Author: Dr Stephen C Pelletiere, Prof Shibley Telhami, Mr Lawrence R Velte
As of mid-1997, the fate of the Arab-Israeli peace process is dangerously uncertain. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to begin work on a new Jewish settlement in Jerusalem has so enraged Palestinians that they have effectively walked out of the negotiations. President Clinton has called on his special envoy, Dennis Ross, to exert every effort to get the Palestinians to return. Meanwhile, elements opposed to the peace process from within the Israeli political establishment have pressured the Prime Minister to halt or even reverse the steps taken to date. Given these current setbacks, it is worthwhile to review what hangs in the balance for U.S. interests in the Middle East. How important is success in the peace process? What are the implications should the peace talks fail? To examine these questions, the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) of the U.S. Army War College joined with Villanova University’s Center for Arab and Islamic Studies to cosponsor a conference on the peace process, at Villanova, in December 1996. The conference, organized by Dr. Anne Lesch of Villanova and SSI’s Dr. Stephen Pelletiere, brought together six experts on the Middle East, each of whom discussed a different aspect of the crisis. The two papers presented here are particularly timely, as the authors examine the likely effects of breakdown, or breakthrough, on America’s broader regional interests, extending in particular to the Persian Gulf. As U.S. policies with respect to the Gulf and the Arab-Israeli peace process come under increasing stress, these authors elaborate linkages between them. They also make clear that the outcomes will have profound implications for U.S. security commitments and, potentially, future missions and deployments.