In Conclusion

Domestic considerations and economic constraints - more than the logic of balance of forces - led the Arabs towards agreements with Israel. With the exception of the Palestinians, who are a special case, moves to end the conflict are interwoven with reform at home. With Sadat, for example the Camp David Accords were a major link - yet only a link - in a complex strategy to reinvigorate the economy, change international orientation and abolish the one party system. King Hussein of Jordan had his own aspirations for reform safeguarded by peace - alas it remained largely unrealized. President Asad will make peace with Israel not just because he covets the Golan Heights, but because Syria needs to catapult itself from economic and political stagnation into the twenty-first century. In the age of transition all successors to the different Arab regimes will still be pre-occupied by the need to pursue reforms at home, reforms which cannot be limited to the economic sphere but spill over to the political domain. The free market approach demands at least broader democratic rights, investments require a stable legal system, entrepreneurs prefer a free press. This is the direction in which most new rulers will go - with different degrees of enthusiasm, conviction and risk-taking. Their attitudes towards Israel will be dictated by the impact it is going to have, in their opinion, on the prospects for their reforms. The business class is fairly uniform in its wish to end the conflict, though many of its members are not interested in transactions with Israelis. As the closest allies of the new rulers, it is the success of the business class in implementing its set of reforms - without antagonizing other parts of the society to the point of open resistance - that will determine the ability of the business class to impose its agenda on the Israeli issue as well. We have reached a point where, for better or worse, the long-term chances of peace depend on what happens internally in each Arab state, rather than on what takes place between Israel and that Arab state. To some extent, peace with Israel depends on the sobriety of the Arab business class. It is a new situation with a new gallery of inexperienced leaders to run it.

Recognizing the unique role played by the Arab business class in promoting the Peace Process requires, inter alia, cautious support by the U.S. of its agenda in other domains. This goes beyond encouraging the moves towards economic liberalization, speedy privatization and integration into the global market. This entails primarily backing of the calls for democratization - at least in the form of a multi-party system, lifting many of the limitations on the media and free elections to Parliament, if not to the office of President.

True, allowing more room for the opposition factions – including those within the bureaucracies – tends to strengthen the ongoing campaign to undermine normalization between the Arab states and Israel. This has been the experience gained throughout the region. Yet, in the long run one has to assume that the “New Arabs” will prove capable of confronting a more aggressive “Boycott Israel” movement. The distinction now drawn, for example in Syria and Kuwait, between “Peace” and “Normalization” in fact makes it possible for the old elites grudgingly to accept the notion of making peace with Israel by retreating to a less rejectionist fall back: opposing active peace relations. It allows the Peace Process to move forward by restricting its scope and intensity. That is good enough under the current circumstances. Therefore, supporting the business class in its drive for domestic political reform remains the best option – in spite of the boost it is bound to provide the anti-normalization factions in the short term.