By Ece Koc

Shlomo Brom from the Institute for National Security Studies was recently in the A9 studios. Brom is known for his role in the regional security talks of the 90’s with Palestinians, Jordan and Syria. He continued to be involved in Track Two dialogues on these subjects after his retirement from the IDF. He is the author of ‘Israel and South Lebanon in the Absence of a Peace Treaty with Syria’.

Brom offered his views on the peace process in the Middle East, what went wrong until now and how things could be put right.

Brom said that in order to achieve peace, all parties need to be served, everyone’s interests should be protected: “Peace is actually a meeting of interests of the parties that are involved. You cannot have an agreement or disagreement, something that serves one party more than the interests of the other party. So [in our efforts] the idea was to conclude a balanced, fair agreement that can bring security and stability to all the parties involved.”

He also said that Israel’s good relationship with Turkey mostly depends on its peace process with Palestine: “I think that we have an interest in building the relationship with the Palestinians because implementing the two-state solution, namely establishing a Palestinian state, is also important for Israel, because that will guarantee the identity of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. If these steps are taken, I assume the relationship between Turkey and Israel will improve very fast.”

When one of the hosts said that Turkey and Israel should come together just like old times, as they had been close allies since the time of the Ottoman, Brom agreed: The whole Middle East is now going through a very difficult period. It is terrible what is happening in Syria for example and I will say that only two really stable states in the Middle East are Turkey and Israel. So they have an interest to cooperate and to do whatever they can do, to try to bring the Middle East back to sanity, stabilize the region and make it a place where human beings can live and prosper.”

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As to conflicts that have been raging all around the world, Brom was very straight-forward about the negative side of  human nature and how some people gave into that: “I would say human beings are human beings. As human beings, they have fantastic qualities sometimes, and they also have weaknesses. Some of the weaknesses are greed. And greed is the basis of colonialism and exploitation and all these diseases that you mentioned. But we should create an environment that would enable the same human beings to expose their more positive aspects of their personality. And that can be done through cooperation, that’s what I’m preaching.”

Brom also weighed in on racism and said that it is still a threat in many places, including Israel: “We all have to fight racism. If you come to visit Israel you will see black Jews, you will see Jews with a very white color of skin, and you will see other different colors. It doesn’t make any difference as long as all of them are human beings and all believe in the same belief, the same system of values.  It’s very easy to say it is a European phenomenon, Europeans were the creators of racism and anti-Semitism, but when I look at my own society, I sometimes see very similar phenomena amongst some groups of extremists. And we have to understand that these people are our enemies, we should try to convince them to change their ways and if we cannot do it, we have to fight them. When I say fight them, I mean because also for us in Turkey and in Israel, we are operating within a democracy, so I mean fighting politically of course. Not fighting with the use of arms.”

The host explained that according to the Qur’an, Jews are People of the Book for Muslims and should be loved and respected, contrary to what the extremists say and do and that only education based on the Qur’an can overcome the perils of radicalism and hostility. Brom readily agreed: “Certainly. Education is very important, but not only education because in many cases this kind of attitude is the result of a certain socio-economic situation. From my experience, racism, extremism in many cases are more common among the lower classes of society. That is because they feel deprived, and because they feel deprived, they are looking for someone to blame. And it’s always easier, more convenient to blame those who are a little bit different, because they are another nationality or religion. So we will use the power of our society to deal with our social-economic problems, and that together with the education, I think, can limit this phenomenon to a large extent.”

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When asked a question about the alliance of the three Abrahamic religions, Brom said that he believes in such an alliance:  “I believe that the three monotheistic religions, namely Judaism, Islam and Christianity, all come from the same source, based on the same principles. We are also influencing each other. They have also influenced each other through history so we should emphasize the similar and the connections between the different religions, not the differences between them. And that can be done through once again education, but that can also be done through inter-religion dialogue, by creating opportunities for people from the different religions, having a dialogue and talking about beliefs and finding how many common values they have.”

Bromo also said that if we educate people on each other’s religion, then they will realize the similarities and that will make friendship and love a lot easier:  “As a military man, I studied Middle East studies at the university. At university I learned a lot about Islam. And for me that was an opportunity to see how similar it is with Judaism. I really believe that Judaism and Islam are much more similar to each other than Judaism and Christianity. Most Israelis for example, don’t know it because they are not told enough about Islam. And I’m quite sure that most of the common people in Turkey who are Muslims know little about Judaism. So we have to teach the people, to show them the similarity and to teach them understanding and equality. And by doing that, I think we will probably increase the mutual understanding and at least people adopt their position it will not be based on ignorance.”

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When one of the hosts explained that according to the Qur’an, Muslims should love and respect the Jews and Christians and that they are allowed to marry them, dine together with them and how the Ottomans showed a good example of this warm attitude during the reign of the Ottoman in Israel, Brom heartily agreed and welcomed such a role by Turkey:  “I think Turkey can be an example. You know it’s not only recently that Jews and Muslims can live together in Turkey, but it is a historical fact throughout the Ottoman Empire. Jews prospered in the Ottoman Empire.”

Brom also said that Turkey has a responsibility, being “Maybe the biggest regional power in the Middle East” and went on: “You know with power comes responsibility, not only advantages. I think Turkey has a responsibility, it has the responsibility of being the older brother. The one that is helping the other brothers in the Middle East in dealing with their problems.”

Brom said that cooperation is the key to stopping extremism:  “Our alliance is very important. And other people will follow that.”

Brom ended his words saying that he doesn’t really believe in a conflict with the Islamic world and he believes that one day we can achieve peace: “I really don’t believe that we have problems, real problems with the Islamic world. Our common history during the last 50 to 100 years was very complicated, because Jews returned to their historic homeland in Palestine. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot deal with our problems, live in peace and cooperation and prosper together.”

Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of the Editorial Board of Opinion Maker.