Bush Administration and Israel leadership are now hailing the triumph of Hamas as a “blessing in disguise.” It is assumed President Abbas and Fatah will now reach some sort of agreement with Israel and Hamas can be contained within the Gaza Strip. Back in 2001, after assuming the presidency, Bush was urged to follow up on Clinton’s efforts to forge an agreement between Israel and Arafat, but he declined on grounds he was not into “nation building” and he certainly did not wish to give Clinton recognition for doing anything worthwhile.
Six years later, the Middle East is in chaos. Iraq is a shambles, Mubarak in Egypt is crushing any opposition to his regime, Iran is firmly in the hands of fundamentalists, and Saudi Arabia continues funding religious schools that propogate hatred toward the West. Peace between Israel and Palestine is not “the solution” to the region’s problems, but it is a central piece of the peace puzzle. Ignoring Hamas does not mean it will disappear, it is part and parcel of any resolution of the region’s problems.
Bush abandoned opportunities to work for peace between Israel and Palestinians. Instead, he chose the path of war in Iraq which allowed terrorists a wonderful opportunity to gain adherents and to train thousands of budding young terrorists. A policy of ignoring Hamas will most probably result in accelerating the process of terrorism in the area. Israel now has its worst nightmare become a reality — the existence of a terrorist state on its border.
There is scant doubt, Israel will turn money over to Fatah and refuse to provide tax money to Hamas. This will result in a new flurry of rockets into southern Israel which, in turn, eventually will result in tanks crossing over into Gaza, fighting will break out, there will be casualties, and the Israel airforce will blast the area seeking “terrorists.”
We propose a proactive approach to the situation.
1. Israel should accept the recent Arab proposal (which Hamas agreed to accept) which includes a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem.
2. All Holy Places would be placed under supervision of UN forces.
3. The West Bank would be evacuated over a six month to year process. All buildings will remain intact and Palestinian refugees would be provided free housing. This would allow about 300,000 Palestinian refugees to return.
4. A joint Israel/Palestinian/Jordan/Egyptian force would be created to control border areas with authority to seek out and deal with any violators of the peace agreement.
5. The Israel wall would be dismantled.
6. A joint committee of Israel and Palestinian representatives would be charged with developing a plan to resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees as well as Jewish refugees who fled Arab nations. Initially, 300,000 refugees would be given possession of housing evacuated by West Bank settlers. The committee would have a year to present an initial proposal for resolving the refugee issue.
7. A Nelson Mandela Economic Development Plan would be initiated and funded for $50 billion each year for a period of ten years. Funds would come from the EU, the United States, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Quatar. As part of the planning process a Middle Eastern Economic Union (MEEU) would be created to develop plans to foster economic development. All signatories to join MEEU would be required to sign a statement promising not to use force or encourage terrorism against fellow members.
This proposal isolates Hamas and Hizbelloh. They would face the choice of entering a program that raises standards of living in the region, immediately provides housing for 300,000 Palestinian refugees, and offers an opportunity to end violence or stand apart and become hated by people in the region.