Israel Policy Forum
: "NEA Deputy Assistant Secretary David M. Satterfield
Keynote Address to the Israel Policy Forum
March 11, 2004
Thank you, Mr. Secretary. It’s wonderful to be with you again today. As I’ve watched IPF develop over the past 10 years I have been impressed with its energetic and capable leadership. Truly, the extraordinary talent, expertise, and accomplishment represented in this room are a testament to IPF’s growth and achievement. I have very much appreciated the opportunities I have had to work with IPF over the years, and look forward to continuing that dialogue with all of you today and in the future.
The past twelve months have been a time of remarkable change in the Middle East. The end of Saddam’s regime is central to that change, but only the start. The region’s people find themselves facing a series of critical questions related to post-war reconstruction, reconciliation and territorial borders, and the emergence of democracy and open societies. And they are posing these questions in new ways, and with new urgency. They are questioning old assumptions, and old rhetoric, with a critical eye. Clearly, the status quo is an unacceptable paradigm. We can’t be naïve about it. There are entrenched forces that will resist change, and throw up obstacles along the way. And in some cases they will be successful for a time. But new voices are being heard, and the direction is clear.
This is a hopeful sign. Because a new vision for the region cannot be imposed from the outside: it must rooted in the experience and aspirations of the region’s people. That is the only basis for change, and the only path toward resolving the conflicts and curing the economic and political ills out of which extremism and insecurity grow. Even so, powerful challenges loom on many fronts, from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to Iraq to the global war on terrorism. Many Middle East societies are falling further and further behind in the global economy, and Arab thinkers themselves highlight mounting deficits in educational and political modernization.
And underlying all those problems is a crisis of understanding. The fact that a recent survey by the Pew Foundation found that 94 percent of Egyptians, for example, have an unfavorable view of the United States ought to be a cause for sober reflection. So should the palpable unease of many in the United States about the Middle East and prospects for the future. Recent polls showing a majority of Europeans believing that Israel now poses a threat to world peace are as troubling as they are ill-founded, and equally alarming is the creeping return of anti-Semitism in political discourse. Gaps between Europeans and Americans in viewing many Middle East issues are widening, not narrowing – even as our stake in addressing these issues is growing. If ever there were a time for looking honestly at where we’ve been together, and for speaking some plain truths about where we’re headed, this is it.
I don’t mean to suggest that there is a neat path ahead of us. There isn’t. And I certainly don’t mean to suggest that the Department of State has a monopoly on wisdom on any of these issues. We don’t. And if you don’t believe me, there is no shortage of people in Washington who will confirm it for you.
It seems to me that we face four interconnected policy challenges in the Greater Middle East today. The first challenge is the topic of today’s symposium: renewing progress toward the two-state vision which President Bush has outlined, and which is so deeply in the interests of Israelis as well as Palestinians. Second is the struggle against terrorists and their state sponsors, as well as against the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Third is the historic challenge of supporting efforts at economic and political reform in a region which has for too long known too little of either. And fourth, and not least, is the challenge of helping Iraqis liberated from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein to build the unified, stable and prosperous country that they and their neighbors so richly deserve.
Again, these are enormously difficult issues, and change will not come easily or quickly, nor will it be risk-free. But, taken together, progress on each of these four issues offers a positive agenda for the Greater Middle East. They offer a basis for making common cause with people and leaderships in the region struggling against the militant minorities who threaten us all. And they offer a basis for hope – the ultimate antidote to the despair on which violent extremists thrive.
Let me touch briefly on each of these policy challenges in turn.
Israel and the Palestinians
We are now facing a compelling, complicated, and endlessly frustrating challenge: how to rekindle some sense of hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I hardly need to tell any of you in this audience that hope is in very short supply right now. It is evaporating in the understandable rage of Israelis suffering through horrible acts of terror. It is being swallowed up in the deep frustrations, daily humiliations and wounded dignity of Palestinians living under occupation. And what is being lost in the process is the vision of two states that President Bush offered on June 24, 2002.
The truth is that in the long term, nothing would have a greater impact in shaping a positive future for the Middle East than the realization of the President’s vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace, security, and dignity. In order for that to happen, both Israelis and Palestinians must see a different reality emerging than the one they see today. Israelis must see an end to terror, and hope for a final end to the conflict and full acceptance in the region. Palestinians must see their dignity respected, their hope restored for an early, negotiated end to the occupation which began in 1967, and the creation of a viable, independent state of their own.
But more than this, it will require bold choices for peace from Israelis and Palestinians themselves, strong leadership from the United States, and active diplomacy with our friends in the region and throughout the international community. We are consulting intensively with the Israeli government now to determine how Prime Minister Sharon’s disengagement proposals might serve to bring us closer to the two-state vision. It is possible that this is a moment of opportunity in the seemingly endless effort to bring peace to the Middle East. As you all know, last December in Herzliya, Prime Minister Sharon said, “Israel will not remain in all the places where it is today.” In that speech Sharon laid out in broad brushstrokes some ideas about what he referred to as “the unilateral security step of disengagement from the Palestinians.” The United States believes that direct negotiation between the two parties is the best way to achieve a just, lasting, and secure peace. However, if Israel has now decided that its security needs dictate a certain level of disengagement, we must now work on ensuring that any such steps are consistent with the roadmap and continue to lead towards the two-state vision.
There certainly do exist disengagement steps that Israel can take that would decrease friction between Israelis and Palestinians, improve Palestinian freedom of movement, and advance progress toward the President’s two-state vision. Such steps, however, must help, rather than hinder, realization of the goal the President has set forth. And such steps should be part of a strategic, comprehensive approach that takes into consideration the need for positive actions by Israel in both Gaza and the West Bank. In short, actions taken by Israel – and the Palestinians - ought to move the sides closer to the two-state solution, not farther away from it. In this regard, we are continuing to urge the Israeli and Palestinian Prime Ministers to meet and resume direct contacts that can make possible progress toward an agreed settlement. Because there is no substitute for the roadmap’s final destination: a negotiated two-state solution that ends the conflict permanently and sees two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
Such a Palestinian state cannot be built upon a foundation of terror and violence. On that there can be no concessions, no flexibility, no turning a blind eye. Palestinians will have to be honest with themselves on this point, and they will have to confront those among them who would drag Palestinian dreams further down a tragic dead-end path. As President Bush has emphasized repeatedly, a transformed Palestinian leadership is essential. Ending violence and reforming Palestinian political institutions are not a favor to any outsider – they are deeply in the self-interest of Palestinians, and the only workable path to statehood and the end of occupation.
But the emergence of a Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel is not just a dream of the Palestinian people. Its realization is intimately connected with Israel’s future as well, and the kind of Israel that Israelis will pass on to their children and grandchildren. Israel’s national political dialogue has been dominated in recent months by attempts to answer that question. Because as Israeli settlements expand, and their populations increase, it becomes increasingly difficult to see how the two peoples will be separated into two states. The fact is that settlements continue to grow today, encouraged by specific government policies, and at enormous expense to Israel’s economy. And this persists even as it becomes clear that the logic of settlements and the reality of demographics could threaten the future of Israel as a Jewish democracy.
For friends of Israel, the conclusion is hard to escape. Settlement activity must stop, because it ultimately undermines Israeli as well as Palestinian interests. The course of the security fence remains a significant problem as well – not its existence as a separation barrier between Israel and the West Bank – but because its planned route inside the West Bank isolates Palestinians from each other, prejudices negotiations and, like settlement activity, takes us further from the two state goal.
Just as it is essential to drive home to Palestinians that violence and terror will never achieve their aspirations, so too it is important to preserve the possibility that a viable state can be achieved by a Palestinian leadership committed once and for all to ending terror. That reality underpins the President’s continued personal commitment to his June 24 vision, and to the roadmap as a means of pursuing it.
In the meantime, we are left with the reality that roadmaps and visions and final status proposals do not implement themselves. They require hard work and hard choices from all of us. We will continue to work with Palestinians and Israelis, with the Quartet, and with our friends in the region and the international community, to help the parties to this conflict make those hard choices.
Struggle Against Terrorism and WMD
Another critical challenge is our ongoing struggle against terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. I’ll just touch on a few of the major issues before us, with particular emphasis on Libya, which has become a real success story and demonstrates that our efforts to fight terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction can indeed result in a positive outcome for everyone involved.
Libya is a major success in our efforts to halt both state sponsored terrorism and the proliferation of the world's most dangerous weapons. Following long and determined diplomacy, Libya – a nation that had been a sponsor of terrorism and had aggressively sought WMD capabilities – made the right and historic decision to eliminate its WMD and MTCR-class missile programs. In the space of less than three months, Libya has invited U.S. and UK experts, along with officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to help destroy the dangerous legacy of its decades-long effort to obtain and deploy chemical and nuclear weapons. .
Libya’s cooperation has been excellent. In less than three months, Libya's declared nuclear capacity has been effectively dismantled; its chemical munitions have been destroyed; its chemical agents are declared, consolidated and awaiting destruction; and its Scud C missiles have been removed. On March 8, Libya signed the IAEA Additional Protocol and acknowledged its history of non-compliance – an example we hope other nations will follow.
President Bush has said that as the Libyan government demonstrates its seriousness, the U.S. will respond in good faith and with the possibility of better relations. We can now say that U.S.-Libyan relations are on a path of gradual, step-by-step normalization. We are engaged in a bilateral political dialogue, U.S. diplomats are back in Tripoli for the first time in 24 years, Americans can travel to Libya, and Libya has been invited to open an Interest Section in Washington.
The message for the region, and for the world, is clear. The U.S. is committed to working with our allies and with multilateral institutions to address through diplomatic means the challenge posed by the proliferation of WMD and terrorism. As President Bush put it, “old hostilities do not need to go on forever.”
On the other side, however, we have Iran, about which not only the United States but also an increasing number of other countries have profound concerns. While Iran has made gestures toward greater cooperation on WMD issues, recent reports have called into question the sincerity of those gestures. And they must be weighed against the backdrop of Iran’s previous broken promises, its crackdown on reformists, and its continuing support for terrorism. Syria poses another challenge. Secretary Powell made unmistakably clear to President Asad last year that the United States, remains committed to comprehensive peace, including on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks. But he also laid out candidly the range of our concerns and what it would take to build a more normal relationship. The point is that the Syrian regime can’t have it both ways: it can’t profess a commitment to peace on the one hand, and with the other support groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which are doing everything they can to explode prospects for peace.
The third component of our challenges in the Middle East today is, of course, Iraq. Both the Iraqi people and we face a huge and complicated a task of reconstruction after decades of brutal misrule by Saddam Hussein. However, the possibilities are before us are equally huge. There can be no doubt that security is a daunting and immediate problem. The March 2 bombings in Karbala and Baghdad are a reminder of how ruthless and vicious an enemy we are facing. So too are the issues of economic reconstruction and accelerating a political process as we prepare to hand over authority to a sovereign, independent Iraqi government on July 1. But there can also be no doubt that Iraqis are finally free from the terrible atrocities and waste of the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Step by difficult step, Iraqis are beginning to put their society back together again. Basic services have largely been restored. Iraqi ministers are taking on more and more responsibilities. Ordinary citizens are expressing their views freely, in ways that were simply unimaginable under Saddam. And the compromise draft Iraqi constitution is a milestone for Iraq and for the region, not only enshrining basic civil and political rights, but also serving as an important example of peaceful political compromise on core issues of power sharing.
We have a long way to go, and I won’t pretend this will be easy. Iraqis will need our help, and the help of their neighbors and the international community. But that help will come. I think it is becoming clear to the entire international community that success in Iraq is in everyone’s interest. And we are seeing results, whether in Iraqi debt relief, political support for the Governing Council, or increasing international involvement in reconstruction.
Real partnerships on Iraq, with Europe and other G-8 members, with regional states, and with the Iraqi people, will be hard to build, but immense in potential. It will have to be a two-way street, in which Americans also listen and adapt, which I know can sometimes seem like an unnatural act for us. But now is the moment to recognize what’s at stake in Iraq. The Iraqi people and we have our work cut out for us, but we’re pointed in a direction that can, and must, succeed. We simply cannot afford the alternative.
Supporting Economic Modernization and Democratic Change
The last, but surely not the least, element on our policy agenda, and intertwined with the other three, is the longer-term issue of supporting efforts from within the region aimed at democratic change and economic modernization. It is a fair criticism of U.S. efforts during the past 20 or more years to say that we have never paid adequate attention to the long-term importance of opening up some very stagnant political systems, especially in the Arab world. But now President Bush, in speeches during the past year, has talked about the urgent need for a “Forward Strategy for Freedom” to help bring fundamental reform to countries in the Greater Middle East.
In the aftermath of September 11, the United States has come to the fundamental realization that lagging reform has held back freedom and prosperity for millions of people, and has helped to produce the most serious security challenges we are now facing: terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the freedom deficit, political extremism, and radical Islam.
This is not just a matter of promoting American or Western values, or of ensuring basic human rights, crucial as both of those concerns are. It is also a matter of hardheaded American interests. Stability is not a static phenomenon, and political systems that do not find ways to gradually accommodate the aspirations of their people for participation will become brittle and combustible. And we are not along in thinking this. Many leaders in the political, academic, and economic spheres in the Middle East region have also come to the realization that reform is essential – and in their own best interests. We want to support that regional movement for change. The Greater Middle East initiative is designed to respond to the region’s needs and the region’s own ideas for reform. It is not a plan to be imposed from outside. Enduring democratic change and economic modernization must be driven from within Arab societies. The initiative has to be homegrown. So while we believe the impetus for reform must come from within the region, we also stand ready to assist those within the region who seek reformist change.
I know there are some who argue for a kind of Arab or Moslem exceptionalism regarding reform, but I simply don’t agree. Of course it’s true that Arab societies have more than their share of difficulties to work through, but that doesn’t mean that they are incapable of gradual democratic change. Assuming otherwise is both flawed analysis and a dangerous basis for policy. To put it simply, reform is essential for stability in the Greater Middle East. Reform is needed in order to expand political, economic, and educational opportunities throughout the region; lack of reform is a root cause of extremist violence.
But what is encouraging across much of the Greater Middle East today is the extent of self-examination underway, and the tangible steps that many countries are taking toward political and economic reform. The Arab Human Development Reports issued over the past two years bear eloquent testimony, from Arab thinkers themselves, about what needs to be done to ease serious deficits in political freedoms, economic openness, educational opportunity and women’s empowerment. The hard reality as we enter the 21st century is that countries that adapt, open up and seize the economic and political initiative will prosper; those that don’t will fall further and further behind.
From Morocco to Jordan to Bahrain, Arab leaders and emerging civil society groups are beginning to grasp – and act on – that hard truth. Iraq will be a crucial test for economic and political modernization, whose success over time will have far-reaching consequences. So will the course of events in Saudi Arabia and Egypt – two critically important partners for the United States. Both face enormous challenges. A series of terror attacks in Saudi Arabia are another horrible reminder of the utter ruthlessness of Al Qaeda, whose indiscriminate slaughter of innocent men, women and children reinforced the threat posed to all of us. The Saudis have responded aggressively. But importantly, Crown Prince Abdullah has made clear that these attacks will not deter his pursuit of domestic reforms, including opening up the economy and enhancing political participation.
In the last 30 years, a genuine partnership has also emerged between the United States and Egypt. It has been founded not on sentiment or imagined bonds, but on a bedrock of shared interests and aspirations. It has also had its share of setbacks and differences and mutual disappointments – but it would be a serious mistake to forget what it has meant for both of us, and for the hopes of the region.
There are many things that the United States, Europe, and others in the international community can do to help those in the Greater Middle East committed to creating new economic and political opportunities. President Bush has proposed a U.S.-Middle East Free Trade Area within the coming decade. Our assistance programs are expanding throughout the Arab world, under the umbrella of Secretary Powell’s Middle East Partnership Initiative. As I have stressed, the initiative must ultimately come from within the region, but we are now trying to think creatively about what new structures for support we could organize. The Greater Middle East initiative is a platform for discussing these issues with our friends in the region and the international community.
Undersecretary Mark Grossman recently returned from a trip to the Morocco, Egypt, Bahrain and Jordan. The purpose of his trip was to listen, consult, and learn from people in the Middle East about how the U.S. can best support efforts for freedom. He heard regional opinions about the President’s Greater Middle East initiative, and had productive meetings with government official and civil society leaders. We are all listening closely to the view from the region. Undersecretary Grossman’s travel followed close on the heels of visits by other senior officials, including Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Alan Larson and Assistant Secretary Bill Burns. Secretary Powell has been discussing ideas with leaders from all over the region. President Bush wants us to support those who are pursuing reform in areas such as governance, education, and business; he does not want us to impose reform from the outside. That is the goal we are pursuing.
Ultimately, our success will be measured by whether we are able to achieve a partnership with the people of the region based on a common vision. To do this, we must be just as clear about what we stand for as what we stand against. We must convey a message of freedom, opportunity, and dignity to the region’s people. We must restore hope and confidence as the best antidote to chaos and extremism.
That certainly goes for Israelis and Palestinians, who after all are part of the region too. Hope and confidence are in short supply in Israel and the Palestinian Authority right now. But the prospect of reform, stimulated and nurtured from within the region, can only help to move the peace process forward. U.S. support for regional reform, however, is not a substitute for our continued engagement in the peace process. We remain strongly committed to working closely with both parties to realize President Bush’s vision of two states. But we must also be very clear that the process of reform in the Greater Middle East should not and must not be held hostage to progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Overall economic and political reform in the region must be pursued in parallel with efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But we do need to recognize that each of issues we face in the region is connected to the others in increasingly important ways. Communications advances, technology, and modernization only strengthen those links. This is a great irony in a region known more for closed borders than open societies, but it should make us realize that we cannot afford a narrow view that sacrifices a broad vision for tactical advantage. Most important, we should be unafraid to look at old problems in new ways. It is my hope that the region’s people will lead us in that direction. And if that can happen, I think a better future is close at hand.