Dec. 16, 2016
- How to Build Middle East Peace: Why Bottom-Up Is Better than Top-Down – Moshe Ya’alon
Many in Israel and beyond remain convinced that the traditional model of the Middle East peace process has come very close to success in recent decades and that with some tweaks or twists, still further efforts along these lines might yield an acceptable outcome – if only both sides would make a few additional concessions. I disagree. The model of change embodied in the Oslo Accords failed, and if tried again, it will fail again. Only a fundamentally different approach to change – call it bottom-up rather than top-down – can end the underlying conflict.
After I was appointed the head of Israel’s military intelligence in 1995, shortly before the signing of the Oslo II agreement, I had the opportunity to see all aspects of Palestinian politics up close. What I learned was shocking – and I learned it just by following Palestinian media, Palestinian educational curricula, and Palestinian leadership statements. The evidence was overwhelming: rather than preparing the younger generations of his community for a historic reconciliation with Israel, Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat was feeding his people a steady diet of hatred and vitriol toward Israel.
I remember the day I held one of my regular working meetings with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who served simultaneously as defense minister. In the course of that briefing, I gave him what I called “strategic early warning” that, in my view, the PLO leadership was planning to maintain the conflict against Israel regardless of Arafat’s signature on the White House lawn. Regrettably, more than two decades later, my assessment has not changed. It is clear that the leadership of the PA still fills the minds of Palestinian youth with talk of Israel as an alien cancer in the Middle East that must be replaced “from the river to the sea.”
So long as the bulk of the Palestinian population remains unwilling to accept the reality of Israel’s permanent existence as a secure Jewish, democratic state, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to have a true peace. The desire and the choice for peace have to rise from the bottom up, from the Palestinian people themselves. Until that happens, continued negotiations along traditional lines will never live up to the hopes many place in them. Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Ya’alon is a former Israeli defense minister and IDF chief of staff. (Foreign Affairs)
(Click on the article’s title to see the whole article…Ed.)