The Israeli-Palestinian conflict goes back almost four thousand years to two brothers — Isaac and Ishmael, the sons of Abraham. Isaac is a forefather of the Jewish faith; Ishmael is the Islamic connection. The conflict continues, including the conflict of thought — between brothers.
My brother Harold was in Winnipeg recently. Our views about many issues are like night and day — including the possibilities for peace in the Middle East. Harold spoke about the four partners that can make peace possible between Israel and the Palestinians: Israel, the Palestinians, the United States and Egypt. He feels that if each of the four partners has inspired leadership with the right type of thought, then peace might be possible.
For my part, I feel there is a fifth party that is an essential player in the peace process. That fifth player is Iran.
Iran has been exporting ideology and resources that have been destructive to the possibility of peace between the Palestinians and Israel. Iran promotes hatred and negative emotions towards Israel. Iran also sends missiles (to Lebanon and Gaza) to fire into Israel and funds militants.
I simplify the issue by delineating the Palestinians into three distinct geographical and political groups: those that live in Israel, those that live in Gaza, and those living in the West Bank. Each of these geographic groups is technically part of Israel, but two of the groups have political autonomy and control, and will form part of the two-state solution. In this discussion I will exclude Palestinians outside of Israel and Palestine.
The Palestinians that live in Israel can be called the Israeli Arabs because they are Israeli citizens with Israeli nationality, and are not technically Palestinians because they do not live in Palestine. The Israeli Arabs are Israeli citizens with the right to vote in Israeli elections. Accordingly, there are Palestinian politicians elected to the Israeli government and sitting in the Israeli Knesset. In an interesting twist of democratic freedom, some of the Israeli Arabs vote for Jewish political parties.
The second group are the Palestinians that live in the Gaza strip — a tract of land that is on Israel’s southern border. Gaza is controlled by Hamas, a political group that is radical, religious, extremist and very militant. Hamas, brings negative thought to the possibility of peace with Israel. Hamas receives financing from several sources, though Iran and Syria are prominent.
The third group of Palestinians are in the West Bank, bordering the East of Israel. The West Bank is controlled by Fatah, a secular political party. Fatah is financed with taxes collected by Israel, as well as financing from the United States, Saudi Arabia and many moderate Muslim countries. Fatah is under the leadership of Abbas who is the most likely partner for peace with Israel.
Now I will return to the issue of Iran. Iran exports hatred, negative thought, financing and arms militant extremist groups including Hezbollah of Lebanon and Hamas of the Gaza strip. Both of these groups have fired missiles (from Iran) into Israel.
The collapse of oil prices magnified Iran’s internal economic crisis and reduced the resources that Iran could afford to devote towards promoting hatred against Israel. It is no coincidence that the drop in the price of oil brought an almost immediate cessation of missiles being fired into Israel.
If Iran goes through a leadership change, then the final cog in the wheel may come into place to create new hope for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. With minimal Iranian support, Hamas might lose the resources it needs to stay in power.
A change in thinking by the Palestinians is possible if the circumstances are right. Without Iran’s negative influence and resources, Hamas would become weak and Fatah would likely take control. With Hamas weakened, the Palestinian people might have different thoughts, making them more receptive to the possibility of peace with Israel. A new pragmatism could develop. If this dynamic is in place, and if the leadership is ready, then we may have hope for the possibility of peace.
I am confident that if the Palestinians became more receptive to peace with Israel, then the other partners in peace would be able to persuade the Israeli government to compromise as well. I believe that if the Palestinian people were receptive to peace, and if peace seemed achievable, then the Israeli people would become supportive politically towards the peace process.
If two brothers can start to share common thought about the possibility of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, then perhaps there is hope for peace — even if that hope for peace is in the distant future.
Royle Derbitsky is a certified financial planner and an alumnus of the University of Manitoba.