Today's date:
Spring 2006

The Triangle of Peace

Shimon Peres, a former prime minister of Israel and Nobel peace laureate, recently resigned from the Labor Party, which he helped found, to join Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has also left his Likud Party, to build a new centrist party to promote peace—Kadima (Forward).

Jerusalem — The world is never short of conflicts. As one conflict is resolved, another—sometimes deeper and more virulent—emerges.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has dominated the international agenda for decades. It was a national conflict, in a national age. Now it is receding.

A majority of Israelis and Palestinians, supported by the international community, agree on the contours of the conflict’s resolution. It would include a peaceful Palestinian state side by side the state of Israel. By withdrawing from Gaza this summer, Israel took a big step for peace. These very days both our political systems are in the midst of major realignment and upheaval. In a few months, we may be in a position where both sides will have democratically elected governments that are both pro-peace and have the political power to carry out their intentions.

As this national conflict appears to be heading toward solution, a wider, more troubling conflict is gaining force on the global stage: the conflict between fundamentalist Islam and the modern world. It is a religious conflict, but not between religions, but within a religion—between its reactionary and modernizing forces. It is a conflict driven by the fear that the modern age will destroy Islam. It is this fear that breads the scourge of terror. Terrorists seek to destroy that which they fear will destroy them.

But they need not fear. There is no inherent contradiction between Islam and modernity. Turkey has shown it is possible to be both Muslim and modern. The Gulf countries have shown that Islam need not impede economic development. Courageous Muslim women around the world are living proof that Islam need not stand in the way of the liberation of women.

Our world is no longer divided between East and West, North and South. It is divided between terror and anti-terror, reaction and modernity, war and peace. Victory will side with modernizing forces whose path will be forged by economic development. Economics won the Cold War. Economics, the weapon of mass development, will win the War on Terror. China, India, South Korea, Japan, Europe and Latin America have been transformed by it; Africa and the Middle East have begun.

Global companies helped break down the walls of fear that brought about the end of the Cold War. They should again work to break down the walls of fear that feed global terror. Global companies operate in a global world, utilizing its opportunities, suffering from its threats. Global companies of the information age prosper wherever there is peace, openness and room for creativity.

Global companies can also become private proponents of global peace. As the bearers of economic development and modernity, their value comes from innovation, rather than exploitation. National governments are limited to operating within their borders. Politics compels them to focus on national and domestic considerations. Global companies are private and free to bring their investments to countries and regions with safe environments, an educated workforce and responsible governments. Governments eager to attract companies’ funding and knowledge are forced to improve security, open their societies, liberate their women and educate their young.

Privatization of economies around the world has created more wealth and opportunity. It is time to privatize peace. The $9 billion pledged by the G-8 for Palestinian development over the next three years should be utilized to encourage private companies to establish operations in Gaza and the West Bank, matching investments dollar per dollar, thus doubling the available funds. Insurance could secure private investments against security threats. Global companies may bring hope where there is now the fear that breeds terror, and help bring peace to the Middle East.

Economics could also bring about a new triangle for peace, comprising Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians. Each would be nationally independent but could cooperate economically. Joint regional ventures such as a water canal between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, tourism development, desalination and clean energy plants, a joint airport and regional railway grids could be considered.

The European Union, which has done so much to put economics in the service of peace and prosperity, may offer these countries the prospect of entry or a special status. They could become affiliated members of NATO as it transforms its platform to fight terror. The United States could provide a security umbrella to shield the region from the Iranian threat.

This triangle, like Europe itself, may one day become a symbol of a national conflict, transformed by the power of economics, into a zone of peace.