Syracuse Area Middle East Dialogue Group

November, 2004 Statement


More than two years since the “Road Map” was conceived, a new opportunity for peace in the Middle East has arrived after the passing of Yasser Arafat and the reorganization of President Bush’s cabinet. It is unlikely that we will be presented with such a rich opportunity for many years to come.

We can realistically predict that extremists on both sides will see this same opportunity and soon renew their attempts to derail progress. With such a fleeting moment for new beginnings, we urge our administration to act quickly to ensure that Palestinians are given a realistic chance to allow their emerging democratic process to take root. By nurturing and supporting substantive forward movement, we believe that the peace process can be revitalized and ultimately realized.

As our President has said, the best antidote to extremism is democracy. We concur: the emergence of two democracies is the region’s best hope for peace. Specifically, the upcoming election for a new Palestinian president is a sign that – with support – effective Palestinian institutions can emerge.

The hope for peace in this region that so much of the world shares is not a pipe dream. Some important initial steps have already been taken by Palestinian and Israeli officials. For example, immediately after Arafat's death the Palestinian Prime Minister called for quickly renewing peace efforts with Israel. Even as Arafat was dying, the Israeli government released $40 million in frozen tax funds to the Palestinian Authority.

Elections are scheduled to be held in the next sixty days. Those elections hold the promise of the emergence of a new partner for peace that Israel and the United States have been calling for. But the simple election of a leader will not be sufficient. As a nation, our priorities must be to ensure that these elections take place, that the results are viewed as legitimate, and that the institutions that emerge are given ample opportunity to stabilize.

So what do we, as SAMED, ask of our government?

  1. First and foremost, we must escalate our efforts to maintain a vigorous engagement in the region through the appointment of an experienced special envoy who can speak for our President. Given the heightened level of mistrust, that envoy must be unassailable in his or her honesty, objectivity and neutrality.
  2. We must exercise quiet diplomacy by working with the other members of the Quartet (the United Nations, European Union and Russia), as well as Arab countries. In particular, the Quartet and Arab governments should provide assistance to ensure free Palestinian elections on January 9, 2005.
  3. Finally, we must encourage leaders of both sides to support each other and enable each other to move forward toward meaningful negotiations.

In short, the United States must encourage the emergence of new leaders and institutions in Palestine. We will best do that through a clear and constant dedication to creating and maintaining the fertile ground in which peace can eventually flourish.