If Europe Could Do It, So Can the Middle East
Less than a decade after World War II, the “Old Continent,” with its religious and nationalist wars, great-power intrigue, secret diplomacy, and the endless redrawing of national boundaries, became a new kind of political entity. Now, peace-seeking Israelis and Palestinians must dare to envision a similar future for themselves.
BERLIN – In 1951, just six years after World War II, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany signed the Treaty of Paris, establishing the European Coal and Steel Community.
It was a remarkable achievement, considering that France and Germany had fought three major wars between 1870 and 1945, leading to millions of deaths, the ravaging of lands and cities, and territorial conquest on both sides. Even decades later, my Belgian mother, who fled the German occupation of Brussels as a child with her mother and brother, trembled at the sight of a German customs uniform. Yet these former enemies agreed to pool their coal and steel production in ways that would prevent them from forging weapons to be used against one another ever again.
At a stroke, a handful of visionary statesmen – Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet of France, Konrad Adenauer of West Germany, and Alcide de Gasperi of Italy – laid the foundation for a new European future. The “Old Continent” of religious and nationalist wars, great-power intrigue, secret diplomacy, and the endless redrawing of national boundaries (with little regard for the people within them) became a new kind of political entity. After being conceived as a community, it eventually grew into a “union” of nation-states that retained enough of their sovereignty to act both independently and together.