It’s not easy being a moderate in the Middle East, according to Marwan Muasher, former Jordanian foreign minister and ambassador to the United States.
Even so, moderates are critical to attaining peace in the region, he said. Muasher, a self-described moderate, discussed moderates and their role in the peace process in a lecture sponsored by the MacMillan Center and the Yale University Press on Tuesday.
In his talk, based on his most recent book, “The Arab Center: The Promise of Moderation,” Muasher explored his role as an active moderate political figure in Middle Eastern politics, at a time of increasing Islamic extremism and radicalization.
Moderates like him are trying, he said.
“If peace remains elusive in the Middle East today, it is not because of the lack of trying on the part of the Arab moderates,” he said.
Contrary to Western belief, Arabs have made efforts to make peace, he said, citing the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 led by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah and unanimously endorsed by all Arab states in Beirut. The peace initiative sought, among other things, a collective peace treaty for the normalization of relations, guarantees for collective security, an end to the conflict without pre-1967 territorial claims and an agreed-upon solution to the refugee problem.
But the initiative was not taken seriously by the Bush administration and Israel, he said.
“Today we are as far away from peace as we were 10 years ago,” Muasher worried. “Mutual trust within the parties is at an all-time low.”
Muasher went on to outline the advantages to both sides of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its implementation. He described how he thinks Jerusalem should be divided and attempted to refute arguments of detractors who claim a two-state solution is untenable.
Despite his assertion that the region has a ways to go, Muasher said he remained hopeful that the conflict will ultimately find resolution. But achieving this goal will require a change in how the parties approach the conflict, he said.
“We need the political will to move from conflict management to conflict resolution,” he said.
Audience members interviewed said they found Muasher’s observations about the conflict to be astute.
“He seemed very much a realist, and I think that’s a very good thing,” said Martin Silver, a New Haven resident who attended the lecture with his wife.
Matt Longo GRD ’13, of the Political Science Department, was more tempered in his enthusiasm.
“I think what he says about Jerusalem is on point, but I’m skeptical it’s as simple as he described,” Longo said. “I have a hard time believing that in a 45-minute speech you can capture the nuance of 15 years of negotiation.”
On Sept. 25, Muasher will deliver a second lecture entitled “The Slow Process of Arab Reform.”