The world long ago lost hope for a lasting peace in the Middle East. The frequent wars often had a religious basis, starting with the Romans in Judea, dramatically escalating the bitterness of the conflicts.
Donald Trump is on his way to establishing peace in that deeply dangerous hotspot, where three of the world’s most influential religions confront each other face-to-face.
That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode.
Modern history in the Middle East began with the final collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of WWI. They had sided with the Kaiser, and the Ottomans suffered fatally when Germany lost. Post WWI, Jews began to immigrate, in small numbers, from various countries to their ancestral homeland, Palestine, then a British Mandate territory. After almost thirty years in control with some serious waffling about the right of Jews to come to Palestine, the British Mandate in Palestine ended in 1948.
In 1947, The United Nations voted for partitioning, forming two nations in 1948, Palestine and Israel, creating an echo of centuries of conflicts between these two peoples. The echo became gunfire when the surrounding Arab states attacked Israel, with the intention of eliminating the fledgling nation. The attacking Arab nations encouraged the Palestinians not to accept the UN partition, assuring them that they would be safe in their homes once Israel was quickly destroyed.
Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, Israel prevailed, driving out the attacking Arab armies, and increasing its territory substantially. Many Palestinians on lands newly occupied by Israel were left stranded. Some 700,000 fled after the defeat, ending up in refugee camps. None of the defeated Arab countries, despite their promises of victory and the Palestinians being safe in their homes, would take them in. Jordan, then Transjordan, would have been the logical host country.
In 1967 the countries surrounding Israel attacked again, once more with the announced intention to, “Drive Israel into the sea.” Israel prevailed, and again increased its territory. After this defeat, The Arab League issued its infamous Khartoum Resolution, the “Three Nos.” “No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel.” Given the firmness of this resolution, they had no choice but to try once again. The Arabs attacked in 1973, in what came to be called the Yom Kippur War because the Arab League struck on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Israel was almost defeated this time, but they recovered and when an armistice was imposed, the deal forced Israel to recall its advancing armies from deep inside both Egypt and Syria.
The following decades saw many attempts to establish a lasting peace, with “Land for peace.” being the basis of negotiations. This worked in creating a lasting peace between Israel and Egypt, essentially trading Israel-occupied Sinai peninsula to Egypt for the peace agreement. All other attempts to trade land for peace since have failed. In 2005, Israel gave up its control of the Gaza Strip in exchange for the promise of peace, but Hamas, the elected, radically anti-Israel organization running Gaza, has been lobbing missiles and other weapons at Israel off and on ever since.
Along with land for peace, the “Palestinian Question” has remained at the core of any peace talks. The Question being what do you do with the Palestinians and their descendants who became refugees in 1948. International diplomats, including John Kerry, long term Senator, Democrat nominee for President in 2004, and the US Secretary of State under Obama from 2013-2017, have all forcefully maintained that no Arab country would ever–ever–agree to a separate peace with Israel. Land for peace, the Palestinian Question and other issues would have to be settled before the various Arab countries, acting together, would agree to peaceful coexistence with the Jewish State. Then Trump announced that he had brokered an agreement whereby both the UAE and Bahrain have signed formal agreements recognizing Israel, signalling their peaceful intentions. Normalized relations, including business and commercial airline flights, have already begun.
What happened to all of the talk about the Palestinians, including the (re)creation of a Palestinian state, with defined borders–as close to the pre-1967 borders as possible? This was the “Two-State” solution. There was a two-state solution in 1947, but that was erased by the attacks in 1948. I published Episode 151, recommending a one-state solution, 125 episodes ago.
In the 41 years since the peace deal between Egypt and Israel, despite many attempts, and much lecturing and posturing, there has been no further progress towards any Middle East peace. President Trump was the first to understand that the Arab countries are tired of being poor and remaining in a constant state of tension with strong and prosperous Israel. Trump also understands that more formerly opposed nations want to fall in line and recognize and otherwise exist peaceully with Israel. If he is reelected, those nations, including non-Arab Iran (Iran is Persian), are likely to act quickly, resulting in a durable peace in the Middle East. The same Middle East that is thought by many to be at the center of Armageddon. Trump has changed the failed land for peace strategy to a compelling peace for peace strategy.
Now for a word of sympathy and real hope for the Palestinians who have been in refugee camps since 1948, and the Palestinians in Israel occupied territories. The sympathy, the deep and very real sympathy, comes from their decades-long misery. Their leaders, Yassar Arafat, his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas’ Ismail Haniya, live well as they callously use the plight of their citizens to their advantage. Arafat lived lavishly, in part supporting a woman 39 years his junior in their very comfortable home in Paris. Mr. Arafat almost single-handedly cratered the 1993 Oslo Accords, then the best and quite realistic hope to expand the peace signed with Egypt in 1979. He got 95% of what he wanted, indicated he would sign, then backed out. Why give up a rich lifestyle as a “revolutionary leader” to become a modestly paid, elected politician in a peaceful Middle East?
Hamas in Gaza continues to attack Israel whenever it can with whatever it can afford with money sent to them to feed, clothe, house and provide medical attention to over 1.8M Palestinians in Gaza. Many of them live in squalor, with the population crowded into 140 sq.miles. Abbas is a joke, nothing more than a Hamas puppet, continuously posturing and posing as he works to keep the office he has held since 2004.
Here’s a stunner: Arabs living in Israel have more freedoms and are far better off economically than Arabs living in Arab countries. Perhaps this is not so surprising remembering that Israel is the only democracy in the region. And while occupying a small area, with no oil, and having to make fresh water from the sea, Israel has created an economic and military powerhouse. Peace in the region would bring freedom and prosperity to everyone, including the long-suffering Palestinians.
Donald Trump is not a role model, and is often an embarrassment–as he was in the first debate. And with so many of his Tweets. I would not want anyone I like to marry him, or even work for him. But he does get things done. And he might very well do something near miraculous by orchestrating peace in the Middle East. I think he can. And no one else has a chance. Would that be worth a Nobel Peace Prize? It might very well be worth our votes.
Tell me what you believe. I and many others want to know.
As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty.
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.
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