Former President Bill Clinton says changes in the political landscape of the Middle East could bode well for peace talks taking place today in Annapolis, Maryland.
During a stop in Iowa City this morning, the former president said Arab states viewed Israel differently during his administration.
"The one hopeful thing is that the Arab states, primarily because they’re worried about Iran, are much more open to Israel now and much more open to a two-state settlement and to both Israel and the Palestinians making principled compromises which will be necessary to make a peace," Clinton said.
According to Clinton, it’s important not to impose "unreasonable expectations" that the negotiating process will yield a quick settlement. "This is one where I think the secretary of state did the right thing to bring them together. You know, we all talk all the time and I’ve been telling them for years you can’t judge the success or failure of your policy in the Middle East based on whether they make peace or not. It’s their decision," Clinton said.
"It’s our responsibility to keep pushing for peace and to provide a forum, a venue in which people talk because as a general rule whenever America’s involved anywhere in the world, but especially in the Middle East, fewer people die and when fewer people die, they’re more willing to talk piece."
According to Clinton, Arab states want to have normal economic and political relationships as well as a "security partnership" with Israel because they’re worried about Iran. That gives the Bush Administration an "advantage" which Clinton said he never had during his time in the White House.
"All the Arab states would say they were for it, but they were always still scared of being criticized for being for any compromise. Now, they’re on board," Clinton said. "Conversely now, the Palestinians are divided and the Israeli government’s not particularly strong in the polls, but I think the most important thing is that they introduce a framework to convince them to continue negotiations over the coming year."
Clinton told reporters he talked with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about the negotiations. "The main thing is every American should be glad this is happening and nobody should expect too much of the first meeting but you should be proud of your country here," Clinton said. "Whenever we’re involved over there, fewer people die and until we get this thing solved, we’re never going to get rid of radical terror in the world." Clinton is scheduled to campaign for his wife today in Muscatine, DeWitt and Peosta.