The Middle East is home to some of the finest mosaics the world has ever known. Most of them date back to antiquity and bear stark witness to the passage of time. But what about now? Do you think it would be possible to create yet a new mosaic in our time, a work of art even more glorious than those which came before? Is it possible to arrange the broken pieces of the Middle East, in just the right way, so as to create a mosaic of mutual self-interest, a mosaic which inspires a sense of hope, and which brings into being the realization of a vision of peace, prosperity, and freedom?
Where do we start? We could start with the West Bank of Palestine, and try to convince the powers that be, the political and business elite, as well as men and women on the ground, that a Hamas takeover in the West Bank would bring to an abrupt end their dream for a new, vibrant, and prosperous Palestine. What happened in Gaza is a case in point. And we would suggest, as diplomatically as we can, that it is perhaps Israel, as ironic as it may seem, which is best positioned to guarantee security, to stave off the threat posed by Hamas, and to help grow the economy even more. Could the offer of security, along with economic growth, within the parameters of the 2000 Camp David talks, be the basis of a peace deal between Israel and Palestine? And could Palestine be the first piece that gives birth to our mosaic?
And then we could approach Israel and suggest, ever so politely, that as strong as she is, she still needs help to meet the existential threat posed by a nuclear Iran. Even unilateral action by Israel, against the nuclear facilities in Iran, would need a wider base of support. If oil prices rise exponentially as a result of such an attack, or if terror abounds, Israel will surely need some backing from the U.S., the West, and large segments of the Arab world. Could Israel be persuaded to undertake a credible peace process in the West Bank of Palestine, as a way of gaining the credibility and support needed in her struggle with Iran? And could Israel be the second piece of our mosaic?
We could then move onward to Saudi Arabia, and suggest, ever so respectfully, that a nuclear Iran poses an existential threat to the Saudi leadership, especially as they contend with a restless Shiite minority, and a frustrated young generation without work. Could a credible peace process in the West Bank of Palestine be the impetus the Saudis need to make peace with Israel on the basis of the 2001 Arab Peace Plan? And could an agreement of this sort lead to a regional military/economic alliance, including Israel and the Arab states, by which these nations meet the security challenge posed by extremists in Iran, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc., and by which they undertake together to create good paying jobs; jobs which grow their respective economies, jobs which protect the environment, and jobs which help to weaken the hold of extremist thinking? Could Saudi capital and Israeli ingenuity be partnered together to revitalize the Middle East with good paying green jobs? Could oil profits be used to generate green profits? And could Saudi be the third piece of our mosaic?
And then we could pay a visit to Hamas, preferably in a crowded and public setting, and suggest, ever so cautiously, that the peace, prosperity, and freedom in the West Bank, may cause the people in Gaza to wonder, “Hey, where is our share?” Could Hamas be persuaded that a restless and weary citizenry could mean an existential threat to their rule? And could Hamas be persuaded to join in on job creation by allowing an industrial zone to be built between Israel and Gaza which would create some 200,000 jobs, and which could go a long way to solving the economic and environmental problems which have yet to be addressed, such as water shortages and the like? Could Hamas thereby legitimate its hold on power and compete legitimately with Fattah, on the basis of jobs, not terror. And could Hamas be the fourth piece of our mosaic?
It could be argued that we would be remiss in our duties if we don’t at least try to approach Iran. We could point out that in light of the anger of the people, and the economic downturn, and in light of a new economic/military cooperation between some of the Arab states and Israel, it may behoove the leaders in Iran to become part of the solution, instead of part of the problem, and to reorient their agenda in favor of job creation and environmental protection. In this way, Iran could still have its impact in the region, but in a way that empowers others to work with her, instead of plotting against her. And could Iran, thereby, become a fifth piece of our mosaic?
With the proper foundation, our mosaic would continue to grow in size and stature, as other Arab states join in, and become equal partners in this monumental effort to keep the peace, to grow the economies, and to unleash the potential of the people by blessing them with the gift of freedom. As time passes, the divergent and broken pieces of the Middle East will be held together not by love for one another, although that may come in due time, and not by a compulsion to do the right thing, although this too may come one day. The pieces of our mosaic will be held together by the cement of mutual self-interest. And there is no greater form of self-interest than the need to survive in the face of some very common threats, threats which threaten us all, such as extremist thinking, the lack of jobs, and a short supply of cool, clean, drinking water.
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