It is with pride and great pleasure that I formally welcome a new committee of editorial advisers to help obtain and create material for this journal: Graham Fuller, Ian Lustick, Julia Nanay, Bill Quandt, Alan Richards, Shibley Telhami and John Voll (see the inside front cover for their affiliations). These seven wise people are all well-known in policy circles and have written for the journal and spoken at Council conferences. Their expertise ranges widely over the Greater Middle East - from the Arab-Israeli conflict, to the Gulf, to North Africa, to Egypt, to Iran, to Central Asia, to Turkey, to Islam, to the energy markets, to military and security affairs, to political economy. All the members of the committee are public intellectuals and some are university professors, but they are more than that: original thinkers of breadth, depth, generosity and wit. They give advice to government policy makers, corporate heads and the military, and they have now agreed to give some to Middle East Policy. The fact that their arms did not need to be twisted was particularly gratifying, a testimony to the quality of this project and its coming of age.
Creating a virtual book every three or four months for the past 16 years has been a labor of love for a small and dedicated group. Sixty issues of the journal have been published since the summer of 1982 under three regimes of the parent organization. I was hired in 1983, when number four was being proofread, joining two other editors who soon left for greener pastures. For the past nine years my partner, sounding board and friend on the Council staff has been Richard Wilson, now its executive director. Our excellent copy editor and much more, Peggy Nalle, a font of wisdom and experience, joined the organization as an independent contractor ten years ago.
Technology has changed our work lives. Thanks to the computer, we prepare the pages camera-ready in our office, employing fewer people (some of them part-time student interns) than when the printing company did the typesetting. The painstaking job of production design is now in the capable hands of Emily Linnemeier, backed up by troubleshooter Jon Roth, whose main responsibility is to organize the Council's highly regarded workshops for high-school teachers across the United States. Subscriptions have been handled for almost a decade by Tluangi Hauzel, an essential member of the team.
Chas. Freeman, who succeeded the venerable George McGovern as president of the Council at the end of 1997, has invigorated and strengthened our entire effort (see the symposium proceedings on page one for a glimpse of his intellect and persona). And standing firmly behind the work of the staff at every turn is the Council's prestigious Board of Directors, some of whom have served since the mid-1980s. The dean of this group, Witold Sulimirski, is retiring after 14 years of giving us his counsel, speaking at our conferences and writing for the journal. Many members of the National Advisory Committee have also served for most of the life of the organization, generously devoting their time to enhancing our programs.
Of course, we could not go to press without articles, so three cheers for the brilliant and fearless writers who inundate us with their work from all over the world. Providing a place for these analysts to share their thinking with U.S. decision makers and those who influence them is the journal's mandate. Our writers have fresh insights on current policy and need an established, responsible forum in which to say what is not often heard in other media. If arguments for policy alternatives were not expressed in respectable public places, individuals would not dare to challenge the conventional wisdom openly. They would not have enough depth in the subject matter to be able to think through and express themselves on controversial ideas, and public debate would be limited to politically correct slogans. Those who disagreed with the majority view would remain silent for fear of being stigmatized. It is empowering to know that others share your concerns and are not afraid to utter them out loud.
Political leaders and the major media live and die according to their "negatives" and cannot afford to be out in front on any controversial subject. But when a change in government policy occurs, as when Israel's secret Oslo negotiations with the PLO were suddenly revealed, the search immediately begins for reasons to support it. All possible arguments for a more fair treatment of the protagonists in the struggle over the so-called holy land have been made in the pages of this journal, among other places. But they were not safe for elected officials to embrace, since U.S. Middle East policy is driven by politicians' desire to avoid crossing Israel's supporters. Many of the latter, though of course solidly committed to the state of Israel, are now wavering in their support for the Netanyahu government and its policies.
President Clinton and other American officials have known for some time that the organized Jewish community has been changing, amid a struggle for power behind closed doors. Following the Rabin assassination, the extremist Israeli right became an embarrassment for many who wanted a reasonable settlement with the Palestinians - for the sake of Israel's own legitimacy and long-term survival as a nation - and thought they had one in the Oslo agreement. The moderates hold the balance of power, but a few very wealthy and influential ideologues can wreak political havoc (see Ian Lustick's analysis in the symposium proceedings).
At the recent Wye summit, President Clinton demonstrated his confidence that there would be very little opposition to his leaning a bit on the Israeli government to fulfill its commitments. Even so, perhaps only a president with nothing to lose could have stood with the Palestinians against the Israeli right, even on style. The physical mismatch of the burly Netanyahu and Sharon versus the frail Arafat embodied the asymmetry caused principally by the American thumb that has always been on the Israeli side of the scale.
Clinton could do nothing to improve the substance of the Oslo accord for the Palestinians; they had signed on to it five years ago. Nor, apparently, could he insist that Israeli settlement building stop. But the American president apparently insisted that the Israeli leader at least treat his Palestinian counterpart "decently."·
Decent treatment, however, implies legitimacy, the very thing a stateless foe is powerless to exact. Of course, rarely does one enemy grant another anything at all. International disputes are commonly "settled" by killing, a cruel lesson from Geopolitics 101. The Palestinian people lost their land in a war and have very limited means of getting it back (see Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk in the symposium proceedings). They are not, however, without options. The desire for revenge attracts recruits to a low-intensity armed struggle that could destabilize the region, whether or not Yasser Arafat represses dissidents along with criminals. Only if the Palestinians see real progress in their lives and dreams from the agreement, will attitudes gradually change.
It is unclear whether the extremists on either side can be neutralized, the help of the CIA in guaranteeing Israeli security notwithstanding. Israeli settlers have vowed to make Netanyahu suffer for what they consider a sell-out. Hamas and Islamic Jihad will likely not let Arafat, the Israelis or their American friends rest. So thwarting terrorists will likely continue to be a growth industry, something like a new cold war. It seems pointless to ask whether a more just settlement might have been a better option. Geopolitics can only deal with current problems; history will provide its verdict later.