A Conversation on Middle East Peacemaking

(Washington Institute for Near East Policy) Madeleine Albright and Dennis Ross - Madeleine Albright: Before peace can be initiated, Israel, the Arab world, and the Palestinians must undergo a change in behavior and, in the case of the latter, find new, legitimate leadership. During the Camp David talks, even the Palestinian negotiators grew weary of Arafat. Arafat was not capable of making decisions about the holy places, in part because he did not have sole responsibility for those sites. The U.S. should have understood the need to involve Saudi Arabia earlier on in this decision-making process. In any case, there will never be peace with Arafat because he depends on his "super victim" status. The parties must initiate peace negotiations themselves, and Middle Eastern leaders must condition their societies for peace. Ehud Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu did in fact condition their people for peace, but Arafat never did so. Dennis Ross: Arab leaders must publicly accept the moral legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state. If they do not, they will be unable to justify making the compromises with Israel that are essential for peace. If Arab governments offer only de facto acceptance of Israel's existence, then the Arab world will continue to regard the state as a transient entity and deem violence against it as legitimate. Arab leaders must also discredit terrorism as a negotiating tactic. It is important to avoid the mistakes of the past, when the U.S. gave Arab leaders too much leeway on this issue. Today, that which is said in private about accepting Israel's existence must be said publicly as well. The Palestinians must renounce the use of terrorism as a political tool. If terrorism did not occur, there would be a Palestinian state today. Palestinians must also abandon the legacy of victimhood. Victimhood creates a sense of entitlement, with no accountability. Every defeat is a victory for Arafat. Arafat has lied about what concessions he was offered during the Camp David talks of 2000. I wrote The Missing Peace in part to debunk the mythologies that he has propagated.

2004-09-24 00:00:00

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