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Peace Perspectives for the Middle East

by Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul Saturday, Nov. 11, 2006 at 4:14 AM

Whoever wants peace for the region must tackle problems at the root. The problems of the Middle East can only be solved in a political process, not through war.. European experiences shows that hatred and violence can be overcome.


No development is possible without peace and no peace without development

By Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul

[This article published in: W & F, Wissenschaft und Frieden 2006-4 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]

Whoever really wants peace for the region must tackle problems at the root. The problems of the Middle East can only be solved in the scope of a political process, not through war. Israel’s right to exist must be permanently assured, Lebanon rebuilt, the fallow development in the Palestinian territories must begin with new momentum and an independent state of the Palestinians realized at last. These are all important building blocks for a comprehensive political concept. For its conversion, the first steps include an international conference for humanitarian relief and reconstruction in Lebanon and in the Palestinian territories.

In Stockholm, the international donor community promised one billion dollars for rebuilding Lebanon and 0 million for the Palestinian territories. In 2006, Germany will support the people in Lebanon with another 22 million Euro for reconstruction and will also be engaged for the long-term. Rebuilding Lebanon is an important first step. The central question is: What must happen to prevent future violence? How can we remove the structural causes of conflict?

While the attention of the world public concentrated on the war in Lebanon, the real conflict constellation is more complex. At least three planes of conflict exist: the core conflict between Israel and Palestine, regional conflicts between Israel and its Arab neighbors and the global dimension involving the role of Iran.

The conflict between Israel and Palestine is the Gordian knot. No permanent peace in the region will be possible without two sovereign states, Israel and Palestine, recognizing each other. The vicious circle of violence and counter-violence in the conflict between Israel and Palestine permeating the whole region must be broken. To that end, we need:

· Firstly, a political dialogue that does not divide the two sides in good and evil but – as the Israeli author Amos Oz once said – sees them as participants of a conflict where each side can claim rights. A concept must be developed with concrete statements on the points of conflict: borders, Jerusalem, refugees and the status of Palestinians in Israel among others, a concept seen in the Palestinian base and the Israeli base as a balance of interests. My proposal – brought into the dialogue by the farsighted Willy Brandt at the beginning of the 1990s and adopted in the 11-point paper of the SPD for the Middle East – is creation of a “mechanism” according to the model of the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

European experience demonstrates that hatred and violence can be overcome. Why should this success in Europe – even if under completely different conditions – not also be possible in the Middle East? The overwhelming majority of people there want peace.

In a Conference for Security and Cooperation in the Middle East, questions of security policy, economic cooperation and human life together could be discussed and permanently settled.

· Secondly, we need more insight on the close connection of security and successful development. No lasting peace in the Middle East will be possible without political, economic and social development. The whole region has enormous structural problems. In all Arab countries, there is a very young population that demands education, jobs and peace and simultaneously a very high youth unemployment encouraging hopelessness. The shortage of water and fertile land is striking. The situation requires good government leadership, democracy, pluralism and realization of human rights and women’s rights. Economics needs a regional dynamic. When people can participate in political and economic development, they contribute to reform processes and cannot be so quickly radicalized and instrumentalized.

Therefore we need a future-oriented integration of the Middle East in the world economy. Everyone is involved here:

- Europe with a neighbor policy and association agreements’

- The Arab states by investing their oil revenues in the development of their countries and their region;

- Israel with a contribution to extinguishing divisions.

In addition, the peace process in the Middle East needs a strengthened role of the United Nations. The UN is the guarantor for the strengthening of the law that must replace the right of the stronger. Only the United Nations has the legitimation to stop violence with military means.

Finally, global peace policy in the framework of development policy means not seeing all conflicts in the world through the anti-terror lens. That one-dimensional reductionism does not do justice to people in conflict regions. Democracy can only be prepared through cooperation and dialogue, not through war.

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