"The big story of global politics is modernization- a process that begins with economic development and brings in its wake democracy and a kind of cultural convergence. It's replaced the cold war as the basic structure of world politics. There are those societies that participate in it, those who would like to participate in it and can't and others that reject it powerfully."
The above lines are quoted from an interview that Francis Fukuyama gave to Time Magazine on June 17. Mr. Fukuyama is the chap that caused quite an stir about 10 years ago with an essay called The End of History and is still arising controversies.
On reading his statements, it occurred to me that they could be particularly relevant to the general background of the Israeli Arab conflict and that it would be worthwhile to start a New Thread where we could discuss its implications to the peace process that concerns this Forum.
In our case we have two societies placed in a conflicting situation: the israeli society which is well ahead in the process of modernization and the palestinian
society, which is placed at its starting point . Israeli society may be characterized as well advanced in the road to economic development and democracy and with a culture that converges rapidly with the American-European one. Palestinian society
on the other hand, has not started any significant economic development, is far from being a democratic society and its culture, while differing widely from the western one, is converging with it at a very slow rate.
From the point of view of modernization as defined by Fukuyama, we have thus
two societies at different points in History, with a wide time-gap between them. Plenty of examples of this around today's world but, in this particular case, these two societies happen to have claims to the same land. In order to bridge the conflicting claims, those peoples have to find a way of talking over the time gap and that's not an easy matter.
A further complicating factor is that Palestinian society is torn between two fractions that, following Fukuyama, may be described as a fraction that would like to participate in the modernization process and another that strongly rejects it. The latter is made up of radical Muslims that reject the key aspects of Western culture and consider the modernization process as a danger to their religious way of life. They are not fighting Israel only as a colonizer but as a beach head of an infidel (western) culture that
could literally pollute their way of life. The former fraction, may be loosely identified politically with the PLO which, being essentially secular in outlook, is willing to go along and promote modernization.
The existence of two societies at a different point in History living in the same land is not, of course, the source of the israeli-palestinian conflict but is significantly relevant to the peace process. Although negotiations are conducted by the nation's leaderships, they need the backing of their respective societies. In this context, it is important for both peoples, not so much to love each other, but to develop some degree of mutual understanding. To reckon with this time-gap and to look for ways to bridge it, is in my view, an essential step in the rapprochement process.
Several questions arise within the above context . One of them is, whether the present stand of both the Israeli and US government, namely, pressing for reforms leading to democracy while ignoring the economic development aspect, is the right policy to be pursued. Democracy cannot be created overnight and more so when there is no previous political structure, no tradition of civil service and not even an State. Israel is probably one of the few examples in History whether this sudden jump was carried out successfully; the conditions ,however, were unique and it's more an exception than the rule among emerging states.
Another question relevant to the peace process is whether Israel shouldn't do efforts to support and strengthen the PLO rather than actively trying to undermine it. The secular elements within palestinian society are the only ones that may support and carry out a modernization process and also the ones closer to an understanding that economic cooperation in an atmosphere of peaceful coexistence are vital in that process. The policies of Mr. Sharon's government so far have conducted to a clear strengthening of those fundamentalist Muslim fractions which fervently support terrorism and oppose modernization because of all that it implies.
If we accept the idea that the first step in the modernization process is economic development, perhaps the most important question that arises is how Israel and other countries interested in the conflict can help in starting this development.