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Sharm el-Sheikh Redux

Driven by a common fear of Islamic fundamentalism, and by a false assumption that it is an illegitimate political force, the Middle East’s so-called “moderates” have once again gathered at the Egyptian seaside resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, the traditional venue for emergency regional summits, to rally “moderates” against “extremists.”

In the spring of 1996, the so-called “moderates” – Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan’s King Hussein, Yasser Arafat, and even some representatives of the Gulf dynasties – convened in Sharm el-Shekh with President Bill Clinton and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a desperate bid to block radical Islam’s emergence. They were also expected to give an electoral boost to Prime Minister Shimon Peres of Israel who, severely undermined by Hamas’s devastating campaign of suicide terrorism, was on the verge of electoral defeat at the hands of Benjamin Netanyahu.

But Islamic fundamentalism remained unimpressed. Both its jihadist and political identity have, indeed, only gained momentum ever since.

In October 2000, Sharm el-Sheikh was the scene of another summit, with most of the same actors. This time, the call went out for an end to the Palestinian Intifada and for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a final peace agreement. Both objectives were endorsed by all the participants; neither was implemented.