Always Darkest Before the Dawn
Jude Wanniski
March 19, 2002


Memo To: Website fans, browsers, clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Peace in the Middle East

Cross your fingers, folks. We are as close to seeing a real peace break out in the Middle East than at any time in the last 50 years. I say that with some experience, as I have been following the story since I was a teenager growing up in Brooklyn in the late 1940s. I vividly remember coming home one early evening from the Young Men’s Hebrew Association in Boro Park, a 12-year-old almost full grown to my eventual six feet. I was wearing a sailor suit and carrying a wooden rifle, the garb of the Sea Scouts, which met at the YMHA and marched around its gym. I think I was the only Catholic in the bunch, and of course Boro Park then and now was solidly Orthodox. I was probably at 12th Avenue and 48th Street when an old Jewish lady stopped me on the street: “Young man, are you going to fight the Arabs?”

So I do not tell you lightly that I have never seen peace to be as close as it is today, as ugly as it seems in the violence and carnage in Israel and the West Bank. I had lunch yesterday in Manhattan with the Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammed Al Douri, and told him he should be rooting for a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians as hard as he can, because it would mean an end to any talk of war with Iraq. Al Douri, 59, a man of sweet disposition who spent most of his adult life teaching law, human rights and political philosophy at the University of Baghdad, quickly pointed out that Saddam Hussein had recently stated that any agreement that is acceptable to the Palestinians will be acceptable to Baghdad. Now Yasir Arafat will be permitted by Ariel Sharon to travel to Cairo to attend the Arab League summit, where we should expect general agreement to get behind the initiative of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah to guarantee Israel’s permanence in exchange for Israel’s agreement to return to the 1967 borders and work out details of sovereignty in Jerusalem.

I could see how close we were to a peace settlement in the closing days of the Clinton administration, when the Camp David talks ended simply because time had run out on Clinton. It became clearer when Zbigniew Brzezinski last December came up with what I thought was a "Zbig Idea” that could lead to peace. Zbig, who was Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor, had the insight that the United States should force the issue by presenting what it believed would be an optimum peace settlement that would satisfy the great majority of Israelis and Palestinians. That would turn the “peace process” inside out, enabling the parties to focus on the end game instead of giving extremists the ability to disrupt the process itself. The Bush administration did not exactly pick up on the Zbig idea, but Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah did, and now Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell are fleshing it out. There are details left to be worked out, i’s dotted and t’s crossed, but the parties are so close now that it would take willful blunders to kick away what is at hand.

“No lady, I am not going to fight the Arabs.”