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Selling a Vision of Hope: A Refreshing Alternative to Armageddon

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file under: Zionismpeace in the Middle EastIsrael 7 Jul 2010 10:59 PM
What Zionism Means To Me Posted by Nissim Dahan
In some circles, "Zionism" has become a dirty word, like some of the other "isms" which have been discarded on the ash heap of bad ideas. In other circles, however, Zionism is held in high esteem, as the redemption of the Jewish people, and as the fulfillment of the promise made by no other than God himself. So which is it?

 

What is Zionism? There are many definitions depending on your point of view. I prefer to think of Zionism as the political movement which made real the aspirations of the Jewish people to a homeland of their own in the land of their ancestors, the land of Israel. When Jews are asked to justify why they are entitled to establish a nation in the land of Israel, they often use several types of justifications, including: Biblical, historical, and ethical.

 

If you accept the Old Testament of the Bible as sacred, and many Christians and Muslims do, then you could say that about 3200 years ago Moses led the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, to freedom in the Promised Land, the land of Israel. And who made that promise? None other than God himself. Using the Biblical approach, Jews justify Zionism as the modern day fulfillment of God's promise to allow them to settle in the land of Israel.

 

If you prefer the historical approach, you could argue that there has been a significant Jewish presence in the land of Israel for the past 3000 years. In fact, Jews believe that King David build the city of Jerusalem approximately 3000 years ago, and the city of Jerusalem appears some 600 times in the Old Testament. It is true that in the year 70 C.E. the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, and most of the Jews were exiled. However, some Jews continued to live there, generation after generation, which lends historical credence to the legitimacy of a Jewish state in the land of Israel.

 

The ethical justification for Zionism has to do with how the Jews were treated during their exile from the land of Israel. Anyone who is the least bit aware of Jewish history knows that for the past 2000 years, the Jews in the Diaspora, or exile, were subjected to various forms of mistreatment and persecution: forced conversions, inquisitions, pogroms, inability to own land, discrimination, etc. Such persecution culminated in the Holocaust in which 6,000,000 Jews, or about one third of all Jews, were slaughtered.

 

In the late 1800's, people like Theodore Herzl, who is the father of the political Zionist movement, decided that without a homeland of their own, Jews were dead men walking. The Holocaust would end up confirming his worst fears. He and others like him organized a political movement to buy up land, in what was then called Palestine, and to work toward the established of a homeland for the Jews. The immigration by Jews to Palestine began in earnest in the late 1800's and continues to this day.

 

What hurt the image of Zionism in the eyes of some is that the establishment of the State of Israel caused approximately 700,000 Palestinians to leave their homes as refugees. Most of them left voluntarily, thinking that Israel would soon be destroyed by the seven Arab armies which invaded Israel just as she came into being. Some Palestinians, however, stayed in Israel, and today 20% of Israeli citizens are Arabs. In a recent poll, some 77% of Israeli Arabs say that they prefer to remain citizens of the State of Israel. It should also be remembered that while 700,000 Palestinians became refugees after the establishment of Israel, 850,000 Jews were also expelled from Arab countries where they had lived for centuries.

 

Despite all the justifications for Zionism, however, there is a lot of worldwide pressure being exerted on Jews in general, and on Israel in particular, to bring some semblance of justice to Palestinians. In the wake of such criticism, some people consider themselves to be "anti-Zionist." Being anti-Zionist could mean different things to different people. Some consider Israel to be illegitimate for the start, and call for the eventual dismantlement of the Jewish state. One version of this approach is to call for a "bi-national" state, which would consist of all the Jews and Palestinian Arabs in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and would therefore destroy the Jewish nation of Israel by creating a state in which the Arabs are a majority. Yet others consider themselves "anti-Zionist" because they disapprove of some of the actions taken by the Israeli government in protecting the State of Israel. The occupation of the West Bank, for example, with its checkpoints and security barriers, evoke a deep seated resentment in the hearts of a lot of people.

 

To counter the rising tide of criticism of the policies of the Jewish state, Zionist organizations such as AIPAC, or the Zionist Organization of America and the like, work hard to defend Israel in the public eye, and to protect the special relationship that exists between Israel and the U.S. The U.S. is one of the few allies that has consistently defended Israel, from the time that President Truman recognized the Jewish state just ten minutes after she was declared, until today.

 

So when we talk about Zionism, a whole range of emotions come to the fore, including those rooted in religion, in history, and in our notion of what is fair and just. Different people see things differently, and that is only normal. In the final analysis, I believe that there is plenty of justification for the establishment of Israel as a home for the Jews. However, there is also some measure of validity in criticizing Israel for at least some of the injustices that Palestinian Arab refugees have had to endure.

 

The answer in my view is not to destroy Israel. Destroying Israel would bring to an abrupt end the dream of Palestinians to live in peace, prosperity, and freedom. The answer is to use Israel's many talents to help bring justice to Palestinians; to create two states, living side by side, in peace, prosperity, and freedom. It could well be argued that there is no other country on earth that is better able, or willing, to bring a good measure of justice to Palestinians, and to have that become the impetus of a global effort to revitalize the Middle East. Of course, Palestinians would have to become open to that. People on both sides would have to let go of some of the hate, in favor of hope. But if a peace agreement is reached, and if justice is done, then the true promise of the Zionist enterprise will have been realized, and only then could Israel fulfill her Biblical destiny to become a "...light unto the nations..." At such time, and with God's help, Israel will no longer be considered the problem in the Middle East, but the solution for the Middle East.

 

 

file under: the Middle EastIsrae the West 20 Jun 2010 12:28 PM
Is Israel The Canary In The Coal Mine? Posted by Nissim Dahan

This article, written by Jose Maria Asnar, the former prime minister of Spain, presents a view of Israel that is quite at odds with the view of many others around the world. Do you think he has a point, or is he way off base? Is it possible that the fate of Europe, and even the fate of the Middle East for that matter, is linked so directly to the fate of Israel? What do you think?

 

José María Aznar

 

Support Israel: if it goes down, we all go down

 

Last updated June 17 2010 12:01AM

 

Anger over Gaza is a distraction. We cannot forget that Israel is the West's best ally in a turbulent region

 

For far too long now it has been unfashionable in Europe to speak up for Israel. In the wake of the recent incident on board a ship full of anti-Israeli activists in the Mediterranean, it is hard to think of a more unpopular cause to champion.

 

In an ideal world, the assault by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara would not have ended up with nine dead and a score wounded. In an ideal world, the soldiers would have been peacefully welcomed on to the ship. In an ideal world, no state, let alone a recent ally of Israel such as Turkey, would have sponsored and organised a flotilla whose sole purpose was to create an impossible situation for Israel: making it choose between giving up its security policy and the naval blockade, or risking the wrath of the world.

 

In our dealings with Israel, we must blow away the red mists of anger that too often cloud our judgment. A reasonable and balanced approach should encapsulate the following realities: first, the state of Israel was created by a decision of the UN. Its legitimacy, therefore, should not be in question. Israel is a nation with deeply rooted democratic institutions. It is a dynamic and open society that has repeatedly excelled in culture, science and technology.

 

Second, owing to its roots, history, and values, Israel is a fully fledged Western nation. Indeed, it is a normal Western nation, but one confronted by abnormal circumstances.

 

Uniquely in the West, it is the only democracy whose very existence has been questioned since its inception. In the first instance, it was attacked by its neighbours using the conventional weapons of war. Then it faced terrorism culminating in wave after wave of suicide attacks. Now, at the behest of radical Islamists and their sympathisers, it faces a campaign of delegitimisation through international law and diplomacy.

 

Sixty-two years after its creation, Israel is still fighting for its very survival. Punished with missiles raining from north and south, threatened with destruction by an Iran aiming to acquire nuclear weapons and pressed upon by friend and foe, Israel, it seems, is never to have a moment's peace.

 

For years, the focus of Western attention has understandably been on the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. But if Israel is in danger today and the whole region is slipping towards a worryingly problematic future, it is not due to the lack of understanding between the parties on how to solve this conflict. The parameters of any prospective peace agreement are clear, however difficult it may seem for the two sides to make the final push for a settlement.

 

The real threats to regional stability, however, are to be found in the rise of a radical Islamism which sees Israel's destruction as the fulfilment of its religious destiny and, simultaneously in the case of Iran, as an expression of its ambitions for regional hegemony. Both phenomena are threats that affect not only Israel, but also the wider West and the world at large.

 

The core of the problem lies in the ambiguous and often erroneous manner in which too many Western countries are now reacting to this situation. It is easy to blame Israel for all the evils in the Middle East. Some even act and talk as if a new understanding with the Muslim world could be achieved if only we were prepared to sacrifice the Jewish state on the altar. This would be folly.

 

Israel is our first line of defence in a turbulent region that is constantly at risk of descending into chaos; a region vital to our energy security owing to our overdependence on Middle Eastern oil; a region that forms the front line in the fight against extremism. If Israel goes down, we all go down. To defend Israel's right to exist in peace, within secure borders, requires a degree of moral and strategic clarity that too often seems to have disappeared in Europe. The United States shows worrying signs of heading in the same direction.

 

The West is going through a period of confusion over the shape of the world's future. To a great extent, this confusion is caused by a kind of masochistic self-doubt over our own identity; by the rule of political correctness; by a multiculturalism that forces us to our knees before others; and by a secularism which, irony of ironies, blinds us even when we are confronted by jihadis promoting the most fanatical incarnation of their faith. To abandon Israel to its fate, at this moment of all moments, would merely serve to illustrate how far we have sunk and how inexorable our decline now appears.

 

This cannot be allowed to happen. Motivated by the need to rebuild our own Western values, expressing deep concern about the wave of aggression against Israel, and mindful that Israel's strength is our strength and Israel's weakness is our weakness, I have decided to promote a new Friends of Israel initiative with the help of some prominent people, including David Trimble, Andrew Roberts, John Bolton, Alejandro Toledo (the former President of Peru), Marcello Pera (philosopher and former President of the Italian Senate), Fiamma Nirenstein (the Italian author and politician), the financier Robert Agostinelli and the Catholic intellectual George Weigel.

 

It is not our intention to defend any specific policy or any particular Israeli government. The sponsors of this initiative are certain to disagree at times with decisions taken by Jerusalem. We are democrats, and we believe in diversity.

 

What binds us, however, is our unyielding support for Israel's right to exist and to defend itself. For Western countries to side with those who question Israel's legitimacy, for them to play games in international bodies with Israel's vital security issues, for them to appease those who oppose Western values rather than robustly to stand up in defence of those values, is not only a grave moral mistake, but a strategic error of the first magnitude.

 

Israel is a fundamental part of the West. The West is what it is thanks to its Judeo-Christian roots. If the Jewish element of those roots is upturned and Israel is lost, then we are lost too. Whether we like it or not, our fate is inextricably intertwined.

 

José María Aznar was Prime Minister of Spain, 1996-2004

 

 

file under: PalestineMiddle East PeaceIsrael 4 Jun 2010 10:08 PM
What Do The Flotilla Activists Want? Posted by Nissim Dahan
I know what I want, but I'm not quite sure what the flotilla activists want, although I do have my suspicions.

 

I want a peace deal to be cut between Israel and Palestine, along the lines of the proposal made by President Clinton and Ehud Barak in the year 2000. I want to turbo-charge and sweeten that deal by having Israel agree to help consolidate Palestinian security, because they need that, and to help grow the Palestinian economy with good paying jobs, including green jobs. I want to end the occupation. I want to see two states living side by side in peace, and partnering together for the sake of a brighter future. And finally, I want this peace between Israel and Palestine, this model, this seed, to be the impetus that gives birth to a new and revitalized Middle East, a Middle East in which everyone has a place at the table, a stake in his or her future, and where every child bears witness to the realization of a Vision of Hope, a vision of Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom.

 

That's what I want. Is that what the flotilla activists want? With all due respect to the dead, I tend to doubt it.

 

Let's start with the assumption that the activists are peace loving people who simply want to deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. OK. But why not allow the ship to be inspected? The other ships were inspected and the humanitarian goods were sent directly to Gaza. Such is the case with the many ships and trucks that deliver aid to Gaza on a daily basis. Why did the activists on the Mavi Marmara not cooperate in this regard? Could it be that they were trying to deliver more than humanitarian supplies?

 

There are other troubling questions which come to mind. The activists, according to extensive video footage, seemed highly prepared for a violent confrontation. They wielded weapons such as knives, handguns, steel rods, and chains. And when the Israeli soldiers first came on board, albeit by helicopter, they were violently attacked by an angry mob, and in fact, one of them was thrown overboard. This happened before the soldiers started shooting, when they were armed with paint-ball guns. Do peace activists normally resort to violence so easily? Is that what peace is all about?

 

Other questions come to mind. Why was a prayer meeting held on the ship with the call for the downfall of the "Zionist Entity" and for Shuhad (suicide in the name of Allah)? Why did the Arab Media report that the flotilla activists were writing wills, preparing for martyrdom, and determined to reach Gaza or die? Why was Senanur Bengi, one of the activists, quoted as saying, "I love my father very much.  I miss him a lot. He asked me if I want something. I replied him that I hope he would become a martyr?"

 

Does this incident strike you as an example of peace loving activists who want to help by delivering humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza? What's all this martyrdom talk all about? Since when has martyrdom become a pre-requisite for humanitarian aid?

 

Is Israel without blame in all this? No. The violent confrontation could probably have been avoided with better planning on Israel's part. And some would criticize Israel for imposing the blockade in the first place. But a good case could be made that Israel's actions do comply with international law. Israel and Gaza have been, and are still, at war. Thousands of missiles and mortars were launched from Gaza into Israel's cities, putting some 250,000 Israelis in harm's way. Hamas has stated publicly, over and over again, its determination to liquidate the Jewish State. Hamas gets its funding and weapons from Iran, who has also expressed its desire to "wipe Israel off the map." Is it that unreasonable to inspect incoming ships for weapons, considering that weapons are being smuggled into Gaza on a daily basis? Would you expect any less of your government under similar circumstances?

 

Could Israel be doing more to advance the cause of peace? Yes. A lot more. But advancing the cause of peace should not, and cannot, come at the expense of security, especially when a nation is facing existential threats on a daily basis.

 

My hunch, although I could be wrong, is that the flotilla activists, or at least some of them, were determined to break the blockade, and in so doing, provoke a violent confrontation with Israel. In short, they were looking for a fight. At least some of the people, I hate to say it; do not want an end to the occupation. They do not want a peace treaty. They do not want two states living side by side in partnership and peace. They want; I'll call it as I see it, nothing less than to dismantle the Jewish State.

 

And what better way to begin the process of dismantling the Jewish State, than by first undertaking to delegitimize Israel in the eyes of the world? In this public relations war, a war which Israel has failed to win, what better way to delegitimize Israel than to provoke her into attacking a flotilla of humanitarian aid? It's perfect. Let Israel fall on her own sword, and she did. And such an effort at delgitimization is part and parcel of an international effort to demonize Israel, and to use that platform to call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

 

It is the ultimate irony, however, that Israel is not the problem in the Middle East. She is the solution. Eran Shayshon, who works for a think tank in Israel, wants to rebrand Israel as the fount of "creative energy." He emphasizes her high tech and science, burgeoning economy, entrepreneurial zeal, energetic lifestyle, and vibrant diversity of opinion and culture. I would add that Israel is a vibrant democracy that for the most part, protects the rights of minorities including her 20% Arab minority. As far as I'm concerned, it would not be an exaggeration to say that if you destroy Israel, you destroy the hope for the Middle East. Israel offers a lot of what the Middle East needs. Israel is one of the few examples in the Middle East that inspires a sense of hope. And for some, that's exactly the problem. Couldn't the Middle East benefit from some of what Israel has to offer? And couldn't Israel benefit from partnering with the Arab world? What keeps us from making that happen except an allegiance to wrong-headed thinking?

 

I may seem overly cynical to some. I'm not. Hope and peace resonate loudly in the very being of my soul. But I would like to believe that I see things as they are, at least some of the time. I understand that passions run high on both sides of this issue. In the final analysis, however, I cannot help but conclude that the flotilla was not simply an honest effort at humanitarian aid. It was designed and executed as a provocation, with violence and martyrdom as the intended outcome.

 

Such efforts may make some feel good about themselves, but they will not bring peace. For peace to come we will have to find the courage and the wisdom to let go of some of our closely held beliefs, in favor of ideas we can believe in even more, like Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom

 

 

file under: PalestineMiddle East PeaceIsrael 11 May 2010 5:11 PM
Peace In The Middle East: A Mosaic Of Mutual Self-Interest Posted by Nissim Dahan
The Middle East is home to some of the finest mosaics the world has ever known. Most of them date back to antiquity and bear stark witness to the passage of time. But what about now? Do you think it would be possible to create yet a new mosaic in our time, a work of art even more glorious than those which came before? Is it possible to arrange the broken pieces of the Middle East, in just the right way, so as to create a mosaic of mutual self-interest, a mosaic which inspires a sense of hope, and which brings into being the realization of a vision of peace, prosperity, and freedom?

 

Where do we start? We could start with the West Bank of Palestine, and try to convince the powers that be, the political and business elite, as well as men and women on the ground, that a Hamas takeover in the West Bank would bring to an abrupt end their dream for a new, vibrant, and prosperous Palestine. What happened in Gaza is a case in point. And we would suggest, as diplomatically as we can, that it is perhaps Israel, as ironic as it may seem, which is best positioned to guarantee security, to stave off the threat posed by Hamas, and to help grow the economy even more. Could the offer of security, along with economic growth, within the parameters of the 2000 Camp David talks, be the basis of a peace deal between Israel and Palestine? And could Palestine be the first piece that gives birth to our mosaic?

 

And then we could approach Israel and suggest, ever so politely, that as strong as she is, she still needs help to meet the existential threat posed by a nuclear Iran. Even unilateral action by Israel, against the nuclear facilities in Iran, would need a wider base of support. If oil prices rise exponentially as a result of such an attack, or if terror abounds, Israel will surely need some backing from the U.S., the West, and large segments of the Arab world. Could Israel be persuaded to undertake a credible peace process in the West Bank of Palestine, as a way of gaining the credibility and support needed in her struggle with Iran? And could Israel be the second piece of our mosaic?

 

We could then move onward to Saudi Arabia, and suggest, ever so respectfully, that a nuclear Iran poses an existential threat to the Saudi leadership, especially as they contend with a restless Shiite minority, and a frustrated young generation without work. Could a credible peace process in the West Bank of Palestine be the impetus the Saudis need to make peace with Israel on the basis of the 2001 Arab Peace Plan? And could an agreement of this sort lead to a regional military/economic alliance, including Israel and the Arab states, by which these nations meet the security challenge posed by extremists in Iran, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc., and by which they undertake together to create good paying jobs; jobs which grow their respective economies, jobs which protect the environment, and jobs which help to weaken the hold of extremist thinking? Could Saudi capital and Israeli ingenuity be partnered together to revitalize the Middle East with good paying green jobs? Could oil profits be used to generate green profits? And could Saudi be the third piece of our mosaic?

 

And then we could pay a visit to Hamas, preferably in a crowded and public setting, and suggest, ever so cautiously, that the peace, prosperity, and freedom in the West Bank, may cause the people in Gaza to wonder, "Hey, where is our share?" Could Hamas be persuaded that a restless and weary citizenry could mean an existential threat to their rule? And could Hamas be persuaded to join in on job creation by allowing an industrial zone to be built between Israel and Gaza which would create some 200,000 jobs, and which could go a long way to solving the economic and environmental problems which have yet to be addressed, such as water shortages and the like? Could Hamas thereby legitimate its hold on power and compete legitimately with Fattah, on the basis of jobs, not terror. And could Hamas be the fourth piece of our mosaic?

 

It could be argued that we would be remiss in our duties if we don't at least try to approach Iran. We could point out that in light of the anger of the people, and the economic downturn, and in light of a new economic/military cooperation between some of the Arab states and Israel, it may behoove the leaders in Iran to become part of the solution, instead of part of the problem, and to reorient their agenda in favor of job creation and environmental protection. In this way, Iran could still have its impact in the region, but in a way that empowers others to work with her, instead of plotting against her. And could Iran, thereby, become a fifth piece of our mosaic?

 

With the proper foundation, our mosaic would continue to grow in size and stature, as other Arab states join in, and become equal partners in this monumental effort to keep the peace, to grow the economies, and to unleash the potential of the people by blessing them with the gift of freedom. As time passes, the divergent and broken pieces of the Middle East will be held together not by love for one another, although that may come in due time, and not by a compulsion to do the right thing, although this too may come one day. The pieces of our mosaic will be held together by the cement of mutual self-interest. And there is no greater form of self-interest than the need to survive in the face of some very common threats, threats which threaten us all, such as extremist thinking, the lack of jobs, and a short supply of cool, clean, drinking water.

 

file under: PalestineMiddle East PeaceIsrael 10 Mar 2010 1:57 PM
What Will It Take To Cut A Deal? Posted by Nissim Dahan
President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu may soon embark on yet another round of peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis. Each leader, in his own way, faces daunting challenges, in part because he must answer to ideological constituencies which are vehemently opposed to the concessions which are part and parcel of the peace process. Netanyahu, for example, will face an uphill fight convincing his right-wing coalition to compromise on Jerusalem. And in a similar vein, Abbas could be relegated "traitor status" for compromising on such contentious issues as the "right of return." And yet, a successful outcome of these talks could be the spark that lights the fire of change in the region, and for that matter, in the world as a whole.

 

As difficult as it will be to contain dissent from within, so much more so will it be difficult to contain dissent from without. Due to a number of factors, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict has been accorded a symbolic significance way beyond the four corners of the conflict itself. Chances are good that if the conflict would have been limited to a territorial dispute between two peoples, an equitable agreement could have been reached long ago. But because so many other players forced themselves into the picture, players who were not and are not directly involved, the prospects for peace have remained dim at best. And thus, parties outside the conflict itself, including extremist elements, have helped to keep the conflict alive, for their own purposes, and for a whole host of reasons, including the desire to divert attention from internal problems of governance, and as a way of consolidating political support for governments and groups which may otherwise have failed to garner such support.

 

The question arises, therefore: Given this debilitating cocktail of internal opposition and external pressure, what will Abbas and Netanyahu need to do to maneuver through this politically charged ideological minefield, in an effort to broker a peace deal? The answer may be that the negotiations themselves will have to be strategically positioned within the context of a higher and brighter vision for the future, within a Vision of Hope, so as to rise above the political fray, and beyond the restraints that have been imposed by domestic and foreign players. In other words, because the Israeli/Palestinian conflict has been manipulated to embody the ideological imperatives of so many diverse constituencies, Abbas and Netanyahu, if they are to succeed on peace, will have no choice but to sell a new vision to the man on the street, so as to elevate the negotiations themselves to a higher level, a level that rises above the crippling narrow agendas of the past.

 

What sort of vision would be required to give the peace talks a chance? Such a vision, a Vision of Hope, would have to be multi-faceted so as to address all the various impediments to peace. A Vision of Hope would include five parts, like the five fingers of your hand:

 

Ideology: If there are ideological forces at work which seek to impede the peace process, Abbas and Netanyahu should formulate and use a new ideology, a new framework for rational discourse, An Ideology of Common Sense, to speak to one another, and to the world for that matter, with common sense and with a sense of personal dignity. Words matter, and the right kind of words, used in just the right kind of way, can inspire a sense of hope, which will help raise the level of discourse to a much higher level. Instead of believing in what we want to believe, it may well be time to start believing in what makes sense. Instead of jumping to false belief and rationalizing why we're right, why not use rationality in the fist place to arrive at what is worth believing in? In a more perfect world, common sense, the collective wisdom born of shared experience, will inspire our thinking and inform our speech. In our fractured world, common sense is the common denominator.

 

Investment: If extremist groups on both sides of the political fence use charitable handouts to consolidate political support, Abbas and Netanyahu should discuss, as part of the negotiations, using international investment dollars to create jobs: jobs which grow their economies, jobs which protect the environment, and jobs which help to weaken the hold of extremist thinking. The idea here is to win hearts and minds by giving everyone a place at the table, a stake in his or her future, in a sustainable world.

 

Hope: If the extremists in the region have worked to engender and sustain a sense of dread about the future, then Abbas and Netanyahu would do well to use An Ideology of Common Sense along with some well placed Investment Dollars to sell their people on a Vision of Hope, a vision of Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom. Luckily, the formula for world peace is not all that complicated: Ideology plus Investment equals Hope, and with hope all things are possible, even the impossible dream of peace.

 

Public Diplomacy: If the extremists continue to use their propaganda machine to disseminate hate, then Abbas and Netanyahu should not only sell a Vision of Hope, but should sustain a sense of hope by launching a series of public diplomacy programs which are specifically designed to prop the vision up, and to carry it forward, such as: a program to Empower Women, a Student Exchange, a Cultural Exchange, an expanded version of the Peace Corps, a Media Campaign, and a set of International Conferences. Take, for example, the program to Empower Women by financing female entrepreneurs and promoting women's rights. Empower Palestinian and Israeli women in ways that they deem appropriate, and you will have changed the dynamics of the conflict. Who are women? They are the givers of life and the caretakers of life and as such are uniquely qualified to reconstitute their societies consistent with a Vision of Hope.

 

The Willingness to Fight: If the extremists, on both sides of the fence, use terror to impede peace, then Abbas and Netanyahu would do well to collaborate militarily, perhaps as part of a regional military and economic alliance, to stave off the threats from extremist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and even groups in Israel which lean toward violence. If we already have to fight against the forces of extremism, and we do, then we will fight, and fight hard, but we will also position the fight within a Vision of Hope. We will raise the fight on the ground to a higher moral plain by giving the fight a moral clarity of purpose. People will fight harder if they know what they're fighting for. We are not fighting a "war against terror." We are fighting a war to realize a Vision of Hope. There's a big difference.

 

If the upcoming negotiations are to succeed, there is no choice but to win the war for hearts and minds. Abbas and Netanyahu can maximize the chances for success on the peace front by daring to embody a Vision of Hope, and selling the vision to the man on the street. In fact, given the heavy weight from within and without, that attaches itself to the peace process, and the ideological extremism that has prevented any success in this regard, these two leaders will have to develop strategies to beat the odds, by beating the extremists at their own game. If they play their cards right, they can co-opt the extremists' strategy and thereby marginalize them in the eyes of their own people. So, for example, if the extremists are ideological about Jihad, or a Greater Israel, or what have you, we will be ideological about Common Sense. If they invest in charity, we will invest in jobs. If they sell a vision of hope for martyrdom, or paradise, or additional settlements, we will sell a Vision of Hope for Peace, Prosperity, and Freedom. At every turn we will cut them off at the pass and beat them at their own game. In the final analysis, the ideological extremists on both sides will not be able to capture the public's imagination, once people begin to imagine a better life for themselves. Some will say that all this may be a bit naïve or over the top. But as we are fond of saying: This may well be the time, before time runs out, to dream the impossible and to make the impossible come true.