- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 15, 2002

The president's definitive statement of June 24 on the crisis in the Middle East has set a firm foundation for a constructive, attainable and stable peace in the area. Our government's policy is that Yasser Arafat must go; the Palestinians must implement meaningful reforms to reflect democratic processes; and terrorism must be eradicated. And yet, as Secretary of State Colin Powell learned at a recent New York meeting of the "Quartet," the European Union, Russia and the United Nations resist our emphasis on Mr. Arafat. An international program for democracy and human dignity in the Middle East must, therefore, be placed on the front burner of our diplomacy.
It was my privilege 20 years ago to represent the United States in a unique diplomatic experience that contributed to the ending of our Cold War with the Soviet Union. It can provide us guidance for the current Middle East crisis.
The Helsinki Final Act, signed in 1975 by all 33 European countries, the United States and Canada, created a Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE-OSCE). At the time, President Ford's decision to sign it was severely criticized. It seemed to give the Soviet Union a legitimacy it did not deserve in return for essentially unenforceable language supporting human rights and the rule of law. Over time, however, and with U.S. diplomatic effort, those human rights statements took on the characterization of commitments and promises that, if not adhered to, delegitimized those states which did not live up to them. The Soviet Union was eventually so delegitimized.
Swedish social scientist Gunnar Myrdal, in his groundbreaking study of racial prejudice in our country, "An American Dilemma," described the prevailing American ethic as the belief that human dignity for all "ought" to prevail. He observed that America historically worked steadily and consistently to bring the "is" closer to that "ought." CSCE-OSCE declared a detailed universal commitment to human rights and human dignity as the necessary "ought" if security, cooperation and peace in Europe were to be achieved. With an agreement on the "ought," CSCE could legitimately examine the "is" within each of the signatory countries and publicly judge and criticize the sins of omission and commission that were uncovered.
This historical perspective suggests that achieving peace in the Middle East will require an agreed-upon "ought" with respect to democracy, the rule of law and human dignity. Israel is now the only democracy in the Middle East, and the president has appropriately said that one of our objectives must be to introduce and strengthen democracy within Israel's neighbors.
Equally vital is the need to replace the refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza with bona fide local communities designed to encourage economic development. The potential for developing the healthy and vibrant democratic environment necessary for democratic elections is threatened by pervasive hostile and oppressive factors, including an unemployment rate of 45 percent, the more than two-thirds of Palestinian households that exist below the poverty level and the growing malnutrition of Palestinian children. The region's Arab peoples have every right to achieve the political, economic and social human dignity they deserve, and we should encourage the forces within those societies who yearn for those freedoms. The $4 billion contributed by European and Arab states to the Palestinian Authority has obviously been used for other purposes.
Practically speaking, how do we achieve these objectives? An international conference designed to develop a Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, based on an agreed-upon civilized human rights "ought," could be successful if it incorporates what theologian Michael Novak calls the "four universal liberties" rooted in Islamic tradition: liberty to worship; liberty to study, write and speak; liberty from poverty; and liberty from tyranny thereby addressing a fundamental flaw in the relationships between Israel and its neighbors.
The region is ready for this approach. A Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentarian Forum already exists. The Fifth European-Mediterranean Conference of Foreign Ministers is working on a "framework document" based on a commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The European Union in 1990 issued a "Venice Declaration" affirming the right of states in the Mediterranean area, including Israel, to live within "secure and recognized" borders, within a democratic framework. The Islamic Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the University of Qatar recently sponsored in Qatar a Second Conference on Democracy and Free Markets.
American leadership can pull these ingredients together. An international conference called to adopt its own series of "oughts" would create the foundation for democracy and peace in the Middle East. Secretary of State Colin Powell is uniquely qualified to organize such a conference and establish its tone. The result might well be an atmosphere conducive to the development of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians in a Mediterranean and Middle East region committed to democracy.

Max M. Kampelman was Counselor of the State Department, U.S. ambassador to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe; and ambassador and U.S. negotiator with the Soviet Union on Nuclear and Space Arms. He is now chairman emeritus of Freedom House, the Georgetown University Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, and the American Academy of Diplomacy.

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