WHERE ISRAEL GOES FROM HERE: A NEW MIDDLE EAST OR A NUCLEAR MIDDLE
By Shimon Peres
Shimon Peres, the Nobel laureate, is a former foreign minister and
former prime minister of Israel.
TEL AVIV -- When the nation of Israel has people hungry for bread,
social issues must be at the top of our agenda. But it is impossible to
correct the social situation without correcting the economy itself. As
long as investment in Israel is not renewed and tourists don't come back,
as long as the flow of capital out of Israel isn't stopped while budgets
are allocated according to special interests, the economy will not recover.
And as long as the security situation is unstable, social and economic
deterioration will continue.
Several conditions are necessary to correct this situation:
-- There must be Palestinian cooperation in the war on terror. The Palestinians
will not offer their cooperation unless we present them with a clear political
horizon. That horizon is the vision presented by U.S. President George
W. Bush and the Quartet (the United Nations, the United States, Russia
and the European Union): a permanent solution based on two states that
live side by side. In my meetings with Palestinians a few days ago, I
made it clear that there is no chance Israel will accept the Palestinian
position, just as there is no chance of Palestinians accepting the Israeli
position. The only way is for both peoples to accept the international
compromise supported now by almost all the world and by a majority of
people in both nations.
Without international support, the Palestinians will not be able to establish
a state and Israel will find it difficult to attain peace. Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon says he accepts Bush's vision, but he is not ready
to bring that position to the government for approval. Stammering does
not make policy.
-- Any agreement with the Palestinians can -- and must -- be drawn up
in such a way that things are done simultaneously: a war on terror, negotiations
for a permanent solution and Palestinian government reforms. If we condition
one element on another, everything will remain stuck, just as it has been
for two years.
-- New settlement construction must be frozen, and we must announce we
are ready to include removal of settlements in any permanent agreement,
as proposed by President Clinton at Camp David. The settlements have taken
a heavy toll on Israeli society. They have gobbled up budgets and made
it difficult to draw a map of peace and security for Israel.
There is no time to lose. Within three or four years, there will be a
new Middle East or a nuclear Middle East, swarming with terrorists in
every corner. There will be either a Middle East rife with fear, hostility
and poverty or a Middle East free of modern weaponry and backward economies.
It could be a Middle East that cooperates in infrastructure, economic
management in industry and services based on new technologies -- as has
happened in Europe and is happening in China and East Asia, India and
even Latin America. Israel can be among the leaders of such a region if
it overcomes its cynics and skeptics.
The right wing tried -- and we in the Labor Party tried with it -- to
achieve peace, security and economic growth. That effort failed because
of stammering, hesitation, procrastination and lost horizons.
The mandate has gone back to the people, and the people must decide now
if they want a new Middle East or social poverty and political failure.
(c) 2002, Global Viewpoint. Distributed by Tribune Media Services International.
For immediate release (Distributed 11/7/02)