An analyst for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said he is optimistic about the latest round of peace talks, citing economic progress and improved security on the Palestinian side.
David Makovsky, a senior fellow and director of the think tank’s Project on the Middle East Process, spoke Sept. 15 at a breakfast briefing sponsored by the Community Relations Committee of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ.
Makovsky joked that “no one went broke being a pessimist on this.”
But Makovsky found some optimism in looking at the Palestinian leadership — saying Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is committed to building a state — and at the West Bank economy, which the International Monetary Fund says is growing at a rate of 11 percent despite a worldwide recession. New houses, stores, baseball fields, recreation centers, and infrastructure are clearly being developed, he said.
Makovsky also noted that Israelis and Palestinians are cooperating on security. The Palestinians have their own functioning police force, which has resulted in reduced attacks on Israelis in the West Bank and has allowed Israel to reduce the number of checkpoints by two-thirds, he said.
The PA has also been pressuring mosques to clamp down on anti-Israel rhetoric and urging sermons that preach against suicide bombers. Makovsky said the PA screened Hamas sympathizers out of education settings, although they still have a long way to go in removing incitement from text books, summer camps, and other settings.
The briefing by Makovsky was made possible by Martin Gross, a UJC MetroWest leader who recently became president of the Washington Institute.
Makovsky, an award-winning journalist, has covered the Middle East peace process since 1989. He is the former executive editor of The Jerusalem Post and diplomatic correspondent for Israel’s leading daily, Ha’aretz.
Among the developments that will have an impact on the Israeli-Palestinian relationship will be the succession of Middle East leaders in Egypt and Saudia Arabia and elections in Turkey, a country that was an ally but is veering toward the East.
Turning to Iran, Makovsky cited a report this month by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has enough uranium to make at least two bombs. While Israel prefers that the United States take the lead in containing Iran, and U.S.-led sanctions have brought the international community in line, he said, Israel does not want to be in a situation where it is too late to turn back the clock on Iran’s nuclear capacity.
Throughout his presentation, Makovsky pointed out the challenges of the next several years, but clung to his optimism.
“You take away hope, you take away lives,” he said.