Middle East peace – Be inspired by Europe’s history

By Johan Galtung

In the middle of the Middle East is Israel, harboring dreams of an Israel even greater than King David’s. Israel has 5 neighbors:

Lebanon-Syria-Jordan-Palestine (recognized by 135 states)-Egypt.

This first circle of neighbors borders on a second circle of 6: Cyprus-Turkey-Iraq-Arabia-Sudan-Libya.

The second circle of neighbors borders on a third circle with 8: Greece-Iran-Kuwait-Bahrain-Qatar-United Arab Emirates-Oman-Yemen.

Adding up to 1+5+6+8 = 20 states; covering greater Middle East.

Israel has no ally among the 19, has been at war, with or in, the first circle, Iraq in the second, working for a US+ attack on Iran in the third. Greater Israel, from Nile to Euphrates would absorb the entire first circle and much of Turkey-Iraq-Arabia from the second.


In the middle of post-World War I Europe was Germany, harboring dreams of a Germany even greater than Bismarck’s Second Reich: a Third Reich more like the First, the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation destroyed by Napoleon in 1806: a Neuordnung, nuovo ordine with Italy for Europe, with Russia as German colony. Germany had 9 neighbors:


This first circle of neighbors bordered on a second circle of 10: Sweden-UK-Spain-Italy-Croatia-Hungary-Romania-Ukraine-Belarus-Lith’a.

This second circle of neighbors bordered on a third circle of 6:


This third circle of neighbors bordered on a fourth circle of 7:


Adding up 1+9+10+6+7 = 33 states, covering Europe at that time.

7 were on Germany’s side (more or less switching as the war was turning), 6 were neutral, 2 were fighting Germany (UK and Russia); 17 were occupied, more or less brutalized, more or less resisting.

Then there was and is USA, an ocean or two away, joining the war against Germany late (1941); becoming an ally of Israel late (1967).

We know what happened to Germany and its four circles: most, all or more in the EU, Council of Europe and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe; EU with 28, CofE with 47, OSCE with 57 members.

However, what will happen to Israel and its three circles is unknown. We only know that there will be no greater-recognized-secure Israel beyond the 1967 borders, let alone any even greater biblical Israel.

The question is whether we can learn anything from the German case that can be applied to the Israeli case. Some will hate any comparison but the similarities are too compelling not to try to learn something. It does not make the lesser evil acceptable the fact that one was much worse.

In Europe the task became the peaceful integration of a peaceful Germany in a peaceful Europe; in the Middle East the task is the same. TRANSCEND’s vision goes like this:
1 Palestine recognized; 2 states, Israel & Palestine side by side; 6 states, Israel and the first circle in confederation; 20 states, Israel and all circles in an Organization for Security and Cooperation of the Middle East OSCME and offers no in-between steps.


They did all that in their own way: recognized DDR, but went beyond, the two Germanies coalesced into one state; a confederation took shape, the EEC-EC-EU, first as 2 states with France, then as 6 (4 from the first circle and Italy from the second), now as 28, most of the 33; and they built an OSCE with everybody, all circles, and more.

Could it work for the “lesser evil”, in a Middle East process?

Go beyond recognition of Palestine to coalescence with Israel into a federation, an Israel-Palestine, Israstine, Palrael, Palisra, whatever;

Start with one cooperation partner: democratic Egypt? Jordan?

Expand from that to a confederation of 6, Israel and the first circle, then let it grow into the second and third circles.

At the same time build OSCME, security and cooperation for all 20. Nevertheless, take note: the region had from 1949 an intergovernmental organization, covering more and more of the region, with Germany: Council of Europe. How about a non-binding Council of the Middle East, CofME, for cooperation as equals across a major fault-line, Judaism-Islam?

Starting with Israel, the first Circle, Cyprus-Turkey? Doing what OSCE now tries to do across an even older Catholic-Orthodox fault-line in Ukraine and may have to do after a Grexit from Euro-EU?

On the agenda would be the whole geopolitics architecture of the Middle East, not only Israel-Palestine, like the CofE focused on human rights and non-controversial cooperation: culture, city-twinning, etc.

In other words, not too ambitious, one step at a time, but multilaterally.

We do not need more proof that direct bilateral talks between today’s Israel and Palestine, aiming at secure and recognized borders for an ever expanding, will never become a “peace process”.

But we also know that discussions of visions of a final state must go hand in hand with negotiation of first steps. We cannot postpone the visions and risk steps in the wrong direction. Ends and means must be adjusted to each other in transparent dialogues.

Moreover, in that small region so densely packed with states any peace process has to be multi-, not bilateral. Visions alone may be attractive, even compelling and release creativity; but in-between steps acceptable to all are indispensable. The more tracks indicated from the here and now to the there and then, from A to B, the better.

And the USA – neither in Europe, nor in the Middle East – shall be a member of CofE, nor should it be of CofME; but a member of OSCME.

States will follow the moral authority in today’s world, Pope Francis, being as afraid of recognizing Palestine too late as they were of being too early. Netanyahu’s Zionism is not militarily, but morally defeated. Think a one state federation; a solid partner; a CofME evolving into a confederation. And start an OSCME.

Think peace!

First published by Transcend Media Service here.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.


Subscribe to
TFF PressInfo
and Newsletter