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Mideast Peace: The Real Work is Just Beginning - 2003-06-05

A prominent authority on the Middle East, Judith Kipper, said Wednesday that the real work now begins in the effort to establish a lasting peace in the region. She called on the United States to exert every effort to facilitate the process.

Judith Kipper is the director of the Middle East Forum at the Council on Foreign Relations and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Relations. She believes the United States, working with Israel and the Palestinians, must advance the so-called road map for Middle East peace. Ms. Kipper spoke to a Washington audience the same day President Bush met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas at a summit in Jordan. Both Middle Eastern leaders affirmed their support for the road map, which envisions the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005

Ms. Kipper said, while the talks signified a good start, much work remains to be done in the process. "The real work begins tomorrow," she said. "And the question today is whether the United States is going to have a team on the ground, it doesn't have to be famous names, in fact it shouldn't be famous names -- professional people who will monitor, work with, reassure, encourage, cajole, negotiate with both the Israelis and the Palestinians separately."

During the Jordan summit, Mr. Sharon vowed he would begin removing unauthorized Jewish settler outposts from the West Bank and Gaza, while Mr. Abbas said he would end the military uprising against Israel's occupation of the territories. Ms. Kipper said all progress must be carefully monitored.

"It's going to require constant assistance, monitoring, and reassurance to get them to do what they need to do in a timely manner," said Ms. Kipper. "And if they don't do it, there has to be a consequence."

Ms. Kipper said both the Israelis and the Palestinians have suffered immeasurably during the past years of violence. She said nothing was gained, two economies were shattered, and thousands of lives were lost. But she noted that despite the consequences, civilians on both sides did not demand their leaders change their policies. "The level of violence was tolerable for both sides. So it requires an outside party, the United States, to stop it," she said.

The continuing violence has created a culture of victims in the Middle East, according to Ms. Kipper, with neither side being willing to be held accountable for its actions. She said while the Israelis and the Palestinians will participate in the negotiations, the final treaty must be written by the United States for it to succeed. "It's my bet and my hope that the U.S. is going to produce the document," she said.

Meanwhile, both Palestinian militants and Jewish settlers said Wednesday they will oppose efforts to implement the "road map" for peace in the Middle East.