Peace in the Middle East is Possible
The unthinkable is happening, and it’s time to build on it.
After Israel traded Sinai for “cold peace” with Egypt, quietly entering a warm alliance on defense and energy with the most populous Arab state, it was impossible for Arab countries to make war on Israel. But another Arab neighbor had proposed peace earlier.
Largely forgotten, in 1949 under the Kurd Husni al-Zaim, Syria signed a cease-fire and offered peace to Israel. But he was quickly deposed and executed. A fierce foe thereafter, Syria was forced by Egypt’s peace agreement to accept a belligerent cease-fire. Jordan made peace, resulting in beneficial business agreements like its purchase of Israel’s natural gas and the mutual construction of a desalination facility, with Palestinians sharing the potable water.
Almost miraculously, Israel and two Arab states are allies. Their peace endured the ascendancy in Egypt of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’ mother. Peace with Egypt turned frigid during the Brotherhood’s rule, but it held.
The Muslim Brotherhood is now devastated. Egypt’s military has control again, and Israel has a more cooperative neighbor to the west. Hamas’ weapons and black market funnels from Sinai have been destroyed. Its tunnels into Israel are also temporarily incapacitated and its rockets, rendered largely ineffective by Israel’s Iron Dome defense, have been reduced by well over half.
Regrettable but helpful things are happening in the north. Syria’s civil war caused Bashar al-Assad to use massive quantities of his venom on Muslims, including poison gas. The war is costing his ally, Hezbollah, many skilled terrorists. Sadly, the brutal strategies are killing, wounding, and displacing great numbers of Syrian civilians, but Israel’s aid to those near its border has cast Israel in a good light.
IsraAID provides food and shelter for the displaced, and the IDF is providing health care needs, for civilians and wounded combatants alike. It set up a military field hospital in the Golan Heights, and transfers patients with extensive needs to hospitals in northern and central Israel. When the Syrians are well enough, they are sent home, bearing “surreal” good stories about Israel. This has led to some calling for peace with Israel.
But threats still remain – fundamentalist Shiite Iran supports its terrorist wing, Hezbollah, and Sunni Qatar and Erdogan’s Turkey support Hamas.
Will Hamas – battered, its virulent military leader possibly dead – accept disarmament and become a religious party that opposes terrorism? Probably not. But was peace with two Arab states probable before and immediately after the failed Arab treachery of the 1973 Yom Kippur war? Peace with Egypt and Jordan was most improbable, but it exists, and international peace has held for 30 years.
Moreover, many Arab States now support Israel on some issues, such as the danger of Shiite Islamist Iran and the Sunni Islamic State. Western Europe, with its burgeoning minority of radical Muslims fighting in Syria and then coming home to terrorize the continent, is also threatened.
Israel, with the help of Egypt and Jordan, should seek peace with its Sunni neighbors – sooner rather than later. Tzipi Livni is right: they should fight the Islamic State openly together, and ultimately, such a united threat may force Iran’s Islamist theocracy to accept international demands that it abandon its quest for nuclear weapons.
Peace in the Middle East is most improbable and also possible. It should be pursued now.