Peace is the Wrong Objective

I would like to sketch out the basis of any agreement in the future that, in my view, could bring a lasting peace in the Middle East.

I would preface any tentative agreement on the Middle East with a real Declaration of Principles (DoP).  Not the kind of Declaration that initiated the Oslo Accords in 1993, with its 17 Articles and its many Annexes where the words "truth", "facts", "justice" and "history" are nowhere to be seen.  No, the new DoP should invoke universally accepted values that extend across cultures, religions and beliefs, and which should be acknowledged before dealing with operating procedures.  These are the four (4) principles that should be established in the DoP:

1. Peace is not the objective to be pursued; peace is only the expected outcome of the pursuit of a more important objective.  In the past 14 years, we have seen a multitude of Middle East "peace plans" and as many failures to implement them.  All these plans set "peace" as the objective, often peace at any cost even if it flew in the face of reality.  No wonder they all failed.  Real peace should be more than a cessation of hostilities.  There was some sort of a phony "peace" in the early 1800s between slaves and their masters in the southern U.S. states.  I think everyone would agree that this is not the kind of "peace" that should be sought because what was missing was the notion of justice. Thomas Aquinas would agree: "Peace is the work of justice indirectly, in so far as justice removes the obstacles to peace."

2. Justice should be upheld as a precondition to peace.  We cannot imagine a long-lasting peace where basic principles of justice are trampled.  We are not talking here about local judicial decisions but universal principles as they have been recognized by international bodies in the relations between nations and peoples.  But as in any court of law, justice cannot be served if the evidence is hidden or mangled, hence the need to identify factual truths.  Justice and truth are indissociable.  Benjamin Disraeli put it in a more dynamic form: "Justice is Truth in Action"

3. Factual truths are the necessary foundation of justice.  This is the anchor point to which the whole process should be tied.  I am not as naïve as to believe that truth always prevails in courts of law.  Too often the rhetoric of skillful lawyers has the upper hand.  This is unfortunate but in the vast majority of cases judicial decisions respect the truth of the evidence submitted to the court.  In international affairs, diplomats rely more on ambiguities (often of their own making) than on the plain truth, which in part explains many of the hot spots in the world today, the Middle East being a prime example.  Here, we must be aware of the current penchant for "truth relativism": you have your truth; I have mine; both are equally true, even if they are incompatible!  This nonsense is particularly dear to those intent on obfuscating reality, and we see its deleterious effect in daily events where appeasement is the norm in the guise of "fairness" and a misplaced "evenhandedness."  The Talmud warned us that "if you add to truth, you subtract from it."  The DoP should emphasize the primacy of factual truths related to recent historical events, especially when they are fully documented as to leave little or no doubt on their authenticity.  "Truth should not be mingled, obscured or discolored by passion and interest" (Jonathan Swift).  There is a healthy "cold impartiality" of factual truths, as long as they are not used selectively.

4. No disposition derived from these principles should be applied selectively.  It is well known that the selective application of the law is plain injustice.  Inasmuch as the principles listed in the DoP are universal in nature, their selective application should be immediately detected and rejected.  How many times have we seen basic truths trampled shamelessly or simply ignored for political expediency!   The fault also lies on those silent voices who did not rise up when they should.  As Winston Churchill pointed out in a speech at the House of Commons in 1916, "The truth is incontrovertible.  Panic may resent it, ignorance may deride it, malice may distort it, but there it is."  Any informed observer would agree that panic, ignorance and malice are all staples of current Middle East "peace processes."

To summarize the DoP:  rather than focusing on peace, I would propose the following sequence: a) identify factual truths;  b) rely on universal principles of justice to be applied non-selectively;  c) expect - and promote - a peaceful outcome to the conflict.  In that order.

Contrast this with the ongoing "two-state solution", a pre-determined outcome which has been used as a founding principle to a "peace" that will never be reached.  Last week, as soon as Tony Blair was selected as the new envoy to the Middle East, he rushed to declare:
"The absolute priority is to try to give effect to what is now the consensus across the international community - that the only way of bringing stability and peace to the Middle East is a two-state solution."  
Failure guaranteed before he even starts.

Some may argue that this DoP is not conducive to peace in the region.  Let them state openly that truth is irrelevant and that it deserves to be trampled for the sake of political expediency.  Surely, they should have the courage to stand behind their indefensible position.
I would like to sketch out the basis of any agreement in the future that, in my view, could bring a lasting peace in the Middle East.

I would preface any tentative agreement on the Middle East with a real Declaration of Principles (DoP).  Not the kind of Declaration that initiated the Oslo Accords in 1993, with its 17 Articles and its many Annexes where the words "truth", "facts", "justice" and "history" are nowhere to be seen.  No, the new DoP should invoke universally accepted values that extend across cultures, religions and beliefs, and which should be acknowledged before dealing with operating procedures.  These are the four (4) principles that should be established in the DoP:

1. Peace is not the objective to be pursued; peace is only the expected outcome of the pursuit of a more important objective.  In the past 14 years, we have seen a multitude of Middle East "peace plans" and as many failures to implement them.  All these plans set "peace" as the objective, often peace at any cost even if it flew in the face of reality.  No wonder they all failed.  Real peace should be more than a cessation of hostilities.  There was some sort of a phony "peace" in the early 1800s between slaves and their masters in the southern U.S. states.  I think everyone would agree that this is not the kind of "peace" that should be sought because what was missing was the notion of justice. Thomas Aquinas would agree: "Peace is the work of justice indirectly, in so far as justice removes the obstacles to peace."

2. Justice should be upheld as a precondition to peace.  We cannot imagine a long-lasting peace where basic principles of justice are trampled.  We are not talking here about local judicial decisions but universal principles as they have been recognized by international bodies in the relations between nations and peoples.  But as in any court of law, justice cannot be served if the evidence is hidden or mangled, hence the need to identify factual truths.  Justice and truth are indissociable.  Benjamin Disraeli put it in a more dynamic form: "Justice is Truth in Action"

3. Factual truths are the necessary foundation of justice.  This is the anchor point to which the whole process should be tied.  I am not as naïve as to believe that truth always prevails in courts of law.  Too often the rhetoric of skillful lawyers has the upper hand.  This is unfortunate but in the vast majority of cases judicial decisions respect the truth of the evidence submitted to the court.  In international affairs, diplomats rely more on ambiguities (often of their own making) than on the plain truth, which in part explains many of the hot spots in the world today, the Middle East being a prime example.  Here, we must be aware of the current penchant for "truth relativism": you have your truth; I have mine; both are equally true, even if they are incompatible!  This nonsense is particularly dear to those intent on obfuscating reality, and we see its deleterious effect in daily events where appeasement is the norm in the guise of "fairness" and a misplaced "evenhandedness."  The Talmud warned us that "if you add to truth, you subtract from it."  The DoP should emphasize the primacy of factual truths related to recent historical events, especially when they are fully documented as to leave little or no doubt on their authenticity.  "Truth should not be mingled, obscured or discolored by passion and interest" (Jonathan Swift).  There is a healthy "cold impartiality" of factual truths, as long as they are not used selectively.

4. No disposition derived from these principles should be applied selectively.  It is well known that the selective application of the law is plain injustice.  Inasmuch as the principles listed in the DoP are universal in nature, their selective application should be immediately detected and rejected.  How many times have we seen basic truths trampled shamelessly or simply ignored for political expediency!   The fault also lies on those silent voices who did not rise up when they should.  As Winston Churchill pointed out in a speech at the House of Commons in 1916, "The truth is incontrovertible.  Panic may resent it, ignorance may deride it, malice may distort it, but there it is."  Any informed observer would agree that panic, ignorance and malice are all staples of current Middle East "peace processes."

To summarize the DoP:  rather than focusing on peace, I would propose the following sequence: a) identify factual truths;  b) rely on universal principles of justice to be applied non-selectively;  c) expect - and promote - a peaceful outcome to the conflict.  In that order.

Contrast this with the ongoing "two-state solution", a pre-determined outcome which has been used as a founding principle to a "peace" that will never be reached.  Last week, as soon as Tony Blair was selected as the new envoy to the Middle East, he rushed to declare:
"The absolute priority is to try to give effect to what is now the consensus across the international community - that the only way of bringing stability and peace to the Middle East is a two-state solution."  
Failure guaranteed before he even starts.

Some may argue that this DoP is not conducive to peace in the region.  Let them state openly that truth is irrelevant and that it deserves to be trampled for the sake of political expediency.  Surely, they should have the courage to stand behind their indefensible position.