Paradigm change

It is only logical that a solution will be found to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that includes input and support from the entire region in an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation.

September 30, 2014 22:24
3 minute read.
Yazidi refugees near the Syrian border

Yazidi refugees flee for their lives from Islamic State forces near the Syrian border, August 11.. (photo credit: RODI SAID / REUTERS)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu returned to many tried-and-true motifs in his speech Monday before the UN General Assembly in New York. He prioritized the Iranian nuclear weapon threat, arguing Islamic State’s pickup trucks and Kalashnikov rifles are not in the same league as a nuclear-armed Iran.

He quoted from Islamic State’s self-declared caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Hamas’s Khaled Mashaal and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and showed how all shared the same goal of “expanding enclaves of militant Islam where there is no freedom and no tolerance – where women are treated as chattel, Christians are decimated, and minorities are subjugated, sometimes given the stark choice to convert or to die.”

He pointed to Hamas’s cult of death, noting how during Operation Protective Edge, Hamas purposely increased the number of civilian casualties by using Palestinian men, women and children as human shields.

But Netanyahu also broke new ground in his speech, speaking of a “historic opportunity.” Countries in the region that were antagonistic toward Israel – ostensibly because of its conflict with the Palestinians – increasingly realize that they share common interests with the Jewish state. Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates all see a nuclear Iran, an exultant Islamic State and a reactionary Muslim Brotherhood as direct threats to political stability.

Jews share with the Christians, Kurds and Yazidis of the region similar threats and interests as well. For all these groups, defeating militant Islamists is an existential imperative.

But the reasoning for cooperation with Israel should not be based solely on the axiom “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Israel has so much to offer its neighbors, not just as a military force in the region. Israel can help make potable water more accessible. Israel can share its unique technologies in the fields of agriculture, health and energy to help eradicate poverty and improve health. Where there is devastating and crippling malnutrition resulting at least in part from a religious fanaticism that eschews science and enlightenment, millions of children could be lifted out of their fate and given prospects for success.

Rapprochement with the Arab world could also radically transform the paradigm for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. Instead of seeing the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a precondition for normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab nations, increasing cooperation between Israel and its neighbors can serve as a catalyst for a new, more creative solution to the conflict. As relations between Israel and its neighbors improve and as cooperation increases, decision- makers in Cairo, Amman, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh will be more inclined to come forward with initiatives that will enable Palestinians and Israelis to live together in peace.

Neighboring nations can have a critical influence on peace talks by encouraging a more moderate Palestinian leadership in Gaza, by helping to solve the Palestinian refugee problem, by funding regional projects that generate jobs.

The old two-state paradigm for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has failed despite repeated attempts over more than two decades. The time has come to think more creatively. One example of how a neighboring nation can radically transform the obsolete two-state paradigm was on display just a few weeks ago.

News media reported that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had offered Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas territory in the Sinai Peninsula adjacent to the Gaza Strip that would turn the area into a more viable future Palestinian state. Sisi later denied he made the offer. However, similar initiatives, based on shared interests, might in the future bring about a breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These multilateral initiatives will be put forward only in an atmosphere of cooperation and coexistence.

We Jews – like the Kurds, the Christians the Yazidis and other non-Muslim faith and ethnic groups – are an integral part of this region. Our roots go back over 3,000 years. We are a highly developed nation with the region’s strongest military force. We are also the region’s most innovative nation, possessing technologies that can radically improve the standard of living for others in the region, as we did for those Palestinians fortunate to have been born in Israel. It is only logical that a solution will be found to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that includes input and support from the entire region in an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation.

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