A Strategy for Middle East Peace
Jude Wanniski
December 5, 2001


Memo To: Zbigniew Brzezinski
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: A Zbig Idea

You've really done it this time, Zbig, a really terrific idea! Minister Louis Farrakhan called me from Phoenix this morning at 5 a.m., Phoenix time, to tell me he saw you late last night on television, CNN's Lou Dobbs I think, with a great idea for peace in the Middle East!! My wife got me out of the shower to hear about it from him and as soon as I heard it, I knew it was a Zbig Idea that might work when all seems lost. Min. Farrakhan said he was so sick at the escalating violence in Israel and on the West Bank that he really had not slept. He agreed with you immediately that neither the Israeli government nor Yasir Arafat and the Palestinian Authority could now produce a peace settlement... and that only America could solve the problem. As I understand it, you made the argument that if President Bush would put forward a peace plan that would seem to be fair and balanced -- and sufficient to win the support of the majority of Israelis and Palestinians Ariel Sharon and Arafat would have to focus on the Bush plan itself instead of how to restart a peace process aimed at getting to an optimum plan. Min. Farrakhan said it is always the simple idea that solves the most complex problem. "When people seem to be going crazy, losing their minds, it often takes only the slightest nudge in the right direction for them to regain their reason."

He did not say what he thought the peace plan might look like, but I told him we have all more or less had a picture of what it would look like if the parties could ever get over the barriers erected by the extremists on both sides to PREVENT a final settlement. Your idea essentially says we should forget about those barriers by leaping over them, which takes the extremists out of the process. My own guess, based on all I read about what President Clinton was trying to achieve in his last days in the White House, was that the settlement would look like this: The Palestinians would get all of the West Bank and Gaza. The existing Jewish settlements could remain if they wish, but would be part of the Palestinian State and be Palestinian citizens. If they did not wish to remain, they could choose a cash payment for resettlement outside Palestine. The Palestinians would give up the "right of return," which they have insisted upon since 1948, but which would undermine the Jewish demographics of Israel proper. Finally, Jerusalem would become an open city, along the lines of the Vatican, administered by Christian, Muslim and Jewish clerics. This cohesion at the epicenter of the Holy Land would pacify religious clerics the world over and remove whatever incentives Al Qaeda has to recruit young terrorists.

Knowing your thinking in broad outline, Zbig, I would imagine you would accept something like this plan at least in broad outline, with the kind of reservations that would be needed by both sides to accommodate to it. The devil, as you have told me, is in the details here. As soon as I heard Minister Farrakhan explain what he had heard from you, I did contact folks I know in the Bush administration who are of course looking for fresh ideas. I also ran the suggested "peace plan" by Peter Signorelli, my expert on Mideast political history, and he kicked himself, as I did, in not thinking of your approach. His guess was that Arafat would instantly accept the Bush proposal, with unspecified reservations that would enable him to bargain on those devilish details. He guessed that one third of Israelis would embrace the idea, that one third would reject it out of hand, and that the third in the middle would be open to persuasion, needing assurance that once the ink was dry on the settlement that the Palestinians would not be pushing for more. The extremists on the Palestinian side, says Pete, would be unhappy, but they would be marginalized, and Arafat he thinks would be empowered to really go after the bad guys without losing control of the PLA center. I'd like to think the suicide bombers would be stopped in their tracks, as the Muslim McVeighs, as I have termed them, would not be motivated to die or kill for just one more chip on the bargaining table.

The right wing of the Likud Party would of course yell and scream, as would their backers here in the U.S. But Minister Farrakhan suggests the world community would see the holdouts as preferring to cut the live baby in half rather than share custody of it in peace. Good job, Zbig. It may not get anywhere, but your idea strikes me as a dandy one.