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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Shalom, Namaste, Tenaystilin, Inshallah: Middle East Peace Proposal 2006-2007

Middle East Peace Proposal

an offering of Yuya, Canadian singer-writer
Shalom, Namaste, Tenaystilin, Inshallah
august 3rd, 2006

(Proposal from blog: Yuya blog Mideast Peace Plan post )

Stage One: Truce Among Combatants, and Nationhood for Palestine

As a prelude to the establishment of the Nation of Palestine, and of Israel signing a peace, security and trade agreement with Palestine and other nations, it is proposed that Israel enter into a ten-year renewable truce with each of Hamas and Hezbollah. Recognized as organizations that were leaders in the battle for the establishment of a Palestinian state, they would agree to retire from military activity upon its achievement. These organizations would be given asylum status but would have to abandon military pursuits and all violence, and become political, social and spiritual bodies; essentially agreeing to represent community concerns in a civil manner.

Israel isn’t just another nation state, it is the homeland of a people and a religion, so she shouldn’t shy away from signing a truce agreement with Sunni and Shia groups. Religious leaders may now speak up about their desire for peace with neighbors; study Ashoka if precedents are required for guidance. The reason for the ten-year term is that in Islamic tradition, it is the maximum period of time allowed for a truce with a non-Muslim nation, though renewals are clearly allowed and have been successful in the past. When a nation wants to be respected for its deep faith, it must also honour the religions of its neighbors, which in this case is overwhelmingly Islamic, though Christians have been brutalized by the crossfire.

It is a fact that there are deep scars in Palestine and Lebanon, and Israel and the world at large need to help with the healing. Seven decades ago Hitler and Mussolini began a wave of terror like the world had never seen, and one decade later we all began to slowly heal the damage inflicted by that madness. If nations such as Germany, Italy and Japan have been able to recover so well from shameful prejudice and violent anti-Semitism, it is likely that Israel’s neighbors can also be expected to prosper in a more tolerant, peaceful environment.

All parties to the agreement must be viewing the effectively twenty-year truce as a minimum duration of the desired peace, a way to generate even longer-term discussions and agreements while cooler heads are prevailing. It will be seen yet again that economic and social development can only become truly sustainable in an environment of glasnost and perestroika; the world spins every day and hard lessons are learned and relearned. This sometimes seemingly insurmountable task is in realty just a progression that every civilized planet must go through. Before global democracy and rule of the people can fully take root, there must be some sort of agreement on how to care for the Holy Lands. Jerusalem is the holiest city for Christians and Jews, and the third-holiest for Muslims. Both Christians and Muslims owe their some of their love of Jerusalem to that most famous Jew ever, Isa Jeshua of Nazareth, and in any case, it is really only the Jews that find all of Israel and Judea to be sacred, ancestral lands. By providing for a nation state in Gaza and the West Bank, Israelis are acknowledging that even though their people once thrived in Shechem (now Nablus) and Jericho, these towns are now home to Palestinians, and will stay that way.

The example of Northern Ireland, after the IRA became a political rather than a military force can provide lessons of transition. Jordan’s peace and trade deals with Israel boosted economic activity and security; these and other precedents are to be studied for elements advantageous to resolution of our conflict. India and South Africa are democratic nations won by the majority through civil participation, and the humanity that Gandhi and Mandela brought to the body politic are not to be ignored here.

A contiguous Palestinian state may be created via a land bridge at the southeast end of Gaza and southwest edge of the West Bank. The shape of this land will be wider where it joins Palestine, narrowest where it intersects Israel, via vehicle underpass (Stage Two) and rail overpass (Stage One). Palestine needs contiguity, but it also means that Israel loses a very small portion of her own contiguity; a viable Palestinian state requires this, and without healthy neighbors, anarchy will reign. The junction will be constructed so that neither Palestine nor Israel feels they have surrendered contiguity, with an internationalized area of highly secure bridges and underpasses allowing for uninterrupted travel within each nation. This junction can be looked at as a tremendous security risk, but also as a phenomenal social, cultural and commercial opportunity.

After Israeli political and religious leaders sign the ten-year renewable truce with Hamas and Hezbollah, the United Nations will declare Palestine a full nation state with regular membership privileges.

Stage Two: Regional Peace, Security and Trade Agreement

Subsequent to the achievement of nationhood for Palestine, concurrent with border talks and to be coordinated all within weeks rather than months, a five-year, renewable peace, security and trade pact will be entered into among Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and if conditions can be met and an understanding achieved, Syria. This four or five-nation landmark agreement will ensure non-aggression, opening up of markets, and the building of new roads, railways, seaports and airports. A host will be required for these talks, and it may be best for the negotiations to progress through several phases, perhaps beginning in Beirut, moving on to Damascus, then being nearly finalized in Paris and fine-tuned in Montreal before the signing ceremony in Toronto the Good.

Now, going forward, the key to maintaining regional peace, security and economic development will be long-term investment initiatives. It is imperative that Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Bahia, Sikh and other faiths and secular folk all invest together in the future of Palestine. This will include investments of goods and services by individuals, corporations, nation states, foundations and other NGOs.

The initial lands of Palestine will include the West Bank and Gaza, and if Syria agrees, the Shaba Farms and the northeast section of the Golan. Even though this is a highly contentious and some would say presumptuous aspect of this proposal, be aware that there are elements who would prefer to turn this region into yet another front in the perpetual “war on terror.” From a warrior point of view, it is likely that the USA would expect Israel to be able to defend itself from Syria, while the US could conceivably offer military aid if Iran became involved in the hostilities. Those scenarios involve a lot of death, so I am proposing this one: Israel finds a way to strike a peace deal with Syria, and asks the USA to help find peace with Iran.

The Shaba farms / NE Golan region may be earmarked for construction and development before new settlers move in, with 35,000 homes being built in three new connected towns, one with 15,000 new homes and two each with 10,000. These could be 3 and 4 bedroom primarily townhomes but some will be two and three bedroom apartments, and a smaller number will be 4 and 5 bedroom detached houses. The architecture should represent regional excellence and the main streets should allow for shops with apartments above. The commercial activity could consist of agricultural farms, plus light industrial such as manufacturing and assembling, plus retail, professional, community and tourism services.

It is suggested that an international coalition (eg. G8, EU, UN, IFC etc.) be put together to raise the estimated $3.5 to $4 billion these homes will cost (plus infrastructure development expenses of a similar amount), with Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese contractors bidding together with companies from Canada, France and other nations to ensure the highest quality buildings. As the project is at the juncture of four nations and very close to two more, skilled tradesmen and labourers can be hired from Palestine, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Development funding, technological expertise and institution and infrastructure-building assistance will be provided to all treaty signatories, with special emphasis on Palestine, Lebanon and Syria.

The goal of this agreement is to bring peace and prosperity to the entire region, but considering where Palestine is starting from, she will likely have to be among the leaders in regional economic growth for twelve to fifteen years for this to fully succeed. If Palestine is eventually granted one-half to two-thirds of the Golan (primarily the eastern and southern sections) in addition to the Shaba Farms region, and these lands are first linked by rail and later by highway to the West Bank and Gaza, it is conceivable that she could become the second (after Israel) most powerful economy in the region within fifteen to twenty years. This is not utopian or even viewing with rose-colored glasses; Palestine has the double benefit of being Israel’s closest neighbor and also being a natural conduit for Arab businesspeople in or near to the region. Palestine may well become not just the Arab gateway to Israel, but also the Western gateway to Arab nations such as Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

A high-speed Palestine National Railway can be constructed joining Damascus to Cairo via Nablus, Jericho and Rafah, with offshoots hooking up Amman and Gaza City. The tracks would run south from Damascus into Palestine along the edge of Shaba Farms, roll along roughly parallel to the Jordan River, jutting southeast to cross a small portion of Israel and entering the West Bank at it’s most northern central point. From there the PNR will travel south via Nablus and Jericho and hook up with the Amman line, then exit the west bank south of Hebron, crossing over to Gaza just north of Rafah, junctioning with the Gaza City line near the airport and continuing on from there to Cairo.

If a five-nation (Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria) peace, security and trade deal can be enacted, the initial Nation of Palestine is proposed to include Gaza and the West Bank, plus the Shaba Farms region and the northeastern section of the Golan. The negotiations over final border status will include a second phase, where Palestine is awarded additional lands for having achieved peace and development goals and a railway (Palestine National Railway, or PNR) will first connect the three land groupings of Golan, West Bank and Gaza. In Phase Three a four to six-lane Trans-Palestine Highway can be built, almost entirely within Palestine and roughly along the route of the PNR. This would provide seamless travel and commerce from the Shaba Farms region all the way to Rafah.

Redevelopment of Gaza City and its environs is crucial to the emotional and economic health of both Israel and Palestine. A series of waterfront and inland projects can be connected by modernized public transit, with community services such as schools and hospitals being the necessary foundation to restore the area to attract the business and tourism investments it requires to regain robust growth. Community-based redevelopment initiatives are likely the smoothest way forward for northern Gaza, with inner-city rebuilding providing a healthy complement to newer developments in the suburbs and in the south.

Ramallah, Nablus and Jericho all require attention, as does the delicate issue of Jerusalem. If God were here to comment, it is likely that no politicians would be overly welcome in the holiest of cities. A divided city may provide some temporary resolution but in the longer term it would be better for Jeru to be unified, even if that meant that the municipality was internationalized, and the capitals of Israel and Palestine had been transferred to Tel Aviv and Ramallah.

The building of a new city in southern Gaza, between Khan Younis and Rafah, will help restore health and vitality to all Palestinians, and even inject some life into nearby Egypt. Proposed to be constructed from northwest of the airport to southwest of Khan Younis, the project is for now named Khanara (or longer form, Khan Arafat). This city will have a university, a hospital and a beachfront area, with all of these amenities radiating out from two central pyramids, one slightly taller than the other, at the center of the commercial district. Educational, entertainment and tourist facilities reach toward the water, while mid rise office buildings and apartment and condo towers can be constructed inland from the two showpiece buildings, which should be mostly unobscured from the shoreline. It is estimated that 85,000 homes to house an estimated 320,000 to 425,000 people can be built within eight to ten years, with the highest densities close to downtown, and lower rise neighborhoods stretching out towards Rafah, the airport and Khan Younis. In addition, the downtown areas of both ancient Rafah, and the more recently inhabited refugee city, Khan Younis, will each need to be redeveloped and connected by public and private transit to Khanara and each other.

To the north of the new city, along some of the beaches west and northwest of Younis, will be built the community of Isa Beach, with modern tourist facilities for travelers from all over the world who are coming to see the Holy lands. The seaside amenities of Khanara and Isa Beach will become new ports of call for global pilgrims.

In Lebanon, the international community must undertake massive infrastructure rebuilding and the redevelopment of housing, and this must be performed as part of wider-ranging cooperation. One-off deals don’t bridge the gap; peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan were crucial watersheds, but without a Palestinian state, in each case it was clear that war would go on, in some form or other. The Cedar Revolution embraces non-violence and a civil society, and the world must support these positive movements. Chibli Mallat, Mahmoud Abbas and other powerful leaders are now willing to sit at the negotiating table, so let’s get cooking!

In Syria, significant improvements must be funded for the promotion of democratic institutions via educational and technological assistance. Modernization of Damascus’ transportation and communications facilities plus development of the area west of the city are priorities that the international community can assist with. Even the terrorist organizations not directly affiliated with Hamas or Hezbollah, but who call Damascus their headquarters, will have to either join in the peace initiative, desist from agitation, or leave. If the Syrian PM can become a broker in peace as he has been in war, then he will have helped his nation regain status that had been lost, in the eyes of Arab countries and in the international community.

How will Iran react if Israel and Palestine form a longer-term peace, security and trade deal with their neighbors, including Syria? Iran can spin Hezbollah’s truce and the establishment of a Palestinian state into a victory parade in Tehran. This will give them time to analyze the shifting sands and their loss of control over Syria, much like Syria has had to digest the fact that Lebanon has gone and will never return to the fold. In any case Iran will not overtly oppose a peace deal that establishes a Palestinian state and an essentially twenty-year truce. Regarding the latter, many mullahs will be secretly happy knowing they will have Israel to blame their problems on for at least another twenty years, and probably a lot, lot longer.

Stage Three: Asia West Parliament to be established in region, for promotion of democracy and dialogue

The western portion of Asia (an area commonly referred to as the Middle East) is perhaps the last remaining region on earth where large numbers of people still believe that violence is an effective means of solving political problems. While it is true that hatred and bitterness are not likely to disappear overnight, healthier conditions can be created that allow these corroding symptoms to dissipate over years and decades, and for genuine cooperation to return. There was a time when Muslims and Jews ruled the world together for almost four hundred years, during the seventh to eleventh centuries. Northern Ireland is a more recent example of a nation overcoming deep-rooted violence, and other countries and regions that have recovered from wars should also be studied.

Any efforts that regional and international partners can put forth that promote dialogue rather than push war, are dearly desired at this time. Ideally every nation would have some form of direct democratic representation on as many as five levels: local/municipal, regional, provincial / state, national, continental /multinational. Allowing West Asian citizens to vote on their representatives to a new regional parliament would instill both cooperation and participation in decision making, where they are clearly needed most. This is not a magic pill and will not transform societies overnight, but having a say in how their region is represented could lead to people experiencing the value of this form of communication, and many would likely want to experience more elections. The Palestinians learned a hard lesson when they voted for Hamas and war, because they got what they voted for. If Abbas can put together a Unity Government with Fatah sharing power with moderate and reformed Hamas parliamentarians, then Abbas will have the authority and respect required to launch the new nation of Palestine into full statehood.

A four-nation agreement between Palestine, Israel, Lebanon and Jordan is not difficult to imagine, but many readers are likely to have problems envisioning the currently pro-terrorist Baath regime in Syria ever agreeing to a meaningful peace deal. OK, first picture a scenario where both Hamas and Hezbollah leaders are about to sign peace treaties with Israel and Lebanon, and word hits Damascus that Amman is getting in on a four-nation trade bloc. If instead of being left on the sidelines, Syria were to agree to implement democratic initiatives at the regional and national levels, and to grant the Palestinians some or all of the Golan lands, then Syria would receive massive development funding and a full endorsement as host of the proposed Asia West Parliament. This new regional facility would be constructed along the Damascus – Beirut highway, west of Damascus near the Lebanese border. If the five nations in the agreement and the international community all support Syria as host of the new house of representatives, then the West Asian powerhouses such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iraq are unlikely to dissent.

The establishment of an Asia West Parliament in southwestern Syria, on this road between Beirut and Damascus, is therefore advised for the security and prosperity of the region. It is suggested that this home of governance be built about 10 to 30 kilometers from the Lebanon border, possibly near al-Is, said to be the ancient village of Aristobulus, a Herodian king known for his wise, peaceful ways. If Syria is not amenable to the democratic and peace developments, alternative locations would be on the same road, but another twenty to thirty kilometers to the west, on the Lebanese side of the border, or in Jordan near Amman.

Though Lebanon and Jordan would each make exemplary hosts for the Asia West Parliament, selecting Syria as host nation has distinct advantages. With Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon already forming an oasis of tolerance, adding Syria to the progressive zone widens peace efforts and helps bring Sunni-Shia concerns to the negotiating table, and off the battlefield. The alternative, of ostracizing and alienating Syria, could help turn that great nation into a battleground for sectarian and ideological concerns. By including Syria in both of the security and the economic blocks, and by locating the regional parliament here, stability in the entire area is improved.

If regional stability is not restored, then Palestinian nationhood could be delayed further, and nobody wants another Baghdad or Gaza where secure Damascus now sits. Why should the hopes and dreams of Palestinian and Lebanese citizenry be held hostage to Sunni-Shia conflicts, or worse, to abstract ideas of potential administration turnover?

Under this proposed comprehensive regional peace, security and democracy plan, each West Asian nation will receive between 3 and 15 parliamentary seats in the Asia West Parliament / Parliament Asia Ouest, to be elected by popular ballot.

Total estimated representation would initially be estimated at 155 to 170 members, to be elected by direct national voting. Construction on the parliament buildings is proposed to begin in 2007, with the first election to be held in autumn of 2009, for sitting beginning winter 2010.

To be continued and expanded upon …

NOTE: This is the first draft, written during the last week of July and the first week of August 2006. Feel free to post commentary, suggestions, corrections, additions, and omissions; all constructive feedback will be greatly appreciated. I would especially seeking to hear from those who love both Israel and Palestine, and from any who know of similar proposals. Peace to all, Shalom, Namaste, Tenaystilin, Inshallah.

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