The Foreign Service Journal, June 2003

52 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U N E 2 0 0 3 hen Egyptian President Anwar Sadat made his his- toric trip to Jerusalem on Nov. 19, 1977, to address the Knesset, I remember think- ing that peace in the Middle East was about to suddenly break out. After covering Sadat’s departure from Egypt, where I was based at the time, I shared a taxi ride into town with Jonathan Randall of the Washington Post. Randall, much like myself, had spent a good portion of his adult life covering Middle East conflicts. During the trip, we discovered that we both truly believed we would soon be out of a job, or, at least, that we would have to recycle ourselves in other parts of the world if we want- ed to continue covering front-page news stories. While Sadat did manage to move a notch forward down the tortuous road to peace, achieving a state of non- belligerency (though not complete normalcy) between Egypt and Israel, he failed to bring about a lasting reso- lution to the Middle East crisis. So, more than a quarter- century later, peace has yet to break out, and even before the war with Iraq began, the Middle East has remained a constant presence on the front pages of the world’s news- papers and on our TV screens. What went wrong? I would submit that the main reason the peace process has not advanced further is that the Palestinians them- selves were not directly involved in the initial negotia- tions. They could have participated, but at the time chose not to, and as a result, the conflict continues to this day. It was a failure of judgment on their part. To para- phrase Abba Eban, the father of Israeli diplomacy, the Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. That squandered opportunity to advance the cause of peace was not only a tragedy for the Palestinian people. The Israeli-Palestinian problem remains, to this day, the central rallying cry for religious extremists and political fanatics throughout the region. The Hamas fundamen- talists, the Osama bin Ladens and the Saddam Husseins of this world have all jumped on the Palestine bandwag- on at one time or another — albeit to advance their own agendas. Similarly, in the name of the “Palestinian cause,” many Arab countries have suspended fundamental human rights, imposed martial law, extended the duration of mil- itary service for years beyond the norm, and basically run their nations as police states in a state of perpetual war with Israel. The Need for Reform A 2002 Arab Human Development Report, written by leading Arab scholars and issued by the United Nations, identified a fundamental choice — between “inertia ... [and] an Arab renaissance that will build a prosperous future for all Arabs.” It stressed the fact that Arabs dra- matically lag behind the rest of the world in democracy, knowledge and women’s rights. As Edward Said pointed out in an article published in CounterPunch on Jan. 25, 2003, “Everyone says (with some justification, of course) that Islam needs reform and Claude Salhani, a senior editor at United Press International, has covered the Middle East for the last 30 years. B Y C LAUDE S ALHANI R ESOLVING THE P ALESTINIAN Q UESTION I T HAS BEEN MORE THAN 25 YEARS SINCE E GYPTIAN P RESIDENT A NWAR S ADAT MADE HIS HISTORIC TRIP TO J ERUSALEM . W HY HASN ’ T PEACE COME TO THE M IDDLE E AST YET ? W