SINGAPORE – The world will be enveloped in a heavy cloud of gloom and doom this year. Economies will sputter, governments will fall, and companies will fail. But the biggest danger of all is a sense of hopelessness. Preventing this requires resolving some large and apparently intractable problem. Closing the Doha Round of world trade talks provides one such opportunity. But an even better opportunity is provided by the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Many people around the world, especially in the West, have convinced themselves that this conflict is beyond resolution. Several efforts have been made since the famous Oslo accords of 1993. All failed. But few have noticed that an unusual constellation of forces has emerged, opening a remarkable new window of opportunity for a solution. Such geopolitical opportunities are rare, and it would be a great tragedy not to seize this one.
For a start, there seems to be a near-universal consensus that any solution will be based on the Taba accords worked out by President Bill Clinton in January 2001. Palestinian diplomats have told me they can accept this package.
Equally important, there is now a near-universal consensus among virtually all the Arab states that a peace settlement is in their interest. Many, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are more concerned with the rise of Iran. An agreement with Israel could strengthen their hand in dealing with Iran and deprive the Iranian government of an opportunity to whip up Arab popular sentiment against Arab governments’ position on Palestine.