Thursday, December 8, 2011


By: Fadi Zanayed

The question, “What is the Main Obstacle to Middle East Peace?” is a complicated question as there are many obstacles that have made peace to be so elusive. The Middle East peace process, if we can actually call it a process, is complicated in and of itself; the obstacles which hamper that “process” are themselves complicated. But in order to answer the question, we have to evaluate each obstacle in light of the totality of obstacles.

Notwithstanding all this complexity, we can say that a strong factor that impedes a Middle East peace is that each side of this conflict caters to the minority extremists to the detriment of the majority who desire peace within its ranks. These minority extremists on both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict control the environment. They make any peace beyond any reachable compromise.

On the Israeli side, the structure of the Israeli government makeup disproportionately caters to the views of the minority interests/extremists. The Israeli Knesset structure is such that no one party has ever earned a clear cut majority to gain full control. Thus, the party with the most members is asked to organize a government that is made up of various parties, leaving it exposed to the whims and extremism of the least of its coalition. Any attempt to make a peace agreement, or much less an overture of peace, with the Palestinians, would subject the ruling party to a no-confidence vote as the dissatisfied party in the coalition would switch sides in the Knesset and thus tip the balance against the ruling party. It can also lead to an assassination, as Yitzhak Rabin found out after he entered into Oslo Accords with the Palestinians.

On the Palestinian side, the extremists have hindered attempts at reconciliation and peace. Tacitly supported by Palestinians, the suicide bombers attempting to make the Israeli lifestyle unbearable, have only hardened the position of Israelis against peace. In fact, many observers of the Middle East cannot understand the mentality of a suicide bomber and thus the very effect that a suicide bomber wanted to convey, i.e. that it is better to die as a martyr then to live under Israeli occupation, was never conveyed.

The Palestinian cause is a moral cause, yet it has not been portrayed by the Palestinians themselves as a moral cause. Instead, the opposite has bee true, for the suicide bombings have done more to portray the Palestinians as terrorists rather then as the victims of Israeli apartheid. This image needs to be transformed in the mind of public opinion to the image of a victim, more so in Israel then anywhere else.

In addition, the continuing rocket attacks by Hamas into Southern Israel from Gaza and the Israeli counterattacks continue to make peace elusive, for these measures on both sides continue to harden the position of the extremists on both sides.

Giving this “extremists” obstacle, how do we isolate the extremists? The answer is simple: the majority of Israelis and Palestinians who desire peace have to join forces. By so doing, they will isolate the extremists that have been and continue to obstruct the peace process. These two majorities must come together and form a coalition for peace. As long as these two groups do not form a coalition, this will be another obstacle to peace.

To get these majorities to come together, the Palestinians need a formidable leader in the likes of Nelson Mandela, Mohandas Gandhi and/or Dr. Martin Luther King to garner local support within Israel and Palestine and internationally. A lack of such a Palestinian leader causes the Palestinian image to be distorted by a very powerfully Israeli control of the media. On a bright note, Archbishop Theodosios “Atallah” Hanna may be emerging as such a leader.

Such a leader, using non-violence as the modus operandi, must challenge the Israeli business community. Challenge means making the business community want to change the status quo. For now, the Israeli business community likes the status quo, they are prospering and as long as they are prospering, this will continue to be another obstacle to peace. If a non-violent leader makes life difficult for the Israeli business community, then they would put pressure on the Israeli government and public to secure a peace.

Peace has been elusive because these obstacles are complex. But their complexity is not insurmountable for they can be summed up as a combination of obstacles into one obstacle with this one solution: The extremists must be isolated by a non-violent leader who can bring the peace desiring majorities on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict together to isolate those extremists on both sides and to challenge the Israeli business community into changing the status quo.

(  © Copyright, Fadi Zanayed.  Publication or distribution of this material is allowed provided its content is not altered and the source and its author are cited.)

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