THE Bush administration and those Middle Eastern leaders who
made the Madrid peace talks possible deserve our congratulations!
But the hard work of building a peaceful Middle East of the future
has only just begun.
In planning their present Middle East diplomacy, President Bush
and Secretary of State James Baker III made some smart decisions.
They opted to try to resolve both the Palestinian-Israeli and the
Arab-Israeli conflicts on parallel tracks.
They decided to tackle not only the "traditional" tasks of
diplomacy, but also the broader challenges of controlling the
region's vast arms inventories and building a shared stake in
regional economic development.
All those decisions were wise. But other efforts are also needed
if the opponents of the peace process sniping from Tehran,
Baghdad, or elsewhere are to be denied the constituency they seek.
In particular, the issue of accountability of the region's
leaders - to their own people and to the international community -
needs to be addressed. And leaders and opinion-formers from
throughout the region should be engaged in a sustained exploration
of what a future Middle East at peace might look like.
It is a region of tremendous wealth and creativity. For too
long, those precious resources have been channeled into warfare and
hatred. But the events of recent years have created an
unprecedented chance to reverse that situation.
Today, for the first time, there is a substantial constituency
in Israel and most Arab states that is prepared to say - out loud -
that they are tired of war, and that negotiation and compromise
provide a better way to resolve differences.
More than ever before, respected Middle Eastern opinion-formers
have begun to look at their communities' security and well-being as
a mutual and not just a narrowly national affair.
Last September, the group that I work for, Search for Common
Ground, brought 14 of these Middle Eastern pioneers together for a
trailblazing meeting in Rome.
They included three Israelis - two from the right of the
political spectrum - and Arabs from seven different Arab
communities, including a Palestinian, three nationals of Gulf
countries, and one leading thinker of mixed Iraqi-Iranian heritage.
These 14 individuals came to Rome to begin building a network of
cooperation between private individuals and institutions throughout
the region, in an attempt to build its long-term security. Each
brought to the meeting his or her own rich mix of experiences and
An Israeli strategic specialist brought his concern that the
Arabs might launch a surprise attack against his country. …