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World Economic Forum
21 January 2004
Annual Meeting 2004
• Avraham Burg • Daniel Lubetzky • Aaron D. Miller
• Yasser Abed Rabbo
• Moderator •
Wednesday 21 January
7 peace process 2004
Setting the 2004 Agenda: Peace Initiatives in the Middle East
Thanks to the recent unofficial initiative known as the Geneva Accord and grassroots efforts on the part of Israelis and Palestinians there is still hope for the Middle East peace process, observed participants in this session. However, moderator
Paris Bureau Chief and Middle East Regional Editor, Newsweek Magazine, France, opened on a pessimistic note. He recalled that in the State of the Union address last night, US President Bush had not once mentioned the Middle East peace process. But he concluded the discussion confessing: “I feel better.”
Assessing the past few months and looking at the implications of the Geneva Accord that was negotiated and signed on a private non-governmental basis, Yasser Abed Rabbo, Minister of Cabinet Affairs of Palestinian National Authority, quoted some encouraging numbers. “The Geneva Accord is supported by 40% of the people in Israel and by 40% of the people in Palestine,” he said. “This support is growing stronger. Now Palestinians and Israelis have something new to build on.”
Rabbo, who defined his role as “peacemaker if there is a chance for peace”, said support for the Geneva Accord from other Arab governments was an encouraging sign. The peace deal, he said, has “added new elements that make the Road Map more credible”. In his view, the accords put important elements in the peace process that were missing in the historic Oslo agreement. These include solving the settlement issue, ending the occupation, defining the status of Jerusalem and agreeing on the final borders. He concluded by appealing to participants to oppose the so-called security fence that the Israeli government is currently building through the occupied West Bank. “The danger is the wall,” Rabbo said. “We should by all means unite all forces to intervene today to prevent the completion of the wall.”
Assessing the failures of the Middle East peace process,
Aaron D. Miller,
President, Seeds of Peace, USA, pointed to three main problems:
• There has been a lack of leadership.
• Negotiations have not been based on balance of power but on national interests.
• A serious third party to moderate, cajole and pressure the two sides has been missing.
“We need idealism without illusions,” said Miller, speaking as a veteran US diplomat who has been involved in the peace process for almost two decades. He sees rays of hope in the broadening grassroots efforts for building peace – such as the Geneva Accord. But he cautions: “You cannot create real peace if there is no marriage of transactional and transformational diplomacy.”
Chairman and Founder, PeaceWorks Foundation, USA, pointed out that many of the micro-level projects started by his organization ten years ago across the Israel-Palestine divide are still surviving. “The cement has worked and there is proof that people who have cemented projects have remained partners in the present bad situation. They know that if you don’t do something, things get even worse.” If leaders want to build peace, Lubetzky added, they need the engagement of people at the grassroots. “They need their constituencies.” He also made another important point: “Extremists are very active but moderates are not so active. That’s what we have to change.”
In the eyes of the prominent Israeli on the panel,
Member, Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and Former Speaker, Knesset, Israel, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has reached a state of “despair fatigue”. But Burg made an effort to find common ground with his Palestinian counterpart. Israelis and Palestinians, he said, aren’t the only ones who have to stop being taken hostage by extremists. The whole world has to help by pressuring the Americans to resume their mediator role. The United States, he argues, has to commit itself as the indispensable third party to resume the peace process. In Burg’s view, the message to the world is: ”Swallow your pride and talk to the Americans. Persuade them to support the peace process.”
After the Annual Meeting 2004, summaries will be available on the Forum's website (www.weforum.org).
© 2004 World Economic Forum. They will also be sent on CD-Rom.