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Design a Peaceful Solution For the Middle East

Guest Column
Alexander H. Slocum

I would think with all the brains we have from all over the world at MIT, we should be able to design a system that the entire world could embrace. In fact, it is in our self-interest to do so, for if the United States acts unilaterally, right or wrong, it will degrade our economy and stature until we no longer have the power to act as we might believe we should. I would think that by reciprocity, if we could achieve true peace in an area, then we all should be able to avoid war.

Peace and prosperity can be brought to the Middle East, if the United States, Israel, and the new must-soon-to-be state of Palestine work together to make it happen in a manner that all countries can embrace.

But why should the Arabs and Palestinians cooperate? Why should they not instead use their petrodollars to enable them to succeed in eventually eliminating Israel (and the United States)? Because Arab nations should, with the help of the world’s greatest minds, evolve their economies into vibrant entities that are not dependent on petrodollars, for the oil will soon run out.

Why should the Israelis give up land they see they won in a war in which they were attacked? Because if Israel can make true peace with its Arab neighbors, vast new markets would open up for its high-tech goods, and it would see prosperity it could otherwise never have envisioned.

In order to accomplish this dream, it is probably a good idea to first examine some important background items:

The history of the creation of the state of Israel contains many unfortunate occurrences, among which include the creation of Palestinian refugees. Many of these refugees still have the keys to their houses which they pass down from generation to generation with the vow that they will return. Everyone has a price, and we just need to find it.

The majority of Palestinians and Israelis are peaceful people who want to get on with a good life. However, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth will soon yield many blind people who can no longer see a path to peace and can only feed on hatred and fear.

Accordingly, we must start anew with the basic premise that if we were to put the resources we now allocate to military pursuits towards building vibrant nations of Israel and Palestine, both the Israelis and the Palestinians could not only live in peace, they could prosper and become the best of neighbors.

To accomplish this, we must seek solution hypotheses from scholars, business persons, and the common people. Open debate and discussions among and between common people will be used to evolve a final workable plan. In particular, young people should lead the discussions which can become subjects in the schools. Furthermore, the Internet can be used as a catalyst for evolving ideas in the same manner it empowers international teams of design engineers to create sophisticated new products. Warriors, politicians and religious leaders must step back and see what this new idea generation process yields. Finally, the best ideas should be voted upon in a democratic fashion.

As an important part of the process, it can begin with ideas that perhaps most of the world could agree would be reasonable ideas (boundary conditions). For example:

1. Israel should exist with its 1949 UN-defined borders, and it is free to put up a no-humans allowed green zone between itself and its neighbors to act as a bandage for the peace process until time heals the wounds incurred by years of war.

2. Palestine should consist of the West Bank, where the Israeli settlers would leave and turn over the houses they built to the Palestinians whose ancestral homes are in Israel. Palestinians would then renounce any claims to homes inside Israel. Israeli settlers could return to Israel to new cities that could be built with the money previously allocated to war.

3. Israel and Palestine should trade Gaza for a strip of land along the Israeli-Lebanon border, thereby giving Palestine port access and removing the problem of how to connect Palestine on the West Bank with Gaza.

4. Israel and Palestine should jointly build a pipeline to carry Mediterranean seawater through turbines to be placed at the Dead Sea to generate electricity which can then power homes and businesses in the area, as well as power desalination plants. The water flowing into the Dead Sea would evaporate, thus forming a unique type of renewable energy resource.

5. The United States and the wealthy countries of the Middle East should finance these changes.

6. For every foreign aid dollar the United States gives to Israel, it should give a foreign aid dollar to Palestine; yet no military aid should be given to either country -- only credits to buy non-military goods from US companies.

7. The United States should withdrawal all military forces from Saudi Arabia because of the issue of holy lands.

8. Israel, with its high-technology companies, could become a regional leader that helps its Arab neighbors develop economies that are not oil dependent, because the oil will not last forever.

9. Jerusalem should become an international city-state run by a council of moderate religious leaders from all the major faiths that have significant presence there, AND other major faith leaders to act as arbitrators.

The ideas can be used as seeds when seeking to develop a plan for true and lasting peace in the Middle East. No doubt some ideas will be deemed unworkable and will be replaced by better ideas. There can be no solution that pleases everyone, and there will always be extremists who will seek to use violence to derail the plan, just as they have in the past. However, once the majority of the people on both sides have agreed to a proper peace plan, there must be no stopping it. Notice that I left out politicians and religious leaders, as they have not done a very good job of leading given the continual crises.

If such a plan were to be implemented, then the United States and its new friends could work to achieve peaceful, productive, positive changes with other regimes in the area. Maybe one day in the future, when people truly realize that we are all here on earth to experience the joys life has to offer, and that giving joy begets even more joy, we will see a new nation form, the nation of Palisraelistine.

Perhaps MIT could lead by creating a new cross-school course catalyzed by professors from different departments. I think The Tech could start the process off by creating a weekly column on “Design Suggestions for Peace.”

Professor Alexander Slocum is a Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.