The fighting in Gaza is a result of past failures


The Gaza Strip is about twice the size of the Washington, DC. Its approximately two million inhabitant are under the control of Hamas, a fearsome, fanatical group aided and supplied by Iran. The current round of fighting that is killing Gaza Dpeople and destroying the infrastructure of the Gaza Strip is the worst in 10 years. More than 1,800 Gazans, including a large number of women and children, have been killed. Thus far in the ghastly conflict, Israeli losses amount to over 60. If an agreement to end the fighting is going to be reached, Hamas has to give up its missiles and recognize Israel’s right exist. Israel will have to halt the lengthy blockade that has stifled Gaza’s economy. Until such an agreement is reached, the cease fire arrangements will continue to periodically break down.

The sorry situation in Gaza is a result of the many years of failure to resolve the larger Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Just 21 years ago, most observers thought a lasting peace was a real possibility. During the signing of the Middle East peace Rabin&Arafatinitiative on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993, Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat had shaken hands. The Clinton administration firmly believed the emerging peace process could be enhanced by promoting economic development in the West Bank and Gaza, regions with high population growth, chronic unemployment, the scarcity of water and poor economic management. The promotion of investment would aid in demonstrating the benefits of peace. The resulting improvement in living standards would undermine the position of the rejectionists.

The West Bank and Gaza needed an economic boost. Although the Palestinian people were deemed to be hard-working with great entrepreneurial skills, political factors were deterring development. A spurt in economic growth could help reduce cultural barriers and take the edge off longstanding animosities. The development of a healthy and viable system of free enterprise in the occupied territories would also give support to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

To get things moving, Builders for Peace, a non-profit organization, was funded with a $350,000 federal grant. Congressman Mel Levine and James Zogby were the organization’s co-chairs. Its goal was to promote private sector business development in the West Bank and Gaza by introducing American firms to local Palestinian firms interested in obtaining technical assistance and becoming involved in new ventures. The program would support the administration’s peace efforts by helping to create a strong private sector.

The program had the support of the Jewish-American and Arab-American business communities. Involvement was viewed as a vote for peace since the concept had been endorsed by PLO Chairman Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Rabin, Israeli Trade Minister Harish and Israeli Foreign Minister Peres. Builders for Peace sent an investor’s mission to the region and sponsored a series of conferences and meetings across the United States. It soon had a number of potential projects lined up including: furniture manufacturing, a bottled water facility, concrete production, a motel/business center, condominiums, a hotel, an olive oil storage and packaging facility and a crude oil processing plant.

The program soon ran into a host of problems. Along with the slow movement in the political side of the peace process, the Palestinian delay in organizing a civil and commercial code, coupled with their tendency to centralize regulations, created uncertainty that unnerved businesspeople. The Israeli civil administration did little to change the difficult process of obtaining the licenses needed to open or expand businesses. Israeli security organizations refused to speed up the shipment of goods across Palestinian borders.

The Builders for Peace program quietly sputtered out in late 1997, not a single project of the several dozen under consideration actually produced any goods. Hamas RocketThe program became a casualty of the derailed peacemaking effort as business optimism foundered on the rock of Middle Eastern political reality. The attempt to promote American-Israeli-Palestinian business ventures went down to defeat as the effort to build up the Palestinian economy collapsed. The failure was due to political impediments, not a lack of interest. There appeared to be no shortage of investors willing to get involved.

Iran has been strangely silent regarding the fighting in Gaza. It may be a signal that Iran is willing to reconsider its support for Hamas as part of deal to work out a solution to the sanctions and nuclear issues. As the negotiators attempt to end the current round of fighting in Gaza they ought to remember that small steps can and do make a long-term difference. What is now the European Union began with French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman’s modest 1950 proposal to establish an iron and steel community among recently warring neighboring countries.



  1. To Bob Lord — Please pass it on.

    Searching to find reason and justification for the ongoing Israeli/Palestinian conflict, I came across an article by a Robert Locke – no friend of liberals, but he hit the nail on the head. Here are excerpts from his article I’m sure you’ll find interesting:
    Hobbes and the Middle East By: Robert Locke

    “DISCUSSIONS of the Middle East situation inevitably seem to at least allude to the idea that because Israel is founded upon conquest, its territorial integrity and legitimacy as a nation are somehow impugnable. So let’s get three things perfectly clear:

    1. Israel was founded upon conquest, a bald fact that no verbal manipulation of history can disguise. Let’s just admit it.
    2. So was the United States.
    3. So were most nations.

    It is time, that is, to squarely confront the ancient and time-honored political doctrine of the RIGHT OF CONQUEST.”

    Locke then goes on:
    “Israelis hold their land in title derived from the British abandonment [of land] to them in 1948, at which point they conquered it against the Arab attempt to do the same. The British title derives from the surrender of these lands by Ottoman Turkey.

    The Ottoman title derives from the fact that the Ottomans were the native inhabitants of the territory, but of course it doesn’t, because they weren’t.
    They were invading Turks, no more native to the area than the British. They, in fact, conquered it from the Mamluks in 1517. Who conquered it from the Crusaders in 1291. Who conquered it from the Fatimid’s in 1099. Who conquered it from the Seljuk’s in 1098. Who conquered it from the Abbasids. Who conquered it from the Byzantines. Who inherited it from the Romans upon division of the Empire in 395, the Romans had conquered it from the last Jewish kingdom in 63 BC. The Jews had originally conquered it from the Canaanites. Before that, it had also been under the ownership of the Egyptians who conquered it around 1450 BC and then the Assyrians followed by Persians and Greeks.

    All came and went, to varying degrees.

    For Arabs or Muslims to complain about being dispossessed is inconsistent to say the least. The Arabs should start by giving up Egypt and the Muslims by giving up Constantinople. Then we can start talking about really big things like getting the influence of Muslim conquerors out of India.

    For that matter, the Japanese should give Hokkaido back to the Ainu and the Russians, Siberia back to the Chukchi. All persons of Spanish decent must leave Latin America. For that matter, the Anglo-Saxons should give Britain back to the Britons and Celts.

    I think you get the point I’m trying to make about who has title to this land as the original owner.
    So the present-day Israeli occupation of Palestine is legitimate by RIGHT OF CONQUEST.

    The root problem with the so-called peace process is that peace is not a process. Peace is a state of international relations free of armed conflict. So long as the Palestinians want something the Israelis cannot accept, namely the eventual handing over of their country to them, there is no conceivable arrangement.
    Right of conquest is, de facto, a settled and accepted part of international law and political practice.

    If you want to tell me right-of-conquest is an illegitimate principle of international order, you are going against our own government and the rest of the civilized world.

    The present half-measure of military occupation plus settlement without annexation simply gives the impression to the world that Israel concedes some guilt about holding the territories. Annexation may be considered an extreme solution by some, but there is the precedent of the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights in 1981, after which the sky did not fall. It is simply an honest and explicit way of carrying forward the same historical process that has shaped the Middle East from time immemorial.

    The peace process is just an excuse to stage a pantomime of pretending to have a solution in the wings in the vain hope that somehow one will appear by the time the bill comes due.

    But all these peaceful gestures do not have the power to alter the fundamental facts. Absent capitulation of one side or the other, there is not going to be a peace.”

  2. May I add my two cents please.

    Every economic opportunity was offered to Gaza, evidenced by Clinton’s “signing of the Middle East peace initiative on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993, Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat had shaken hands.”
    But what’s wrong with that picture?

    1. An Islamic shaking hands with an infidel!
    2. The preposterous notion that an infidel can propose a Palestinian solution!
    3. God forbid, it might prove to be successful! What would that say about Islamic leadership?

    But here is what Clinton is reported to have said later in an interview:

    “In an interview on Indian television, Clinton—who told us in his memoir that Palestinian self-destructiveness (in the form of Yasir Arafat’s various delusions and prevarications) undid his effort to bring about a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict—blames the Muslim Brotherhood’s Gaza affiliate, Hamas, for adopting a policy of deliberate self-murder in order to present Israel with a set of impossible dilemmas. “Hamas was perfectly well aware of what would happen if they started raining rockets in Israel,” Clinton said. “They fired a thousand of them. And they have a strategy designed to force Israel to kill their own civilians so that the rest of the world will condemn them.”

    What is not said, as one is caught up in convoluted dialogue, is that there will never be a solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as long as Islam is on one side of the bargaining table – Islam vows the total destruction of Israel, cannot agree to any other solution, or appear to, OR agree to participate in a solution to benefit Palestinians that credit the infidels.

    It’s an age old tactic of despots
    Islam must create threatening paper tigers
    to maintain its cohesive following

    It’s a tactic used by Hitler using the Jews as whipping boys,

    The Communist Russians against the evils of the US

    Islam against the infidels

    To distract their peoples from the dysfunctions of their own Government/
    Religious States

    Cultures rooted in Islam theology/States are intractably disconnected from European Western cultures which clash around ONE CENTRAL ISSUE – religious dominance of the world!

    That’s not going to happen, and what does it tell you about the mentality of those who espouse it? Is it any different than Hamas launching rockets at Israel, who in return can wipe them off the face of the earth? Or Isis, shaking their fist at the US vowing US is Next?

    The message is clear – we are at war, and the civilized world cannot allow another rampage of mad dogs ravaging humanity under the banner of a super religion.

    Islamist claim they are not understood, and one may ask how well do they understand others, or in fact themselves? But they are understood quite well, but do not understand how disconnected they are from the FREE sophisticated industrial world.

    A case in point : a reported visit By Franklin Roosevelt to Saudi Arabia during the early stages of WWII to secure US oil supply, Roosevelt inquired: “what is the conflict problem with Arabs and Jews,” and the reply was: “Arabs can’t deal with the Jews sophistication.”

    Think about it. While the Jews took a desert and raised it to a flourishing State for its people and became recognized by the free world, AND in addition became an economic linchpin for the Palestinians. WHAT has Islamic cultures done for its peoples but advocate the killing of each other and others?

    Whether Islam has been miss-interpreted by extremists, the fact remains that Islam is the common denominator of terrorists who claim it in the name of Allah. Yes, that has the effect of painting all Palestinian’s — who’s to blame for that?

  3. An excellent piece Karl, but you leave us hanging. What “The program soon ran into a host of political problems?” What problems Karl? Dont leave us hanging.

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