Over a year has passed since my proposal to solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict while simultaneously addressing the Iran nuclear crisis. I still think it is a mistake to treat the two issues separately since we miss opportunities by artificially compartmentalizing our foreign policy.
Now that Iran has elected a new President and it has a new negotiating team, it is time for me to update my proposal. First, it is important to note that Iran's new administration is yelling from the rafters that it will be more flexible in its policies then the previous one. The first sign of this change in attitude started with a few tweets.
President Hassan Rouhani tweeted a message wishing Jews around the world a Happy Rosh Hashana.
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) September 4, 2013
Happy Rosh Hashanah
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) September 5, 2013
Thanks. The New Year would be even sweeter if you would end Iran's Holocaust denial, sir. “@JZarif: Happy Rosh Hashanah”
— sfpelosi (@sfpelosi) September 5, 2013
@sfpelosi Iran never denied it. The man who was perceived to be denying it is now gone. Happy New Year.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) September 5, 2013
Emily Hauser compiled a list of events showing that by mid-September the trickle of signals that Iran has changed its attitude had turned into a steady flow. A day after Hauser compiled her list, Hassan Rouhani published a remarkable piece in the Washington Post outlining his vision of a piece process. Rouhani has also acknowledged and condemned the Holocaust of World War II. This is in contrast to the stand apparently taken by his predecessor. (Update:2/4/15 I just noticed that the previous link to Rouhani's statement condemning the Holocaust was dead. In searching for a new link to replace it I learned there is some controversy over exactly what he said about the Holocaust and that his statement acknowledging the Holocaust may have been weak and open to interpretation. I am therefore providing new links and I you can make up your own mind as to whether he really acknowledged and condemned the Holocaust. Christiane Armanpour:Rouhani acknowledged the Holocaust. Michael Moynihan: No he didn't. Fars News Agency: No he didn't. CNN: Yes he did. Washington Post: It's complicated. )
And most importantly, President Rouhani could not have been more unambiguous in his pledge that Iran would not be building nuclear weapons.
While I don't expect either Rouhani or Zarif to be singing the Hatikva, this is a marked improvement from Iran's past attitude. Here is a brief recap of my peace proposal from last year. I have modified some of the points slightly, added an eighth point, and suggested an optional ninth point. Other points have been discussed in much more detail in last year's post, and I highly encourage you to read it after reading this.
- The United States and Israel must recognize that Iran has a right to develop a peaceful nuclear program. We must recognize they have the right to enrich Uranium up to 5%, but the product of their enrichment must be subject to extensive international surveillance to ensure that it is not diverted to military purposes.
- Iran must give up its right to enrich Uranium up to 20% and give up its stockpiles of 20% enriched uranium In return, the international community will supply Iran with sufficient 20% enriched Uranium fuel rods for it to run its Tehran Research Reactor and to meet its needs for developing medical isotopes.
- IAEA inspectors must be give swift and unfettered access to any suspected nuclear facilities in question. Delaying tactics like those that occurred at the Parchin nuclear facility will not be allowed.
- In his 2009 speech in Prague, Barack Obama announced his goal of working toward a nuclear weapons free world. One important step towards that goal would be achieving a nuclear weapons free Middle East. This goal cannot be reached so long as Israel possesses its alleged weapons. And Israel cannot be expected to give up its nuclear weapons so long as its very existence is threatened. But, Israel can and should take steps short of complete nuclear disarmament to prove to the world that it is willing to give up her stockpile once a secure and just peace is negotiated with the Palestinians. Israel should declare how many nuclear weapons are in its stockpile and allow IAEA inspectors in to ensure that it does not build any more. The IAEA inspectors should be given full range of Israeli facilities, just as they should be given full range of Iranian facilities.
- Israel should make a token gesture toward nuclear disarmament by dismantling five percent of its nuclear arsenal. The rest of the world, led by the United States and Iran, will reward Israel for this token gesture by establishing an escrow account for building the funds necessary to justly compensate the Palestinians for giving up their Right of Return. A small percentage of this escrow account will be used to accommodate pressing Palestinian humanitarian needs such as building water purification plants and/or purchasing numerous Slingshot machines from Dean Kamen.
- Iran must declare that it will recognize Israel's right to exist in peace once a final peace deal is agreed upon between the Palestinians and Israelis. Iran must be willing to recognize (at least in principle) that Israel is a state designed for the safety and the protection of the Jewish people. Note that I am not saying that Iran must be willing to recognize Israel as a Jewish State. There is a subtle but very important distinction between requiring Iran to recognize Israel as a Jewish State and requiring it to recognize Israel as a state designed for the safety and protection of the Jewish people, as I explained in this post. The former requires Israel to maintain a Jewish majority population forever, the latter doesn't. The ramifications of Iranian recognition of Israel as a state designed for the safety and protection of the Jewish people deserve further discussion in a future post.
This just in: President Rouhani just gave a speech in front of the Council On Foreign Relations. The CFR issued a tweet quoting him, and President Rouhani re-tweeted it. It looks like Iran IS willing to recognize Israel's right to live in peace if the Palestinians do.
— CFR (@CFR_org) September 26, 2013
— CFR (@CFR_org) September 26, 2013
- Israel must suspend construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank until November 2015 or until a final agreement on borders is reached with the Palestinians, whichever comes first. In return, the U.S. will immediately release Jonathan Pollard from Prison. Otherwise, the U.S. will keep Pollard in prison until November 2015 when he is scheduled to be paroled.
- Israel must immediately stop destroying Palestinian houses in the West Bank and Jerusalem. If Israel agrees to this then the U.S. should do everything in its power to prevent Israel from being brought charged with war crimes over this behavior. We should also try to persuade the Palestinians to allow Jews currently living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to keep their homes, provided they pledge to obey all laws of a new Palestinian state.
These points lay out the basis of my peace plan. There is a ninth point that I propose ever so tentatively. It is a suggestion-- a topic to be explored by Israelis and Palestinians in future discussions and not a requirement for striking a deal. Indeed, I can easily envision getting bogged down in endless debates over this proposal, so it may be best to wait until a formal agreement is reached on all other matters before seriously discussing whether this idea should be implemented.
- I propose Israel and Palestine negotiate a code to regulate hate speech speech intended to sabotage the peace between them. I generally consider myself a free speech advocate, so I don't offer this proposition lightly. Germany has banned Holocaust denial and certain forms of Neo-Nazi speech. While such speech is allowed (though rightfully detested) in the U.S., Germany feels a special need to ban this speech in light of its history. What may be acceptable (though detestable) speech in one country may simply be too hot to handle in another. Factors determining whether speech should be legally acceptable or not include the likelihood that the intended audience will be inflamed to violence and the level of damage an incited audience could produce.
Given the high stakes involved and the ease with which certain segments of the Israeli and Palestinian populations can be inflamed, here are some examples of speech that should probably be banned.
- Moshe Feiglin said that
if I become prime minister I will take away control over the Temple Mount from the Wakf [the Islamic trust] and reinstate Jewish sovereignty over the entire mount and, hopefully, rebuild the Temple.
Muslims refer to the Temple Mount as the Haram al-Sharif or The Noble Sanctuary. It is the place where they believe Muhammad stood just before he ascended into heaven. It is their third holiest site and the importance of its integrity cannot be overstated. Nothing would lead to World War III faster than trying to rebuild a new temple, especially if it involved any damage to the Dome of the Rock or the Al-Aqsa mosque. It would be comforting to know that this was the ravings of rabid lunatic who had been bound in a straight jacket and sent off to an insane asylum for his and society's protection. Unfortunately, he is not locked up in a mental institution. Instead, he is a member of the Israeli Knesset.
- Any talk by Israelis of seizing Palestinian territory to establish a greater Israel and any talk by Palestinians of retaking Israeli territories should be banned. Palestinian fantasies that Israel will be conquered and disappear must be suppressed.
- The use of children to express hate speech by either side must be stopped. Those who would make a video like this should be charged with both hate speech and child abuse.
- Claims that ALL of Palestine, including Israel, is an Islamic waqf that can only be used for the benefit of Muslims should be banned. This will be the most difficult ban to implement because this idea lies at the heart of Hamas's ideology. How to challenge, and possibly kill this ideology is a topic worthy of future posts.
Let me stress again, that though I said that these types of speech "must" or "should" be banned, I do so only tentatively. Such speech is equivalent to yelling "Hey, somebody start a fire!" in a crowded theater full of pyromaniacs. Unfortunately, complete bans may be impossible because even attempting to institute them could spark violent backlashes. Rather than complete bans, the Israeli and Palestinian governments could enact laws preventing any government funds from being used to contract with organizations or hire individuals who espouse such dangerous views. This is a highly controversial topic and it would be a mistake to wait until a consensus is reached before signing a peace deal. I only offer this up as a topic for others--especially the many others who are smarter than I am-- to debate and consider. And I reserve the right to change my mind as that debate unfolds.
And finally, Hassan Rouhani has signaled his desire that Israel get rid of its nuclear weapons so that the Middle East can become a nuclear weapons-free zone. I am in full agreement with that desire, but as I noted above, Israel will not, and cannot be expected to do this until it is secure and a final peace deal is reached. It would be a mistake for Iran to insist upon linkage between its program and Israel's. If Iran takes the position that it will not allow IAEA inspectors full access to its facilities until Israel does the same, then it will be empowering Israel to veto a peaceful resolution to the nuclear crisis. Israel can, and probably will, reject such linkage. This will only weaken Rouhani's support and embolden hard line nuclear hawks within Iran to scuttle any further attempts at reconciliation. The odds of a devastating war with unpredictable consequences will increase as a result.
Instead, Iran should lead by example. It should remind President Obama of his desire to see a nuclear weapons free world. It should proclaim its willingness to help raise funds to compensate Palestinians to give up their right of return. It should lead an international campaign to shame and punish Israel if Israel remains recalcitrant on the issue. And it should not delay implementing a deal that puts limits on its nuclear program until after an Israeli/Palestinian deal is reached. I have just discussed an Iranian nuclear arms deal in the context of a much wider peace process. The entire package that I advoacte need not be enacted all at once. Iran will not be giving up all its leverage over Israel by imposing unilateral limits on its program. I have discussed several tactics it will still be able to use to pressure Israel. And I haven't even mentioned how Iran may be able to entice Israel into compliance by offering to try to moderate Hamas's behavior toward Israel. But that will have to wait until a future post.