- The Washington Times - Friday, August 29, 2008


Marwan Muasher is a soft-spoken but plain-talking former diplomat from Jordan who campaigned tirelessly for decades for peace with Israel, which makes him a threat to the extremists in the Middle East.

Mr. Muasher — Jordan’s first ambassador to Israel, who also served as ambassador to the United States, foreign minister and deputy prime minister — is a self-described moderate. He advocates a settlement with Israel, a separate Palestinian state and major governmental reform in the Arab world.

“It’s not easy to be a moderate. A lot of people have called it just plain suicide,” he told an audience at the Washington-based Middle East Institute on Thursday, where he promoted his new book, “The Arab Center: The Promise of Moderation.”

“But there never was a time when moderates are more needed,” he added.

Mr. Muasher, now the senior vice president for external affairs at the World Bank, explained that his book is unique because it reveals an insider’s account of Arab diplomacy and it is published in English. He said most Arab politicians do not write memoirs and that those who do write them in Arabic. His publisher is preparing an Arab-language version of his book.

“Arab politicians live by the credo of ‘kiss but don’t tell,’” he said. “The history of our region has primarily been written by the outside.”

His book details closed-door meetings of the Arab League, relays his long involvement in Middle East peace talks and gives an absorbing account of the last six months in the life of Jordan’s King Hussein. He fought for peace as he fought a losing battle against cancer.

Mr. Muasher last saw the monarch in a hospital room at the Mayor Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He described the king lying on his hospital bed with tubes in his mouth that restricted his speech. The king’s last words to him were: “I am at peace with myself. My conscience is clear. I have done what is best for Jordan.”

Mr. Muasher began his career as a reporter for the Jordan Times. He joined the diplomatic service in 1985 and, 10 years later, found himself traveling to Tel Aviv as Jordan’s first ambassador to Israel.

He arrived in Israel a few weeks before the annual celebration of the creation of the Jewish state. He received an invitation to a reception hosted by Israeli President Ezer Weizman.

“This was the first test of my diplomatic skills,” Mr. Muasher said. “For Arabs, Israeli independence is no cause to celebrate.”

He recalled that he tried to remain unnoticed at the reception, “hiding,” as he said, behind the Egyptian ambassador. Mr. Weizman recognized him and raised a toast to the Jordanian ambassador. Soon reporters were rushing up to him to ask for a comment.

“I could not say I was happy …,” he told his Washington audience. That would have insulted the Arab world. “I could not say I was sad …,” he added. That would have insulted his Israeli hosts.

“So I said, ‘I hope the day will come when all people in the region can celebrate their independence,’” he said.

In his book, Mr. Muasher describes U.S. initiatives, Arab initiatives and various “road maps” to peace.

He faulted Israel and the United States for failing to embrace an Arab plan that would have ended the conflict in exchange for the return of Israeli-occupied Arab lands, established Israeli diplomatic relations with every Arab state, provided security guarantees and settled the Palestinian refugee problem without insisting that all return to Israel.

Mr. Muasher lamented the diplomatic failure to end the conflict after more than 60 years. He said the solutions are there, but the political will to adopt them is missing.

The history of Arab-Israeli peace talks, he said, is “a story of roads built but never traveled.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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