‘Process” is often used in connection with “peace.” There is also a contrary
process of conflict. There is however no “status quo process” as stagnation does
not really exist in international relations.
While we are inclined to
speak of processes, we generally focus on immediate events without necessarily
comprehending that they are part of a larger chain of events related to change.
This is true for domestic social and political events as well as international
ones. Two ways with which we inform and educate ourselves often mislead us. The
media is fully hypnotized by the present, overdramatizes it, without giving it
the necessary context in relation to past and present.
demonstration in Cairo by supporters of democracy at Tahrir Square is an “Arab
Spring,” demonstrations by the Muslim Brotherhood is an “Arab Winter.” The fact
that both have deep-rooted causes in the Egyptian socioeconomic history, and
that both are part of the same process of change leading to a yet-unknown
destination, is irrelevant to media outlets as they broadcast today on a 24-hour
Academia, which aspires to expertise on background and
history, has much knowledge about the past, but this often blurs its view of the
future. There are many experts on the past, but none on the future. Therefore
there is little understanding of process which combines past, present and
The word “process” in German means “trial,” as in Franz Kafka’s
Der Process. In any historical process, it is often difficult to say if it will
lead to good or bad; the verdict is still out.
We must though attempt to
understand and analyze the factors that influence process. Processes in
international relations are very much affected by scientific and technological
advance, social norms and attitude and political decision-making. In today’s
world we witness contradicting processes – globalization on one side and
religious and nationalistic fundamentalism on the other.
relations are about relations between countries and people, the ability of
societies to interconnect reflects on the nature of relationships. The Internet
has created a revolution in connectivity the world over.
penetration in the US is 80 percent, 65% in the EU and 40% in the Middle
This connectivity has enhanced dialogue among societies – social
networks are a form of globalization of individuals.
At the same time we
live, due to technology, also in an era of information revolution – people the
world over are better informed than ever before. One can watch CNN in all
corners of the globe, read Wikipedia in every home and publish just about
A more connected and informed global constituency is altering
international relations and affecting a process of change. So individuals in
this era of reform have become more empowered and are less ready to have their
lives dictated by governments, democratic or not.
their growing concern for their economic well-being, education, employment and
civil liberties. They understand that economic opportunity is closely related to
the globalization of the economy, international trade, investments and financial
markets. In most countries, they therefore prefer that their governments improve
their country’s international relations.
The European leadership
understands it all too well, as expressed by the enlargement of the EU to
include 28 countries.
Even the leading global superpower, the United
States, under Barak Obama, comprehends its greater dependence on collective
diplomacy, as was the case regarding the Syrian crisis. Americans preferred for
their government to act in concert with the world.
Vladimir Putin, too, understands that there is only so much crisis with the
United States that he can afford. Russians don’t want to be poor. Even Iran’s
new government is under pressure to have the international sanctions lifted, as
the Iranian people are frustrated by poverty.
We witness therefore a new
combination of technological advance and social will leading to a more
globalized world with most regions and countries aspiring to belong. This leads
toward a global process of slow and gradual change toward greater dependence on
diplomacy, better accommodation and adherence to universal values.
is also, in parallel, a contradictory process away from scientific and
technological advance, clinging with fervor to nationalistic and religious
beliefs. The leaders in this process identify the good of the state with their
own religious beliefs and want at all costs to protect their people from what is
perceived as a new “Western colonialism” and from the danger of a “Western
crusade” in the form of globalization.
These countries have little
respect for international law or for that matter state law. Their holy
scriptures are the foundation of the state and its institutions and guide them
in their international relations to fight the “infidels.”
They tend to
marry religious fundamentalism with extreme nationalism. Iran is the prominent
case in point, so is the Muslim Brotherhood movement in the leadership of
countries in the Maghreb and, for a time, in Egypt. While militarily weak, some
of these countries sponsor and support terrorism. Terror has become the lethal
weapon of the weak and the fanatic, be it in Afghanistan or Lebanon.
within these groups and countries, there are expressions of tactical pragmatism,
generally out of economic self-interest, which is reflected in the rhetoric of
President Hassan Rohani of Iran.
This pragmatism may lead to deals on
curbing the development of weapons of mass destruction, but will not release
these countries from fanatic isolation.
The international system acts
today between the international process of globalization, based on universal
values of civil liberties and democratization, free trade and peaceful
coexistence and the process of religious and nationalistic extremism, built on
the rejection of the other. It’s a tension between progress and
The Middle East in general, including its most important
countries, Egypt and Israel, must choose to which process to belong. This is up
to both leaderships and peoples.
As to Egypt, the outbreak of the Arab
Spring in Tahrir Square brought great promise for democratization.
later the revolution was kidnapped by the Muslim Brotherhood, which attempted to
establish a theocracy rather than a democracy and failed to meet the economic
expectations of the Egyptian people. The army, which stands traditionally by the
people, intervened and will most probably orchestrate a political compromise
between seculars and Islamists, with the center of power remaining in its own
This is not a return to the days of Mubarak, but part of a
prolonged process, spurred by the Egyptian middle class, mainly the young, who
demand in the squares and the social networks, change toward a more open society
and a better economy.
These young Egyptians, who are very patriotic,
understand that Egypt, with all its pride and Arab leadership role, should be
part of the globalized world. They aspire to better education and employment.
For that, a good economic relationship with the West is absolutely essential, as
is upholding the peace treaty with Israel. Therefore one can assume that the
Arab Spring is not over.
We are witnessing a prolonged period in which
the process of democratization clashes with the process of Islamization. It’s
not the generals and the mullahs who will decide the future of Egypt, but its
young generation (60% of the population) who want a more free and prosperous
Egypt. Like many revolutions in history, it may be a long process, which must be
understood by those who care for Egypt and its stability.
finds itself at a crossroads. Within our political system and society we also
have two conflicting visions – one of a nationalist right-wing religious view,
opposing compromise with the Palestinians, and thriving on the view of an
isolated Jewish state within the walls of xenophobic beliefs. The other is a
more prevalent liberal and secular view of Israel, making peace with an
independent Palestinian state, protecting an all-important democratic system and
opening itself to necessary and good relations with the world and living in
harmony with universal values.
Our Palestinian neighbors, too, are
grappling with a fundamental dilemma – a religious Hamas-like state in eternal
conflict with Israel, secluded from the Western world, or a more democratic
state with a market economy, open to Israel and the world.
process between us will depend on the outcome of these two internal conflicts.
If those who presume to speak in Arabic or Hebrew in the name of God have the
upper hand, both of us are doomed to live in violent conflict as pariah
If moderate pragmatism wins, there will be a two state solution,
providing each of us with relative security and prosperity, also in cooperation
with the world’s leading countries. The Middle East peace process began with
Anwar Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem, followed by the peace treaty with Egypt, the
Oslo Accords and the peace treaty with Jordan. It is now a process of
breakthroughs and breakdowns of more than 30 years. Its continuation and
ultimate fruition depends both on the leaderships and on the peoples, mainly of
Israel and Palestine.
In the modern age, with time and with process, it
is mostly the hearts and minds of the people who determine the destinies of
countries. Therefore we can assume that this process will ultimately lead to a
destination of accommodation and peace. The length and difficulty of the process
depends on the courage of leaders to guide their countries to the necessary
political compromises and to be part of the family of nations of globalization
rather than of fundamentalism.
As John F. Kennedy once said: “Peace is a
daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding
old barriers, quietly building new structure.”
is president of the Peres Center for Peace and served as Israel’s chief
negotiator for the Oslo Accords.