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"As is" reference - not a United Nations document

Source: Project Syndicate
25 August 2006

George Papandreou, President of the Socialist International and the Panhellenic Socialist Party (PASOK)
Jonas Gahr Støre, Foreign Minister of Norway, Vice President of the Socialist International Committee for the Middle East
Pierro Fassino, Secretary of the Democrats of the Left, Italy, Vice President of the Socialist International Committee for the Middle East

An Inclusive Security Strategy for the Middle East
Op Ed for Project Syndicate, August 2006

Finally, the United Nations Security Council has unanimously agreed a resolution to end the crisis in Lebanon. Now, the first priority must be a full and immediate ceasefire to end the suffering of unarmed civilians and humanitarian devastation, and make way for peace. The international community must be guided in their actions by a common conviction that violence is never a viable solution.

We, the authors of this article, as well as the organisation we represent, the Socialist International[i], have always defended the right of Israel to exist and protect herself. We wish to see Israeli citizens living in peace and security alongside all their neighbours. We have consistently condemned attacks that target innocent Israelis.

Israel claims its actions in Gaza and Lebanon are designed to safeguard its own security. However, indiscriminate use of force and continued occupation will never give Israel lasting security. The ongoing response to Hezbollah’s initial aggression, as well as Israel’s military response in Gaza, is out of proportion. The devastation in Lebanon will take generations to repair, not only materially but also psychologically. Hezbollah, which claims it is fighting for Lebanese independence and sovereignty, also bears responsibility for unacceptable aggression, placing the lives of innocent Israelis and Lebanese at stake.

We are convinced that the way these policies are carried out will only deepen mistrust, heighten polarisation, and embed hatred amongst neighbours who have to learn to live with each other. A military solution is not viable. War is strengthening the hand of those who see terror as the only effective weapon. It is creating a breeding ground for more violence, insecurity and extremism across the Middle East. Moderates are being marginalised. The long-term effect will be to undermine any efforts for democratization in the region.

Innovative and bold diplomatic initiatives for peace must be launched as an alternative to the logic of military force. This has happened before. The Gulf War led to the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991 and the subsequent Oslo accords between the PLO and Israel in 1993.

This crisis can be a stepping-stone for a long-term political solution involving all parties in the Middle East. Today’s incoherent, piecemeal strategies will not break the cycle of violence. As well as taking collective action to stop the war in Lebanon and Gaza, key players like the UN, US, EU, and Russia must develop a comprehensive security framework for the Middle East. The international community should demand the immediate start of negotiations towards the creation of a Palestinian state and push for direct negotiations on a peaceful settlement between Israel and Syria.

If the international community is to remain credible, a regional agenda, an initiative for collective security – a Madrid II – needs to be taken. This presupposes the engagement of all parties, including Syria and Iran, as well as all political and religious groups. A strategy of isolation has resulted in a dangerous alliance of convenience among extremist forces excluded from political processes and power structures. Unless leading actors have ownership of local solutions, peace will never be sustainable.

If we hope to halt violent extremism, we must engage religious and militant groups in dialogue and responsible engagement, and address the root causes of violence. Both the PLO and Israeli militant groups active at the time of Israel’s creation moved away from violence once the international community engaged them. Influential groups such as Hamas, the legitimate winner of the Palestinian elections, cannot be eliminated by military force, however powerful, nor exorcised by decree.

For their part, radicalised groups must renounce violence and accept international principles and laws. Causing loss of lives does not contribute to the present or future welfare of the people of the region. At present, there is no guarantee that a political truce with Hamas or Hezbollah would result in a renunciation of their absolutist vision. There must be a diplomatic process with rights and obligations. To secure lasting peace, the key is to develop political systems that allow space for moderation and democracy.

We therefore must support political alternatives to violent extremism. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ initiative to unite the Palestinian leadership may lead to greater moderation on the part of Hamas and create real prospects for the negotiation of a two-state solution. If this effort is successful, the international community must cooperate fully and swiftly with the Palestinian Authority.

Our appeal is for preventive diplomacy rather than pre-emptive strikes. This policy of inclusion rather than exclusion is based on political pragmatism and the belief this carnage can and must stop. To stop innocent people paying with their lives, the world’s leaders must act fast and be bold. The Socialist International is committed to work hard with its partners in the region to make peace in the Middle East a reality.

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