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Bismi Ilahi Arrahman Arrahim

AL QUDS

The so-called "peace process" between Palestinians and Israelis has not merely come to an impasse; it has failed.

As a result, sooner rather than later, the fate of the entire region - - the whole of the Middle East and not just the area of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- will be called into question.

Before discussing what can and ought to be done, we need to recognize the causes for the failure. These can be summarized in the following points:

1. At the beginning stands the totally misguided peace imposed upon the Arab-Islamic region by the European powers in the aftermath of the First World War. The British Field Marshal Earl Wavell characterized it succinctly: "After the war to end war' they seem to have been pretty successful in Paris at making a `peace to end peace'." As a result, the region lost not only its center of power and political cohesion but also its political identity, which it has never regained. The goal of the "Great Powers was not peace but division into spheres of influence, control and exploitation.

2. The victors of the Second World War -- now chiefly the United States and the Soviet Union -- did little to improve the situation and much to make it worse by supporting the introduction of a new element -- Israel -- into the region and by casting the Middle East together with all its resources into the role of a pawn in the East-West contest over global hegemony. Under such conditions achieving a real peace was an impossibility. In addition, Israel made the decision to join the ranks of the atomic powers and, in the interest of its own security, to dominate the region militarily as the junior partner of the US.

3. In the early 1990s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, there could have been a chance to reach a genuine peace if the United States, as the sole remaining global power, had striven to achieve a just solution for all. But this did not happen. Instead, as in the earlier epochs, the priority was dominance over the entire region for the sake of economic and military interests. In order to achieve these goals, Washington did not shrink from applying double standards. As a consequence we are now as far from a true peace as ever before. Indeed, in the northern tier of the region, a new strategic contest has begun involving new and old nations from Turkey through the Caucasus nations to Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. At stake are the new oil fields and the control of pipelines. Although the US remains the sole superpower, one need not be a prophet to predict that all the world's or the regions' affairs cannot long be controlled by and directed to the benefit a single center of power. And an increasing tendency towards the use of force can be predicted as well. With a greater likelihood than anywhere else in the world, this strategic approach in the Middle East can only lead to the motto of the lost game of chance: "Return to square one!" In other words, every problem which appears to have been "solved" in the region since the Firs World War -- and most of these "solutions" were failures -- is once again called into question.

4. In the western part of the region, in the area of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, seventy years of effort have failed to come up with anything approaching a peaceful balance. Neither the wars nor the international conferences nor the resolutions of the United Nations have changed the nature of a conflict stemming from the attempt to ameliorate the injustice done to the Jews during the Second World War by the Germans at the expense of the Arab-Islamic region, resulting in the exile of the largest part of an Arab-Islamic people from its homeland. What is more, the diplomatic efforts from Madrid to Oslo to Wye to Camp David have failed to grasp the fact that there is only one way to peace: equal treatment for all parties in all aspects of the conflict must take priority over unilateral national interests.

5. In contrast to all other regions in the world, the religious quality of the city of Jerusalem / Al Quds remains intimately bound up with the fate of the Middle East, thereby predicating a qualitative aspect of the conflict which precludes such ordinary approaches to conflict resolution as the "first things first" strategy, that is resolving first the simpler aspects and then proceeding to the more complicated ones and thus building confidence in small ways before moving on to the tougher issues. In the 1970s, when this author, together with Lord Hugh Caradon (the initiator of UN Resolution 242) and former French foreign minister Michel Jobert, founded the European Study Group Middle East, which sponsored two separate international conferences in Bonn, one with the PLO and the other with Israelis, it was my plea that, in contrast to the then as now prevalent strategic logic, the path to peace ought to begin with Jerusalem. At that time I argued: "You can achieve peace with all of the Arab states, and can even reach agreement with the Palestinians in any number of areas, but if you cannot agree on a formula for Jerusalem, everything that has been accomplished over the course of years will collapse or even explode over this point.

Today we have reached that point and therefore truly new proposals are required, not more superficial compromises for the sake of appearances. The International Institute for Ethnic-Group Rights and Regionalism (INTEREG), together with the soon to be revived European Study Group Middle East wish to present two proposals. The first one, authored by Prof. Dr. Fried Esterbauer of the University of Innsbruck and member of the INTEREG presidium, is of a fundamental nature. The second, by Dr. Rudolf Hilf (Munich), a founder of INTEREG, is of a tactical-instrumental nature.

The fundamental proposal concerns the introduction of a federalistic structure in the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The tactical-instrumental proposal takes cognizance of the reluctancy of both Israelis and Palestinians to relinquish their particular nation-state visions and their tendency to treat any federalistic approach as a watering-down of their ideals, even where this is clearly not the case. Jerusalem / Al Quds thus becomes the test case for cooperation between equal partners, a cooperation which must accommodate the unique national, international and especially religious dimensions of the city. In this manner Jerusalem could become the starting point for a genuine peace, not only for the city but for the entire region.

Instrumental paper

The point of departure is the existence of two opposing positions:

the State of Israel = A and

the State of Filastin = B

More than 50 years after the rupture of the years 1947/48 it must be accepted that the status quo ante cannot be restored, but the prerequisite for the establishment of peace is the acceptance of the principle of equality:

- Equal treatment of the opposing sides in all issues, ranging from territorial and demographic politics to the question of mutual security.

In all cases, concrete and realistic solutions must be worked out which are open and transparent.

- The key -- NOT the last point -- is the issue of Jerusalem - A' Quds.

In this context I propose the following possible approaches:

I) Two sovereign nation-states A and B with a common federative state C governed by both and consisting of both Hebrew and Arab Jerusalem. F = A, B + federal C as a kind of condominium.

II) C governed by two separate but equal Israeli and Arab authorities including the elected representatives of the population of Jerusalem according to the curia principle (Jewish, Muslim, Christian)

Ill) C supervised by a High Commissioner of the United Nations (elected by the UN General Assembly) in conjunction with a council representing the three religious communities

The International Institute for Ethnic-Group Rights and Regionalism (INTEREG) is prepared to further elaborate such a proposal.

Dr. Rudolf Hilf

Munich, August 24, 2000

 
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