The Middle East Times (Editorial)
November 12, 2007 - 1:43pm

The good thing that may be said about the Annapolis meeting is that the expectations are gloomily but realistically low. There are not many illusions left in the Middle East, and little is expected from yet another U.S.-brokered summit between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Perhaps what is wrong is not just the plot of this over-familiar drama, but the personnel. Maybe it is the three-way relationship between Americans, Israelis and Palestinians, who all know each very well by now; that is the problem.

Dwight Eisenhower, the American General and later president, used to say that if a problem seemed intractable, then enlarge it. The best example was how to evacuate people from American cities in the event of a nuclear alert. The answer was to enlarge the problem to think about modern transportation systems. Eisenhower’s solution was the interstate highway system.

The Palestinian-Israeli problems seem intractable, and maybe enlargement might help. Certainly the nearest there has been to even the sniff of a breakthrough in recent years was the Saudi peace proposals of five years ago at Beirut, offering Israel a peace treaty with the entire Arab world for a two state solution based on the 1967 borders.

So perhaps it would make sense to have some more Arab state involved in the talks. (Remember that it was a very large and international conference, in Madrid during the first Bush administration some 17 years ago, that paved the way for the Oslo accords.)

And there are other players who deserve inclusion. Even in the popular imagination, the Middle East no longer stops, as it used to, with the immediate neighbors of Israel. The Arab world’s center of financial gravity has shifted to the Gulf states, like Abu Dhabi with its $850 billion investment fund, or the booming new city-state of Dubai, or Qatar with its al-Jazeera TV network and its extraordinary gas reserves.

These hugely wealthy statelets will certainly be asked to contribute financially to the reconstruction of the West Bank and Palestine if any kind of accord can be reached. So if they are going to pay, it is only fair to ask them to play.

This shifting of the focus of the Arab world means there are other interested parties, such as Pakistan, the only Muslim state with nuclear weapon, or India, with its close but discreet military ties worth Israel and its 4 million citizens living and working in the Gulf States. And then there are the Chinese and the Japanese and all the other countries whose oil supplies depend on an orderly and reliable supply from the Middle East and Gulf states, and who thus have a direct interest in stabilizing the region.

The Middle East is too big a problem to be left to the Americans, the Israelis and the Palestinians, that enervated troika who have trodden this path so often and so fruitlessly before. Maybe it is time to try the Eisenhower solution and enlarge the problem. However many new players are brought into the game, they could hardly do worse than the existing threesome.


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