Department of Political Studies - University of Catania

Jean Monnet Chair of European Comparative Politics

Jean Monnet Working Papers in Comparative and International Politics


Emanuel Adler [1] 

The Hebrew University of  Jerusalem

A Mediterranean Canon and an Israeli Prelude to Long Term Peace

April 2001 - JMWP n° 34


A Canon is a piece of music in which a single theme is repeatedly played. The repeated theme, which I will weave within what may otherwise seem as a disjointed talk is "pluralistic security communities," "transnational regions comprised of sovereign states whose people are integrated to the point that they maintain dependable expectations of peaceful change." [2] Some examples of pluralistic security communities include Scandinavia, the NAFTA region, the EU, the Euro-Atlantic community and, to a lesser extent, the southern cone of Latin America and ASEAN. There is no chance whatsoever, that, in the near future, a pluralistic security community, which is based on shared culture and identity, will develop in the Middle East. Because this is where all the remaining realists in the world seem to live and act, liberal ideas about the construction of regional communities will have a hard time to penetrate and succeed. In this neck of the woods, then, political actors will continue for the foreseeable future to rely on military deterrence, and, if anything else fails, force.[3]

And yet, culture and identity are at the heart of the Middle East conflict, and, thus, they also must be part of its long-term solution. By culture, I mean, neither Sam Huntington’s reified view of culture,  nor solely a romantic view of cultural attributes. Rather, I have in mind collective understandings, including of self and others. The security community solution, which is only viable in the long term, when warring parties have more or less began to resolve their most acute grievances, associates regional security and peace with regional integration and the accompanying development of regional identities and common political culture. It thus requires developing a relatively new type of diplomatic practice that depends for its success on the political and social engineering of regional identities.

I contend that the construction of a Mediterranean region, which will require Mediterranean nations, including Israel, to change their identification, not only of self, but also of place, serves mainly the goal of helping to institutionalize security community practices in the region, and thus, ultimately, achieving long term peace. However, it cannot do much to achieve a short-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, let alone to stabilize the current situation. If you wish to apply European experience to today's Middle East, do not think EU, rather, think July 1914. If, however, out of the rubble, or hopefully, out of renewed common sense, we would like to turn a truce into peace, a "Sulha" into "Salaam," then constructing a Mediterranean regional identity is key. Why then start now, if I am talking only of a long term-solution? Because, if not now, when? And if not us, who then?

If the effort to construct a Mediterranean region did not exist, we probably would need to invent it. It exists, however, and not only in the minds of eggheads as myself, but also out there, as part of the so called Barcelona Process, in the growing efforts, primarily, of voluntary civil society networks. This solution involves creating new Mediterranean narratives and myths, but also using the existent Mediterranean "surplus of identity," [4] which goes back many centuries. Of course, this surplus of identity is partly a myth and the Mediterranean Sea plays the role of "imaginary link," but isn’t this the whole point about how identities develop?

First Movement: Adagio

The Barcelona process, or Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP), is a wide multilateral framework of political, economic, and social relations, which, launched in 1995, involves 700 million people in 27 countries around the Mediterranean. In addition to the 15 EU states, the EMP includes Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, and the Palestinian Authority. Like the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, which set in motion the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, on which the Barcelona Process was modeled, the EMP established 3 baskets. These baskets deal, respectively, with: (a) security on the basis of mutual confidence and partnership, (b) a zone of shared prosperity through economic integration, and (c) the rapprochement between peoples through social and cultural links and the creation of a Mediterranean civil society.

Some people may say that the Barcelona process refers primarily to EU's leading foreign policy project and to its main mechanism of Middle East policy. They are right. The EU was moved to start the Barcelona Process for purely instrumental reasons. (a) Fears of immigration from the South, and of xenophobia in the North, (b) perceived security threats arising from the South, such as terrorism, and weapons of mass destruction, and (c) anxiety arising from the growth of militant Islamic Fundamentalism. The EU also regards the Barcelona Process as a strategy to compete with other trade blocks, without having to invite non-European Mediterranean countries to join the EU. The EU says, "take this money, the norms, and the practices, go create your own region and, thus, give us your stability." To the South, however, the Barcelona Process has so far meant, at best, Euros, and, at worst a neocolonialist plot. Still other people say that the real goal of the Barcelona process is regional security through partnership and mutual confidence. They are also right.

I, however, would like to add another point of view, i.e. that the Mediterranean concept is also a laboratory where one of the most outstanding experiments in international relations may have started to take place. I am referring to the invention of a region that does not yet exist and to the social engineering of a regional identity that rests, neither on blood, nor religion, but on civil society voluntary networks and civic beliefs. The very long-term aims of this experiment are to construct in the Mediterranean region a security community whose practices are synonyms of peace. Thus, the Mediterranean concept is about building future peace by building present community links. By peace I mean neither "cold peace" (an oxymoron), nor "warm peace" (it does not exist), but the collective cognitive inability to imagine war as a real alternative in the settlement of political conflicts.

No wonder that to most Israelis the Barcelona Process looks so idealistic, specially, since the recent Intifada broke out. And no wonder tough-minded security people dismiss it and see it as a counterpart to chat forums in the Internet. Neither security people nor Huntington should worry, however. For this experiment has began to take place instead, neither of the tough realities of political life, nor of the current situation. Thus, this idea is idealistic, not in the pie in the sky, "new Middle East", everything is possible kind of way, but only in the philosophical sense that ideas help construct social reality. By way of reinventing who we are, who is "we", and where we are, I am referring to an experiment -- no doubt it will take decades -- less in the degrading than in the redefinition of security interests, political power, and rational courses of action. In fact, its chances of success are so low, that, if I have to make a bet, I'll place my money on Huntington's "clash of civilizations". And yet, precisely because of this, and for the sake of my children, I nonetheless pledge my intellect and my commitment to its alternative, a future convergence of civilizations, by means of security-community building processes and practices, whose foundations, maybe, and only maybe, are now beginning to be established.

Second Movement: Andante: More on Security Communities

The concept of security community goes back to Karl Deutsch, who distinguished between "amalgamated" and "pluralistic" security communities [5] . In an amalgamated security community, such as the US, two or more states formally merge into an expanded state. On the other hand, a pluralistic security community retains the legal independence of separate states but integrates them to the point that the units entertain "dependable expectations of peaceful change". A pluralistic security community develops when its members possess a compatibility of core values derived from common institutions and mutual responsiveness – a matter of mutual identity and loyalty, and a ‘we-feeling" among states.

Although security communities first develop due to factors that encourage states to orient themselves in each other’s direction, security communities are not spontaneous creations. Rather, it is the dynamic and positive relationship between power, ideas, increased interactions, international organization, and social learning, which are the wellsprings of both mutual trust and collective identity, which, in turn, are the proximate necessary conditions for the development of dependable expectations of peaceful change.

To grasp what security communities are about, first, it is important to understand that community "we-feeling" is not only in people heads, but it is also institutionalized in community practices. Second, security communities are not just a geographic place, such an alliance, but also a representation in the material world of peaceful expectations. In other words, peace is an ongoing condition or state in which peoples and states constituting pluralistic security communities find themselves.

Third, security communities are a mechanism of international security that is different, and, in some ways antithetical, to the balance-of-power mechanism. Whereas achieving security by means of the balance of power justifies the use of force and deterrence, because of shared norms and identities a security community mechanism enables states to become secure in relation to one another. They thus can rely on a different and more benign set of practices, such as dialogue, and persuasion. Within security communities, then, increasingly, security seems to be related not only to how many tanks and missiles a state has in relation to other states, but also to whether the states inhabit a common space characterized by common values and norms. Because the shared meanings around which identities become fixed are usually those of materially powerful states, power plays a major role in security communities. This role may be understood as a magnetic attraction of periphery states to the core.

Shared identities that produce we-feeling, however, must first be learned. In other words, only those states that learn how to achieve and maintain a "we-feeling" develop into security communities. Learning and not balancing thus becomes part of the mechanism of change, in other words, "a change of change". By learning I do not mean exclusively the internalizing of some idea or belief by individuals. Rather, I also mean an active process of collective redefinition and interpretation of reality, which, based on new causal and normative knowledge, becomes institutionalized and, thus, has practical effects.

Third Movement: Crescendo: Incentives

The experiment in long-term security community building around the Mediterranean will be facilitated, first, by the region's geo-strategic and economic importance. Straddling two of the deepest divides of our era – that between the West and Islam and that between the prosperous North and the destitute South – the Mediterranean harbors some of the largest dangers for regional and global security. This is why, in order to approach these dangers, and realizing that sending in the tanks (against whom?), building a new system of alliances (with whom?), or creating a collective security system (for what?) will not do, the EU chose to extend its area of stability Southward and promote Mediterranean pluralistic integration. The emergence of the EU as a major player in world politics is another facilitating factor. As the EU consolidates its common foreign and security policy and institutions, it is likely to redouble its efforts to engage Mediterranean partner states in cooperative measures. This will leave the US with the choice of cooperating with Europe over the Mediterranean, of course, without neglecting NATO, or loosing ground with Mediterranean partner states.

In the long term, however, there are other more fundamental changes that might facilitate Mediterranean pluralistic integration. For example, in spite of the fact that the state is here to stay, state practices and identities are nonetheless changing, for example, human rights, environmentalism, and multilateral diplomacy. Becoming part of "who we are", as opposed as "who they are", these practices are beginning to shape new state identities. Moreover, changes in the scope and depth of interaction and interdependencies and new technologies, such as the Internet, facilitate the creation of transnational society, networks, and community, which, in turn, help produce changes in state practice and identity. This is also true with the increasing globalization of trade, finance and labor markets, despite its share of corrosive and disintegrating effects. Collective identities are also on the move, for example, a change in collective identities in Europe and South East Asia is engendering new security practices based on inclusion, rather than on exclusion, on persuasion, rather than on deterrence. And regions are also changing. ASEAN, Asia- Pacific? These regions did not exist forty years ago. Where is Mexico? It moved a decade ago from Central to North America. And where is Europe or Australia? Regional borders seem to be characterized not only by geography but also by shared identity.

Fourth Movement: Largo: Constraints

The Barcelona process is a "hard case" of regional integration for four reasons. First, leaving aside the Middle East conflict for a moment, there are numerous other conflicts in the Mediterranean, such as the Algerian conflict, Greek-Turkish relations, North-South economic gaps, and stereotypical reciprocal images of the West and Islam. Thus, because cultural and political differences and economic inequalities in the Mediterranean are so explosive, the integration process will be much more difficult than the process of European integration or even integration in the Asia-Pacific region, where national cultural differences are smaller and less explosive. Secondly, the social engineering inherent in the Barcelona process will make it difficult for participants to claim legitimacy at home for the region that they create. In Northern Africa and the Middle East, poor and predominantly Islamic states are deeply suspicious of Western attempts to impose on them "a regional identity." Many believe that Western security concerns are unjustified and view the attempt at "region-building" as threatening neocolonial machinations. Third, many of these states are torn by internal schisms and by blurred territorial definitions. Their very existence is tenuous, and their own national identities are uncertain. It is questionable whether, without a secure national identity, these states will be able to assume the regional identity believed to be necessary for regional security. [6]

Finally, conventional wisdom suggests that the fate of the Barcelona process is tied to the fate of the Middle East conflict. Indeed, Israeli-Palestinian bickering disrupted the 1997 EMP meeting in Malta and is now threatening the whole process. Since the Barcelona process' inception in 1995, the Middle East peace process has been halting and uncertain. It is widely believed that the Barcelona process will always lag behind, and will even be shelved if the peace process stagnates. Nonetheless, despite the fact that this is a "hard case" of regional integration, and because of that fact, it is an important experiment and an unprecedented one. National and transnational actors, as well as international organizations around the Mediterranean sea, which are empowered by the Barcelona Process, have continued to lay the foundations of dense networks that I believe are necessary for the development of a "region". If they continue to grow, at some point in the future, the Barcelona Process will begin to cast a shadow on the Middle East conflict, and European political pressures to end the conflict will increase.

For all these reasons, I expect that if regional pluralistic integration is one day achieved in the Mediterranean, it will not follow the European model. Its trajectory will not be mistaken for either a Northern economic hegemonic design or a Southern initiative to impose a new economic order on the Northern "partners". I also suspect that in order to invent the Mediterranean region, all participants will need to both invent and reinvent themselves. Other empirical cases of integration, such as ASEAN suggest such reinvention is necessary: political elites there have began to change the way they understand security and their concept of "home". And they are discovering that it is imperative to their security and welfare to "co-bind" their destinies into larger political entities that do not come at the expense of their cultural identities and allegiances.

Fifth Movement: Pianissimo: Israel and the Mediterranean Region

What can Israel gain from a change of identities of self and place around the Mediterranean Sea?

(1) An Euro-Mediterranean region may be one solution for Israel’s identity conflict. A Mediterranean identity links East and West and offers an alternative to Israel's troubled belonging to the "Middle East". Sefaradic Jews would be able to feel at home with this identity, but so would Ashkenasi Jews. Mediterranean culture and identity also serves as a bridge between Israeli and Arab cultures and societies. [7] In other words, this identity provides Israelis (including Israeli Arabs), and Arabs in general, the chance to belong to the same cognitive region, where, for many centuries, Arabs and Jews cooperated.

(2) The Barcelona Process may also offer the Arabs a partnership with Europe, which traditionally has been closer to the Arab position. And it also may allow Europe to ease Arab fears of Israel’s alleged attempts to achieve regional economic hegemony.

(3) Mediterranean integration may also be instrumental in promoting agreement on a post peace settlement legitimate regional order. This means dealing, not only with power distribution issues, but also with the principles a regional condition of peace should rest on, which is critical for future Israeli-Egyptian relations. A future Charter for Peace and Stability, for example, while not legally binding, may affect the actors’ public policies, and, thus, may became a basis for starting a dialogue on postwar Middle East order.

(4) The Barcelona Process may also provide Israel and Arab countries a particularly useful venue for becoming involved in multilateral practices, such as human rights, arms control, confidence building measures, and the environment.

(5) The Barcelona Process has already started to promote the creation of civil society networks of business people, academicians, artists, and the Media, which are beginning to set in motion the wheels of learning in the Mediterranean. These transnational communities are encouraging the development of regional practices, but also the long-term transformation of Mediterranean identities.

(6) The Barcelona Process also creates the opportunity for building bridges between Islam and the West.

(7) It is a vehicle for Israel to become economically integrated to Europe in ways that may become less threatening to Arab countries.

(8) Finally, the Barcelona Process may be able to socialize non-democratic states to democratic institutions, and promote a shared understanding of the rule of law and of the rules that promote peaceful change.

Epilogue: Hopefully, Not a Requiem.

If in the midst of the Intifada's El-Aksa all this sounds idealist, it is because we seldom can look beyond the social structures that structure our identities and practices. We are so much prisoners of our own classifications that we do not realize that the hard material realities of our conflict only partly determine our needs, practices, and public policies. Collective knowledge, especially identities do the rest. This is why I have not been talking about whether to use rubber bullets or water cannons in the Intifada, and about ways to secure a cease fire or beefing up Israel's deterrence. Rather, not in spite, but because, of current events, I have talked about learning, not only how to construe social reality differently, including collective identities, but, also, how to act on it. And to the pundits who still remain skeptical, following philosopher Charles Taylor, I say: "if you do not understand something, change yourself." [8] 


[1] Transcript of a paper presented at the conference on "Current European and Israeli Perspectives on the Mediterranean Concept," the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, March 8, 2001. The conference was sponsored by the EU-Israel Forum, the Interdisciplinary College Herzliya, and the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. The paper grew out of a project by Emanuel Adler and Beverly Crawford, entitled "The Convergence of Civilizations: Building Security in a Mediterranean Region." I would like to thank the Institute of Global Conflict and Cooperation (the University of California, San Diego) for financial support and Ronald Bee for helping with the organization of the project.

[2] Emanuel Adler and Michael Barnett, eds., Security Communities (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

[3] Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996).

[4] Kalypso Nicolaidis used this concept at a conference on "Constructing a Mediterranean Region: Cultural and Functional Perspectives," University of California, Berkeley, November 18-19, 1999.

[5] Karl W. Deutsch et al., Political Community and the North Atlantic Area (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957).

[6] I owe this observation to Raffaella del Sarto.

[7] See David Ohana, "Israel towards a Mediterranean Identity," in Shlomo Avineri and Werner Weidenfeld, eds., Integration and Identity: Challenges to Europe and Israel (Bonn: Europa Union Verlag, 1999), pp.  81-99.

[8] Charles Taylor, "Interpretation and the Sciences of Man," in Paul Rabinow and William Sullivan, eds., Interpretive Social Science: A Reader (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979).

ã Copyright 2001. Jean Monnet Chair of European Comparative Politics 

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Emanuel Adler, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem