Clinton suggests revolutionary vision for peace

DUBAI — The Arab world needs a revolutionary vision, like that of Dubai, to achieve lasting peace, security and prosperity in the Middle East, said former US President Bill Clinton.

By Isaac John

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Published: Tue 14 Dec 2004, 2:37 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:29 PM

In his keynote address to delegates on the opening day of the Arab Strategy Forum 2004 yesterday, Clinton said growth and development do not rely on vision alone.

“There are other factors that are required. Vision needs a concrete strategy to activate the vision. Systems are needed to implement that vision. Leadership is a key component and support is needed from the friends of the Arab world including the USA,” he said.

“This vision is appearing or we would not be here today,” he said, adding: “Dubai, in which we meet, is the product of a revolutionary vision. A leader who could simply imagine that the future could be radically different than the past. The same vision is needed to achieve peace, security and prosperity in the Middle East.”

The former US president told delegates that they need to realise that all are living in an interdependent world and that it is upon them to define what the Arab world would be like in 2020.

Thanking General Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister for hosting the forum and for his leadership, he said at the three-day gathering designed to map out a blueprint of the Arab World in 2020. “The year 2020 is not that far away,” he added.

Pointing out that he had been interested in the Arab world since he was a student, he said: “When I was president, I did all I could to be a good partner and good neighbour and arranging a lasting peace in the Middle East.”

Clinton said he saw two opposite scenarios of what the Middle East should be like in 2020. He outlined the negative scenario in which the Arab world would be dominated by terror; there will be continuing conflict with Israel; there would be no Palestinian state; some states would try and develop weapons of mass destruction and terrorist groups would try and do the same; there would be exploding population; excessive reliance on oil and resistance to necessary economic, political and social change including education and empowerment of women.

He said the positive scenario he saw was an Arab world at peace with Israel; a Palestinian state serving its peoples; Arab nations joining in a vast Arab free-trade zone, cultural renaissance, regional cooperation for security against terrorism; an Iraq independent and responsible with a representative government; Iran giving up its nuclear ambitions; good education and healthcare; eradication of poverty; an Arab world close to both the East and the West and with new ties to new economic powers like China and India.

After providing the opposing concepts, Clinton asked: “What will happen?”

“All we know for sure that we live in an interdependent region and in an interdependent world. For example, both Israel and Syria are interdependent — it depends on whether there are attacks or whether their children play together,” he pointed out.

The former US president called on the world to help the Palestinian leaders who will be chosen in elections next month make peace with Israel, build their economy and fight crime and terrorism.

“There are many extraordinary leaders among the Palestinians. But they are beginning a long journey and they need our support,” he said as regional and international leaders met to discuss the challenges facing the Middle East.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s death last month has been seized on by many observers as an opportunity to advance the long-stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace process. The Americans — who along with the United Nations, the European Union and Russia are the main sponsors of a Middle East peace plan known as the road map — had argued they could not trust Arafat as a negotiating partner. The Israelis also had refused to deal with Arafat.

Clinton has close experience with the difficulties of Mideast peacemaking. He has said Arafat “missed an opportunity” for a settlement at Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that Clinton convened at Camp David in 2000.

He praised his successor, President George W. Bush, for helping pay for the January 9 Palestinian vote to choose Arafat’s successor. He said he believed America “has to balance our spending on security with investment and economic and human development, especially in Gaza and the West Bank, to facilitate not only the peace process but in order to secure the success of a Palestinian state.”

“The new Palestinian leaders will have to establish rule of law. They will have to fight crime and terror, they will have to develop their economy, they will have to succeed in Gaza and they will have to continue to push until a final and complete agreement” is reached, said Clinton.

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