Commentary: The Necessity of a 2nd Madrid Conference

Nov 16, 2012

The Madrid Conference of 1991 was an attempt by the international community to start a peace process through negotiations involving Israel, Palestine, and neighboring Arab countries. With quickly escalating conflict in the Middle East, Palestinian militants now targeting Tel Aviv with missiles, Commentator and History Professor Dr. Brian Clardy says now is the time for the White House to initiate a second Madrid Conference.

The 2012 Presidential Election is now in the history books. President Obama won it decisively. And now comes the even harder work of governing in a polarized political environment.

This is even more so true in the area of United States foreign policy where new challenges and conflicts can occur seemingly overnight.  The status of Sino-American relations, the economy of the Eurozone, and the continuing War on Terror are but a myriad of issues that the Obama Administration will have to address. However, there is a simmering, potentially explosive conflict with which President Obama cannot put off another day, another week, or another month………..growing tensions in the Middle East.

Iran and Israel are poised for a major conflict over Tehran’s nuclear program. The bloodletting in Syria remains unabated.  The Arab Spring from a few years back has produced a new crop of leaders. And yet, our most recent Presidential campaign (save the controversy over the terrorist attacks on the American embassy in Benghazi and the assassination of Ambassador Chris Stevens) failed to yield a broader conversation over the direction of U.S. policy.

Still. The Obama Administration has an opportunity to spend the political capital that it amassed during the campaign. Here the President should call for a global conference on the Middle East Peace Process in the spirit of the 1990 Madrid Conference.

This would be an excellent forum to bring the principals to the peace table to air out their differences, acrimony and all. And it will allow the broader global community to become part of a much needed international conversation.

At long last, water sharing rights in that arid region of the world would be under public purview.

The question of the right of return for Palestinian refugees, Jerusalem’s status, and statehood would be front and circle as never before.

The potentially deadly standoff between Israel and Iran could be resolved with the Quartet, including United States, the European Union, China, the Russian Federation, and the United Nations serving as honest brokers.

The bloody regime of President Assad could be called into account, with Assad being possibly brought up on charges for committing crimes against humanity. In terms of global consensus, this could be a no-brainer.

And a Second Madrid Conference would do much to bolster American credibility and leadership as it works cooperatively with allies and adversaries alike.

Our Kentucky Congressional delegation should petition the White House to act upon this matter with a sense of urgency if for no other reason, the peace and stability of the world could long depend upon resolving these crises in the interest of peace. A global meeting, with a structured and substantive agenda, would be that perfect opportunity.

Dr. Brian Clardy is an assistant professor of history and Coordinator of Religious Studies at Murray State University. He is also the host of Café Jazz, Thursday nights on WKMS.