeland and keeping only the 22 per cent Israel seized in 1967. The Syrians and the Lebanese demand the return of land also occupied by Israel that same year.

The Arabs, meeting at summit level in Beirut at the end of March 2002, pledged to normalise with Israel if it withdraws from all territory occupied in 1967. Nothing could be simpler. The deal is on the table. It is Israel's to accept. Indeed, Israel must be compelled to accept this offer because without peace in this region, there will be more war and further anger and frustration at the popular level in Arab and Muslim countries. Consequently, a great many countries could suffer from destructive and deadly blowbacks, as the US did on September 11, 2001.

No one should believe Miller when he says the achievement of regional peace is impossible, therefore faith in peace is misplaced. Instead, regional and world leaders should get together and tackle Israel.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is absolutely right: a peace plan must be imposed. This is the Arab land-for-peace plan, without revisions and adjustments favouring Israel.

Furthermore, Israel's "lawyers" in the US administration - if it is to broker a deal - must be excluded from the effort and a clear set of sanctions drawn up which would be put into effect if Israel does not carry out the provisions of the plan. Compliance would mean severe pain for Israelis and cause their powerful political friends no end of difficulties, but the world powers have no choice if they are to avoid the violence and instability generated by Israel's policies.

Once there is a Palestinian state, many of the threats Israel believes it faces will disappear. Hamas would have no choice but to agree to a state within the '67 borders. Hamas, in Gaza, and Fateh, in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, would be forced to reconcile and their relationship would be determined by elections.

The Palestinian government would crack down on jihadis who seek to strike at Israel or destabilise the situation, while Palestinians would regain some control over their lives due to Israeli withdrawal from their space. Defusing the "Palestine problem" would deprive Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups of a powerful tool for recruiting impressionable young Arabs and Muslims in the struggle against colonial Israel and its US ally.

Israel would also be compelled to withdraw from Syria's Golan Heights and pieces of still occupied Lebanese real estate. Once this is achieved, the Arab states could move towards normalisation with Israel.

The Arabs will not normalise before withdrawal because Israel has repeatedly reneged on its commitments. In any case, it will take Israel a long time to secure acceptance at popular level in the region.

Comprehensive Arab-Israel peace would allow Lebanon's Hizbollah movement to disarm and disband its militia and focus on Lebanon's domestic problems and developments. Dissident Palestinian resistance figures based in Damascus would be sent home to Palestine. Iran would lose whatever influence it has with these organisations. Tehran could no longer exploit the Palestinian cause as a means to rally the "Arab street" against the Western powers.

Instead, Iran would be encouraged to seek coexistence with these powers. Once this is accomplished, Tehran would not need to pursue weapons of mass destruction to defend itself from an aggressive Israel or from a driven-by-Israel US attack on Iran.

The US would end massive weapons transfers to Israel, which would be obliged to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and destroy its 250-500 nuclear warheads and missiles, and other weapons of mass destruction. The region could become a nuke-free and WMD-free zone. While Arab-Israeli peace would not end the violence in US-occupied Iraq or warfare in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the regional atmosphere would be greatly improved. This would allow the US to withdraw from Iraq in good order if Iraq's politicians resolve their differences and form a stable government.

The US and its allies could then pursue the campaign against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, weakened by the diminution of anger against the West caused by Israel's policies. Arabs and Muslims the world over would no longer believe that the US is interested only in promoting Israel's interests at the expense of the peoples in this area.

The status quo is not an option. It must never be forgotten that neoconservatives with an Israeli agenda persuaded the Bush administration to wage its disastrous war on Iraq and that these same individuals are now pressing the Obama administration to use military force against Iran with the aim of destroying its so-far peaceful nuclear programme. This would bring far greater disaster than the US war on Iraq did. Consequently, the pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace must not be abandoned.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017