The Middle East in 2003
Towards a New Strategic Environment?
About This Event

Since the recent reelection of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Israel has largely dropped from the news. The removal of Saddam Hussein and the establishment of a democratic government in Baghdad promise the beginnings of a new Middle East. But which domino will fall next? Does the impending war with Iraq portend another push for the roadmap? President's Bush's recent speech to the American Enterprise Institute seemed to indicate that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is back on the agenda. . . . But is Palestinian democracy still the prerequisite for an Israeli-Palestinian peace?

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon will join the American Enterprise Institute for another in our series of Foreign Policy Briefings. This event is by invitation only.

8:45 a.m. Registration
9:00 Introduction: Danielle Pletka, AEI
Remarks: His Excellency Daniel Ayalon, Ambassador of Israel to the United States
10:30 Adjournment
Event Summary

March 2003
The Middle East in 2003

On March 10, 2003, Daniel Ayalon, ambassador of Israel to the United States, outlined the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and spoke about efforts to restart the peace process. Ayalon argued that the true obstacle to peace is not the Palestinian people, but Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian leadership.

Daniel Ayalon
Ambassador of Israel to the United States

Israel was able to achieve peace with Egypt and Jordan in the late 1970s and 1990s because it had the help of partners, the late president Sadat of Egypt and late king Hussein of Jordan. Throughout negotiations with each of these countries, there were situations in which talks were on the verge of breaking down, but neither side resorted to violence. With the signing of the Oslo Agreement in 1994, it appeared that the Palestinian leadership would become yet another partner in the pursuit of peace. However, despite commanding the largest per capita security force in the world, the Palestinian Authority has been unable to stem the flow of terrorist bombers into Israel.

Continued negotiations to ensure peace have been met with Palestinian obduracy. At Camp David in 2000, the Israelis accepted 97 percent of the Palestinian’s demands only to be rebuffed and to become the target of the intifada. This well-orchestrated campaign of terror was initiated, supported, inspired, and directed by Arafat and his leadership in conjunction with Palestinian terrorist groups. Since 2000 the violence has continued unabated and Arafat’s statements have implied that terrorism is a vital component in his effort to secure further Israeli concessions. Nevertheless, Israelis remain determined to find a solution because the stakes are so high. The Palestinians failed to provide a counteroffer in 2000. Now, with the proliferation of terrorism against Israel, it is unlikely that Israel will make as many concessions. Fortunately, there are signs that the Palestinians are coming to the realization that their leadership stands in the way of resolving of the conflict.

In the face of Palestinian terror, the Israelis have adopted a revised security strategy. Rather than relying on the Palestinian security apparatus to prevent terrorism, more direct and sustained actions will be taken. Operation Defensive Shield has had an immediate and substantial effect on the number of successful terrorist attacks. The Palestinians might have achieved similar results, but they lacked the political will to act decisively.

Israel will not negotiate with the Palestinians in the absence of a ceasefire. The Palestinian leadership must be a partner committed to peace, not one that employs politics and violence interchangeably. Israel, the United States, and other international actors regard the Palestinian Legislative Council’s establishment of the position of prime minister within the Palestinian Authority as a necessary first step in restarting peace negotiations. The Arab states can also play an important role in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Israel would like them to be involved in a constructive way toward the development of peace.

To realize peace, Israel is willing to make painful concessions, according to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Israel desires the negotiation of a peace that is based on dignity, justice, and security for all and that will last for generations. Peace and the Palestinian people will be best served by the removal of Arafat and his corrupt leadership. Israel would like to see the establishment of Palestinian democracy, but it is not a precondition for peace negotiations. However, peace will likely prove elusive so long as the current Palestinian leadership remains in power.

Israel does not wish to get involved with the issue of Iraq. Iraq is an international problem, a problem for the region, and a problem for the people of Iraq. Israel would prefer that the international community act together. A unified position will increase the prospects for a peaceful solution and diminish the likelihood that forceful disarmament will be necessary. Israel recognizes the risk of attack that it will bear if war occurs, but the threat from not disarming Iraq is greater. Iraq is pursuing nuclear capability and has been for decades. At times, such as in 1981 and 1991, it was very close to developing a nuclear device. Today, it has the requisite scientists to construct a nuclear device and is only prevented from doing so by the difficulty in acquiring weapons-grade nuclear material.

AEI intern Joseph Porcello prepared this summary.

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