The Seemingly Unachievable Middle East Peace

by Michael Oluwagbemi II

Vacation time is good time to catch up on news, my numerous magazine subscriptions and just generally have the luxury of pretending to be a statesman applying my mind to tackling the world’s gargantuan problems.

My Thanksgiving was spent enjoying the sprawling mountains that disappear into deep bluish green oceans and volcanic lakes of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. This of course provided opportunity not only to kick start a new phase in my professional pursuit, but to reboot and reset while enjoying the world’s biggest pretense game.

Costa Rica was beautiful: gorgeous land and people, nice folks but rather dour food. Nicaragua made up for the food and with smoother roads- even though both had very up to date transportation facilities. Nicaragua could do a lot to tackle poverty, and she alongside Nigeria (and Mexico) remind me of what a country with no social safety net (even with a lot of natural and human resources) looks like i.e. Conservative El Dorado and massive social issues!

Speaking about the World’s problem. I learned long time ago to never take sides in the Israeli-Palestine conflict, albeit the temptation to do so. This week was no different, as Hamas and (Netanyahu led) Israeli faced off in a blood bath that soon resulted in many dead, and a ceasefire nine days too late. Why in God’s name will both be locked in a mortal battle for an arid piece of land simply because some Higher Being promised them?

Seeing the suffering of their wives, children and the elderly, one begins to wonder whether perhaps forgiveness is what is needed in the Middle East and not some Peace Process! Clearly both sides live off revenge, and it is getting them nowhere!

I also fooled myself for a minute to process what the shape of a peace process looks like, assuming I was in position to broker one. First disclaimer, this is perhaps the toughest negotiation job in the world (even though brokering the Republican vs. Democratic relationship in USA Congress is getting close).

In any fair deal, a seasoned negotiator will tell you, both sides must feel the pain. It won’t be a deal where the weaker side feel morally justified to bury the other – as Palestinians temper seem to run high in recent years, or the stronger side feel no need or justification to yield, as Israelis have been wont to do for decades. It will be a deal where both recognize the genuine suffering they’ve equally subjected one another to as a result of stubbornness and vengeful spite.

It will be a resolution probably reached while excluding interlopers- the so called experts, allies, quartet or whatever they are called- that have in their own self-interest kept the conflict going on to remain relevant. Israelis and Palestinians as genetic cousins need to probably take this first step of freeing themselves of outside self-interests to reach anything close to peace.

A fair deal is probably a two-state solution, with both countries giving away for a period the right to arm and control their common border. It will possibly involve Israel ceding some land north of West Bank that can provide contiguous territory connecting that area to Gaza. It also may require Palestinians in return for having a new virile country giving up on their “right of return” in exchange for very robust funding for the new nation and compensation directly to victims to settle in their new land.

Part of establishing a new nation is establishing economic sovereignty and income; the new Palestinian nation must be given unfettered freedom to determine the economic direction of its people. However, in recognition of this unique situation either a joint patrol by Israeli-Palestinian forces across the borders to prevent terrorist infiltration of weapons or some form of agreement that demilitarizes the border will be proper.

In addition to these, Palestinian security will need to be improved and proactively nip troublemakers in the bud while pledging not to organize an external army for at least 20 years while focusing on internal security.

Of all the easy solutions to the conflict, the hardest will be Jerusalem. Jerusalem is not only symbolic but also emotional given its centrality to multiple people of faith. It is seemingly easy to allow both Israel and Palestine claim Jerusalem as their nominal capital while maintaining Tel Aviv and Ramallah respectively as effective administrative capital.

This will appear to be a fair solution, while allowing a multinational administration of Jerusalem territory. Essentially ceding territorial control to an international committee while maintaining joint sovereignty on equal terms. Jerusalemites should be free to leave and return to their abode between both countries, but non-Jerusalemites should be subject to nominal work and residential controls while maintaining the essential multi-national vitality of the experiment.

Here is where corporations can be a force of good; a good number of relocation of world headquarters of international NGOs, and corporations to Jerusalem may signal a new era of peace that has come to stay.

It is true that great a many orthodox Jews will view the loss of any territory to Palestine in an agreement a great loss, as would Palestine the loss to claim return to Jerusalem or the vast lands in between. In the end though, I am certain peace can be achieved with two states living respectfully by one another when statesmen on each side start acting like one.

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