Almost three years have passed since the unseasonably warm day in June 2002 when a number of the authors who have contributed to this issue of Chronicles met near O’Hare Airport to sketch out one of the most ambitious projects that we at The Rockford Institute have ever undertaken. We approached the project with a sense of humility and a certain trepidation, not only because the conflict over Israel and Palestine was older than almost anyone in the room (and almost equally stubborn) but because we knew that many others, from think tanks on up to the United Nations, had attempted to address this issue—and failed. And with each passing failure, the problem has grown more intractable. More importantly from the standpoint of the American interest, the political divide on this issue in the United States has grown ever wider.
Nine months after the shocking events of September 11, that divide was more like a chasm. Both the Bush administration and the Likud government had made it clear that, in the new War on Terror, Jerusalem was Washington’s firmest ally. The equation of rock-throwing Palestinian teenagers with Muhammad Atta and his fellow hijackers was so common as to be trite. It was clear that merely offering another road map for peace would doom this project to failure.
Yet we knew that we could bring something to the discussion that others could not. The guiding principle of The Rockford Institute and Chronicles has always been that there are no political solutions to cultural problems. And the conflict in the Holy Land, like the broader one with resurgent Islam, is more cultural than political. Through rounds of peace talks, wars, uprisings, suicide bombings, expansionist settlements, foreign aid, and U.N. resolutions, that simple recognition has been lost.
And so, from the very beginning, the focus of this project has not been to draw up new maps of a partitioned Jerusalem or devise elaborate compensations schemes for dispossessed Palestinians. Instead, we set about assimilating and presenting in an approachable way the information necessary to understand, and to make informed judgments about, one of the most complex cultural struggles of the past century, one which reaches all the way back (in certain aspects) to the seventh century A.D.
The articles in this issue represent only a few thousand words from Peace in the Promised Land: A Realist Scenario, the more than 300-page book that is the final culmination of this effort. (The book, which will be available in about six weeks, can be pre-ordered now; please see the advertisement on page 32.) The structure of the book mirrors the goals that we established for this project. Part One, “History,” begins with a more in-depth version of Thomas Fleming’s Perspective, “From Abraham to Napoleon: 4,000 Years of Ethnic Conflict.” Dr. Fleming sets the stage by sketching out the history of both Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land, separating fact from nationalist fictions: “Ethnic and religious conflicts almost always can be illustrated as a conflict of historical myths that are invoked to justify current acts of aggression.”
In “Palestine: From Napoleon to Israel’s Independence,” Cambridge historian Michael Stenton takes up where Dr. Fleming leaves off. Looking especially at the role Great Britain has played in the region, Dr. Stenton provides a sober assessment of what happens when Western national interests—and, more importantly, imperial ambitions—run up against the historical myths that Dr. Fleming examined.
Dr. Stenton also provides a succinct history of modern Zionism. He takes pains to explain that Zionism does not necessarily flow from the Jewish religion; in fact, “In its 20th-century form, Zionism was not religion: It was an ideal for secularized or heterodox Jews who responded to religion more as history and national literature than as the observance of rabbinical law.” More importantly, Zionism was a response to the increasingly uncertain position of the Jewish minority in Western Europe and the United States, as the Western nation-state reached its height in the 19th and early 20th centuries:
If Zionism as a dream of renewal was a response to secularization, Zionism as ideology was a response to the threat of assimilation. Only in Israel, behind the secure wall of an imagined Jewish majority and the projected revival of the Hebrew language, could Jewish communities resist the remorseless assimilation that threatened to become their fate everywhere else. . . . Nationalism came late to the Jews, but it came with a Polish intensity.
Dr. Stenton ends his chapter with the observation that “Those who . . . arranged the 1948 war can still end it. The great powers of 1918 and 1948 are still with us.” This leads to the second section of the book, “The Players,” which examines the major national and ethnic forces at work in the conflict. The section begins with a chapter-length version of Dr. Leon Hadar’s article from this issue, “Israel’s Future: A New Israel in an Old Middle East?” Dr. Hadar, a research fellow in foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute and a former bureau chief for the Jerusalem Post, details two visions of Israel’s future: one represented by a more secular and Western Tel Aviv; the other, by a more “messianic and extremist” Jerusalem. He argues that most Israelis prefer the model of Tel Aviv and desire a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians while warning that American neoconservatives—particularly those within the Bush administration—have given new life to the vision of Jerusalem.
Dr. Srdja Trifkovic, author of the best-selling Sword of the Prophet—Islam: History, Theology, Impact on the World, provides an extended version of his article from this issue, “The Impact of Islam on the Arab-Israeli Dispute.” Of particular interest is his discussion of the relationship between Muslims and Jews from the time of Muhammad on. The often-overlooked Christian minority in the Holy Land, which has been both persecuted and courted by Muslims and Jews, is, as Dr. Trifkovic points out, in danger of extinction. “At the outset of the Islamic conquests under Muhammad’s successors, the Holy Land was 100-percent Christian. . . . At the current rate of decline, by the year 2020, there will be no living Church in the land of Christ.”
The plight of Middle Eastern Christians is considered also by Aaron D. Wolf in his chapter, “‘Christian Zionism’: An Obstacle to Peace.” While evangelicals in the United States have backed ultranationalists in Israel, going so far as to disrupt the Clinton administration’s attempts at brokering a peace deal, they have “also turned a blind eye toward their own brothers in the Faith: the Palestinian Christians. . . . Strangely, the Christian Zionist interpretation of the Bible causes them to favor the survival of the Jews over that of these fellow Christians.” Since the final years of the Carter administration, these Christian Zionists have had enormous impact on U.S. policy in the Middle East, and, under Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush, they have allied themselves with prominent neoconservatives whose vision of morality could not be farther from their own.
It is to those neoconservatives that Dr. Paul Gottfried turns in the next chapter, “Zionism and Neoconservatism.” Commenting on the almost uncritical support of prominent neoconservatives for Israeli policies, Dr. Gottfried writes, “The only time in memory that neoconservatives have scolded Israel is when her left-of-center governments abandoned what they consider a sufficiently hard line in dealing with the Palestinians.” While he has some sympathy for the role that ethnic identity plays in neoconservative support for Israel, he argues that “Jewish nationalism and certain perceptions about Israeli interests are essential to neoconservatism but do not exhaust a definition of what it is.” He points out that, outside of the Middle East, neoconservatives have often supported Muslim insurgents against Western governments (for instance, in Chechnya, against the Russians), in the name of extending democracy globally.
Wayne Allensworth, a specialist in Russian affairs and a former analyst for the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, picks up that theme in “Interests and Ideology in Middle East Policy: How Russia, Europe, and China View the Middle East.” While the United States may be the “last remaining superpower,” Allensworth demonstrates that other countries are willing to share some of the burden that we have assumed in the Middle East. China, Russia, and several European states have been forced to balance their conflicts with Islamic insurgents with their need for Middle Eastern oil. By allowing these countries to take a more active role in the Middle East, Washington could help potential allies in the War on Terror while securing U.S. interests in the region. Allensworth urges Washington to “share the great-power burden,” arguing that “Such a reassessment and realignment would mean jettisoning messianic views, the rhetoric that encourages them, and the present tendency to disregard international opinion, all of which breed anti-U.S. hostility and could conceivably foster the development of anti-U.S. alliances among the great powers.”
Part Three, “Problems, Policies, Solutions,” leads off with a chapter by David A. Hartman, chairman of the board of directors of The Rockford Institute and the driving force behind this project. In “Essentials for a Lasting Peace,” Mr. Hartman, the retired chairman and CEO of Hartland Bank, outlines certain points that should be nonnegotiable, even though they are constantly revisited in the “peace process.” These include the undeniable fact that “a lasting peace is not possible unless each party accepts the right of the other to exist”; that “peace will depend on the clear separation of the hostile parties into sovereign states with mutually acceptable permanent borders”; a resolution to the problem of Palestinian refugees; agreement on the status of Jerusalem; the establishment of civil rights and citizenship for Palestinian minorities in Israel and Jewish minorities in the new Palestinian state; equitable sharing of water resources in the region; and, finally, an acknowledgment that foreign interference in the region “no longer serves the best interests of either party.” It is clear that “No peaceful resolution is possible without secure and respected borders, along with restitution for, and resettlement of, Palestinian refugees.” But, as Mr. Hartman concludes, “it is unlikely that extreme Israeli nationalists will be willing to make concessions so long as the United States continues to finance new settlements, outposts, and defenses . . . In a very real sense, the government of the United States is a major contributor to the perpetuation of the conflict.”
This conclusion is echoed by Doug Bandow, a former special assistant to President Reagan and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, in “The U.S.-Israel Relationship: American Policy Goals and Interest Groups” (an expanded version of his article in this issue). With the end of the Cold War, Mr. Bandow argues, any major American interest in the region came to an end. Perpetuating the conflict only endangers Americans by increasing tensions between the United States and the Arab world.
In “The Law and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” Stephen B. Presser, Chronicles’ legal-affairs editor and the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History at Northwestern University, discusses the relevant parts of international law that pertain to the conflict and provides a detailed examination of the U.N. resolutions that underlie the peace process and of the various American proposals for a lasting solution, including President Bush’s “Road Map.” While the Road Map seems dead in the water, Dr. Presser still sees signs of hope and a role for the White House: “If the United States is serious about spreading democracy in the Middle East, the Palestinian territories would be a more auspicious place to start than Iraq: There is a longer tradition of fairly open debate, and Palestinian politics is not dominated by ethnic divisions.”
The final chapter, “Israel and the United States: Leading Parallel Lives, Making Similar Mistakes” is an expanded version of the article in this issue by Ivan Eland, the director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute and a former principal defense analyst for the Congressional Budget Office. Picking up Doug Bandow’s theme, Dr. Eland explains how American disengagement from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would benefit both Israel and the United States and would allow America to pursue the War on Terror more effectively.
Peace in the Promised Land will also feature several color maps of the region, a timetable covering the last 30 years of the conflict, the text of the Geneva Accords, and a select bibliography that goes well beyond the normal policy studies and news reports to provide the inquisitive reader with a more complete picture of the cultural roots of this conflict. For those who truly want to see this conflict resolved in a way that serves the American interest, Peace in the Promised Land: A Realist Scenario is required reading.