CAIRO (AP) — Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said Tuesday that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would take away much of the motivation for terrorism around the world.
He described the long-running conflict as the key problem in the region and said resolving it could result in Syria ending its support for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Iran turning back its controversial nuclear program.
"It will take about half the impetus in the whole world — not just the region, the whole world — for terror away," he told an audience of Egyptian businessmen from the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt. "It would have more impact by far than anything else that could be done."
The founding of Israel and the dispossession of the Palestinians more than six decade ago long has been a rallying cry among Arabs and Muslims in the region and more recently is a regular recruiting tool for organizations such as al Qaeda.
Mr. Clinton presided over the breakthrough Oslo Accords in 1993 that led to direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians over the principle of land for peace as well as a last-ditch effort to negotiate a final agreement in 2000 before violence derailed negotiations.
He said both sides know the outlines of any final agreement and said it was similar to the one he hammered out with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000.
"They're not even pretending now that they are not basically going to go back and take the modernized version I authored in 2000 that Israel accepted," he said, expressing frustration with the current impasse in the talks over settlement construction.
"They blew 10 years and complicated the problem demographically by not doing this in 2000. It must be done," he said.
Mr. Clinton focused his talk largely on living in a more sustainable fashion to confront global issues of income disparity and climate change and urged an audience that included Cabinet ministers and diplomats to form partnerships to confront societal challenges.
He also answered questions about U.S. domestic issues such as the perceived rise of Islamophobia.
Weighing in on the controversy surrounding an Islamic center being built in New York two blocks from ground zero of the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Clinton suggested dedicating the proposed building to the 60 Muslim victims of the attacks.
"I think the decision to dedicate this center to the memory of those who lost their lives on that day would send a set of messages that would, if not make this crisis go away, would dramatically reduce it," he said.