Israel and the Middle East

 Every since my involvement with Arab and Israeli students after the
1967 Middle East War, I have had a strong interest in following the
Middle East situation.  As a graduate student following the 1967 War
I arranged for an Arab diplomat from the UAR UN Embassy to come
to a University of Michigan dorm to talk with students about the
situation.  The following outlines some of my past and current views
on the Middle East Situation.


                      AVOIDING ANOTHER FAILED        February 28, 2005


by John Howard Wilhelm

It is certainly widely recognized that the war in 1967 in the Middle
East represented a major watershed there, albeit a failed one.  Given
what I experienced then and observed since, I am convinced that this
failure need not have occurred.

Following the Six-Day War when I was a graduate student, I initiated,
later with the help of others, an effort to get the Arab Student
Association and the Israeli Student Association at the University of
Michigan to organize a joint relief effort for the victims of the war.

This effort initially was surprisingly successful.  We were able to
host in the Fellowship Hall of my church several meetings between
representatives of both groups including their presidents in which a
joint war relief effort was agreed to.  The two groups agreed to split
monies received from an appeal on a 60:40 basis in favor of Arab
victims because, at the suggestion of the Israeli Student Association
President, both sides recognized that the greater need laid on that
side.  Monies received were to be channeled through the Red Cross and
the Red Crescent to assure accountability in their use.  And the two
groups agreed to a statement to be distributed in the Ann Arbor
community as part of the appeal, which, because of its unique
character, they expected could raise more monies than each group could
raise separately.

Unfortunately, just at the point that we were printing copies of the joint
appeal, some adults in the Ann Arbor Arab community learned of our
efforts and were able after working the President of the Arab Student
Association over for three hours to get the whole thing stopped.
Although this was very disappointing for me, I learned at the time
that after the meetings in our church, the representatives of both
sides held dialogs on their own about the Middle Eastern situation.

Because of this experience, I am convinced given the attitudes we
encountered at the time on the part of the Arab and Israeli students
with whom we dealt, that the failure to settle the conflict then was
avoidable.  Had the Arab leaders at the time entered into negotiations
with the Israelis as Sadat did after the Yom Kippur War of 1973, my
belief is that they could have regained virtually all the occupied
territories in return for a genuine cessation of hostilities and
establishment of normal ties.  Instead, the response of the Arab
leaders was one of no negotiations, no recognition and consequently
no settlement of the conflict.

Had the Israelis exercised some imagination at the time, I am also
convinced that they could have nullified the noes and moved to a
genuine peace.  As a result of the 1967 War they had a great majority
of the Palestinians under their control and possession of territories
which, prior to their agreement with Sadat, could have been used to
help evolve a viable Palestinian entity with Israeli cooperation.
Instead, the Palestinians under Israeli control meet, contrary to
international law, with ongoing expropriation of land in the
Palestinian territories seized after the 1967 War which has greatly
contributed to the current impasse in which we find ourselves.

The Current Situation

If our success in the war in Iraq is to lead to a genuine positive
strategic breakthrough in the Middle Eastern situation, a necessary
condition is surely going to have to be finding a workable solution to
solving the Palestinian Israeli conflict.  Such a resolution of the
conflict will require many things, not least of all elements of the
following: 1) Imaginative boldness on the part of the US in working
toward a solution.  2) A greater degree of evenhandedness on the part
of the US in dealing with the issue of Israeli settlements on
Palestinian lands seized after the 1967 War by upholding in reality,
not in rhetoric, the strictures of international law on this issue.
3) Some pointed candidness with the Arab world concerning its own
culpability in affecting US policy toward the Arab Israeli conflict
such as the alignment of many Arab leaders with the Soviet Union after
Eisenhower stopped the 1956 invasion of Egypt by Israel, France and
Great Britain and ongoing Palestinian terrorism against Americans in
hijackings and the like. 4) A major commitment of resources, not
something like the disgraceful de facto neglect of Afghanistan after
our victory there. And, not least, 5) A realization that our previous
approaches to solving the Palestinian problem, including Madrid and
the Oslo accords, have been fatally flawed.

Although many recognize that the Oslo agreement has broken down, there
is an absence of understanding that the settlement it envisaged, and
the settlement envisaged in the Road Map as well as in the now
so-called Geneva Accords, is fatally flawed.  Even if the Palestinians
were able to get all Palestinian lands captured after the Six-Day War
back, including East Jerusalem, in a settlement, it is very unlikely
that a Palestinian entity based on this will lead to a stable
situation over time.  Given the bifurcated state envisaged, given the
population density on such a territory in an arid region, and given
the exclusion of much of the Palestinian refugee population from
participation in the fruits of a such a settlement, it is hard to see
how such a settlement can lead to any real stability.  Given the
conditions that are likely to be extant in such an entity, it is
likely under current circumstances to lead to the establishment of a
base for further attempts to eradicate Israel, not to a lasting
workable peace.

Avoiding Another Failed Watershed

If we wish to establish a stable peace in Palestine in which both
Israelis and Palestinians can live together peacefully in neighboring
states, I believe that we can do so.  But to achieve this we need to
do two things.  First, we need to change our approach to the process
of seeking a settlement.  And secondly, we need to put forward an
imaginative solution to the Palestinian problem which would give all
Palestinians, including the refugee population, a strong vested
interest in such a settlement such that they would have a great deal
to lose if it were to breakdown into renewed conflict.

Even though many are now more optimistic about the possibility of
working out an agreement, there are compelling reasons to doubt that
Sharon and Abbas with the constraints and limitations they both suffer
can really come to a workable settlement on their own.  The obvious
way around such a situation is for a suitable outside entity to
present to the populations on each side a proposed solution in the
form of a binding referendum on a settlement to be submitted to both
populations after appropriate consultations with elements on each

Given the recent success of the Iraqi election, the United States is
in a unique position to play this role if it so chooses.  It could do
so by going to the United Nations Security Council to seek a binding
resolution that would mandate a number of steps to create a situation
in which a proposed settlement could be worked up to submit to the
peoples in the area.  To be effective, it is my belief that such a
resolution should contain the following binding points: 1) Immediate
and mandatory removal of all settlers from Palestinian lands seized in
1967 subject to strict economic sanctions if not immediately carried
out.  2) The mandatory and immediate removal of all Syrian troops from
Lebanon also subject to strict economic sanctions if not carried out.
3) A prohibition against governments and people outside of Lebanon and
the Palestinian lands giving aid to Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad
with mandatory sanctions for violation of the prohibition.  4)
Authorization to set up a working group with mandatory access to
people on both sides to consult on working out a referendum on a
settlement to be submitted to the Israeli and Palestinian populations
for approval.  And, 5) Mandatory implementation of such a settlement
upon approval of such a referendum by the appropriate constituents.

Given that Israeli occupation would continue pending an acceptable
agreement, dealing with the settlements issue at the outset would
not undermine the incentive for the Palestinians to op for a settlement
while sending a powerful message to them of the benefits from an
agreement to end the conflict.  And requiring the Syrians to get out
of Lebanon would remove the danger of a Syrian veto over a workable
solution to the Palestinian problem.

If there is to be a viable Palestinian entity as part of a settlement,
it has to be something more that the bifurcated state currently envisaged.
The territories available for a Palestinian homeland from the occupied
territories are simply not adequate to solve the Palestinian problem.
It is my belief that the solution to this problem could entail the
international community purchasing Sinai territory east of the Suez
Canal from Egypt to be incorporated into a new Palestinian state.
Of course such a solution would require Egyptian consent.  If the
financial incentives were generous enough, Egypt surely might have
reasons to consider such a possibility.  From an economic perspective,
Sinai is clearly of marginal importance to Egypt, but with water
resources through Israel from the Litani River in Lebanon in the
east and from the Nile Valley in the west areas could be developed
in the Sinai that could make a significant difference for the
peoples of a Palestinian state that would include the Gaza Strip
and the Sinai territories.

While many Palestinians would prefer otherwise, it would be a mistake
in my judgment to include the West Bank in such an entity.  It makes
much more sense to give the non-refugee Palestinian inhabitants of the
West Bank an entity of their own which could make arrangements with
Jordan for a free association that would avoid creating in the
Middle East a bifurcated entity with all of its potential for creating
mischief.  Of course, the most difficult problem in any settlement
is going to be the status of East Jerusalem.  It is my belief that
the best solution to this problem is the creation of an international
entity that would be put under the aegis of the King of Jordan, the
President of Israel and the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem with a
mandate to protect the interests of the historic inhabitants of that

While the above proposed solution represents a radical break with
previous attempts at a solution of the Palestinian Israeli conflict,
I believe that it represents a much more feasible and desirable
solution to the problem.  It will, of course, require money and
most likely much of it from the US.  But if we are to create a
much more favorable situation for ourselves and for the peoples
of the Middle East, we need to be concerned not only with the
reconstruction of Iraq but also with providing resources to
modernize Egypt as well for which the purchase of the Sinai for
an enlarged Palestinian entity could provide a useful means.

All of this means that the US needs to change the mix of its
allocations of monies for its Middle Eastern policy from its military
efforts to reconstruction efforts.  And this means that the American
people, especially the current administration, need, in the face of
this and our domestic needs such as our deteriorating national
infrastructure and looming entitlement problems, to stop living in a
fiscal fantasy land.

Both this and the opportunities open up to us as a result of the
strategic watershed created as a result of our action in Iraq means
that the country badly needs to discuss some important issues to
arrive at a consensus which can inform our government beyond just one
administration.  With the opening that the current administration has
given us as a result of its actions in Iraq, it would be a pity if we
did not make the effort to arrive at a national consensus to exploit
the possibilities of creating a more stable world for ourselves and
the peoples of the Middle East

                                                                            4 West Eden Court
                                                                            Ann Arbor, Michigan 48108
                                                                            Tel. 734/477-9942
                                                                            May 16, 2018



Sir,  It is not true as your editorial on “The march to another Middle
East disaster” (May 13, 2018) implies that calling Israel to arms at
this time is unwise.  When Hitler occupied the Rhineland in 1936 my
late paternal uncle asked my grandfather to explain the situation to him.
When my grandfather , whose father migrated to the US from Loraine
after the Franco-Prussian War, finished doing so he told my uncle
that “The Allies had better stop Hitler now or they will have a much
worse problem on their hands.”  They didn’t and did.  A John Bolton
is not wrong in assuming that the Israelis face a similar situation with
Iran in Lebanon and Syria.

The Israelis and Jordanians clearly have the ability with US and Allied
backing to permanently lance the Syrian boil.  The Israelis have the
ability to go to Damascus and take out Assad.  Their failure to do so
risks the Iranians and Hezbollah building up a military presence that
could greatly damage Israel or even defeat its army in which case they
will kill every Jew they can get their hands on–a second Holocaust in
a second century, which like the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pack the Russian
support of Iran in Syria is aiding and abetting.

As part of our support of such an effort the US and its allies should
impose a no-fly zone and a naval blockade on arms shipments into
Syria with the clear intent to use appropriate military responses to
any challenge to them.
                                                                                   Sincerely yours,
                                                                                   John Howard Wilhelm, Ph.D.,