Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Opportunities and Dangers for the Mideast Peace Process

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Opportunities and Dangers for the Mideast Peace Process

Article excerpt

THE people of the Middle East, Jews and Arabs alike, will remember 1993 as a historic turning point in their long, agonizing struggle. The year 1994 will test the limits of Israeli and Arab perseverance and challenge the leaders to advance creative solutions that defy rejectionism and fanaticism. This year holds both the prospect for great new achievements and the potential for disastrous failure.

* Egypt: Although Egypt is at peace with Israel, it is at war at home and is in danger of falling into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists. During the second half of December alone, more than 18 Egyptians were killed, including 13 policemen. The establishment of an Iran-like regime in Egypt would have a catastrophic domino effect on the rest of the Arab states. It would end the Egyptian-Israeli peace, torpedo the peace process, and severely undermine United States interests. It is critical that the US works to ensure the continuation of a secular regime in Egypt. This year the US should orchestrate a "Marshall plan" for Egypt, which would include foreign investments and technological aid, with equal focus on industrial and agricultural development, to create millions of jobs and rebuild Egypt's disintegrating infrastructure.

* Jordan: The Hashemite Kingdom has virtually concluded a peace agreement with Israel, and many of its economic aspects are being implemented. King Hussein, however, will not be in a position to sign a peace treaty with Israel before Syria also concludes, at a minimum, a declaration of principles or a peace formula with Israel. Moreover, given the strength of Jordan's Palestinian majority, even a comprehensive peace would not eliminate the country's vulnerability. Should Jordan's stability be undermined by an extremist Palestinian takeover, Israel and Saudi Arabia will lose a strategic buffer. A radical Jordan would be a natural partner to the Sunni Muslim-led Iraq. Israel and Jordan, with US support, must carefully build a political, economic, and security structure that enhances Jordan's role as a geopolitical buffer.

* Lebanon: Following 15 years of civil war, Lebanon is on its way to social and economic recovery. Although Israel occupies a narrow strip in southern Lebanon as a security zone, Israel has repeatedly stated that as soon as new security arrangements are put in place it will withdraw. The Iranian-backed Islamic militant group, the Party of God (Hizbullah), which opposes any agreement with Israel, remains the complicating factor. Because Syria controls Lebanon's affairs it seems that disarming Hizbullah will have to await a peace agreement between Israel and Syria.

* Syria: For the past several months Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations have been deadlocked over Syria's demand for an Israeli commitment to withdraw from the Golan and Israel's refusal to commit to any pullback of its forces before Syria spells out its concept of peace. President Hafez Al-Assad's formula of "full peace for full withdrawal" may eventually provide the basis for Israeli-Syrian peace. Indeed it is doubtful that any Syrian president will relinquish an inch of territory. By the same token, no government in Israel will commit to a full withdrawal without full peace and iron clad security guarantees. …

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