"Wilmington, Ohio - the epicenter of the Great Recession, will become known as the epicenter of the Great American comeback."
Eric LaMont Gregory
Wilmington News Journal Photo Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and Eric LaMont Gregory
Eric LaMont Gregory and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee met at the Hotel Denver in Wilmington, Ohio. Huckabee had just returned from Israel where he met the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two discussed the difficulties in pinning hopes on a two state solution in the current round of Middle East Peace talks. Gregory who spent some three years in Israel and the Middle East offered a historical perspective to the current round of talks.
At the signing of the Sinai Accords there were several legacies, factors on the ground, that had to be resolved before the Accords could be fully implemented. One, was a small city in the Sinai where ten-thousand Israelis and an equal number of Arabs had lived for decades in a state of peaceful co-existence. Now that the Sinai was being returned to Egypt the status of this small city became an important issue. Begin, the Israeli Prime Minister at the time, saw significant security concerns if the Israelis who lived there remained after the Sinai was returned to Egypt. Mubarak, who I contacted through his delegation in Geneva, stated that "Egypt was for Egyptians" and wanted the Israelis out. Reagan and Thatcher stated that with the signing of the Accords this was now a matter for the parties in the Middle East. The envoy Mitchell, a democrat, found himself finishing the Peace Process in a Republican administration in which he held little authority or political sway.
To me, the opportunity was too great not to fight for the continued existence of this small city. I argued that Begin's security concerns were well within the ability of the Israelis to respond to. And, here we had an example of peaceful co-existence between Israelis and Arabs that was sorely lacking in the region. If we look two decades into the future, and put the billions that would be spent fighting into developing the Sinai, the Sinai would become another Southern California, and no one would want to do anything but get in on the new found prosperity in the region. Sadly, Gregory laments, his arguments did not hold, and both the Israelis and Arabs were forceably removed and the small city in the Sinai, this small but important example of peace between Arabs and Jews, was bulldozed to the ground. And, with it a sure and certain further decades of fighting and hostilities between these two great peoples.
Where are we going to find another example of Jews willing to live under Arab civil administrative authority, I asked the leaders at the time. Surely, it can be seen that the ultimate solution lies in Arabs living under Jewish civil administrative authority, and Jews living under Arab civil administrative authority. As long as both societies are republics which respect and protect minority rights there is no underling problem to peaceful coexistence, Gregory stated as the bulldozers entered this small symbol of peace in the Middle East.
"I still believe that the Middle East is my best foreign policy issue, and my thoughts are never far from the ongoing problems there," Gregory said to Huckabee as there meeting grew to a close.