WASHINGTON, May 13 (UPI) -- The Brookings Institution celebrated the opening of its Saban Center for Middle East Policy with a luncheon address by King Abdullah II of Jordan, who said a revitalized American-lead peace process is vital for stopping the retaliatory violence that has engulfed Israel and the Palestinian territories.
"It is obvious that if we delay a process, if we don't articulate a vision, whatever it is, (the) violence will continue," Abdullah said during Monday's events.
Brookings' Middle East policy center is opening under a 3-year, $3.3 million grant from television producer Haim Saban. Head of the Saban Capital Group, Saban is a longtime contributor to the Democratic Party, although he is best known for producing the children's show "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers." He will also lead the bipartisan international advisory council overseeing the Saban Center's work.
"After Sept. 11, American interests in countering terrorism, promoting peace, preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and preserving regional stability all converged on the Middle East," said Brookings President Michael Armacost. "The generosity of Haim Saban will enable Brookings to expand significantly its circle of experts who will conduct original research and develop innovative programs to promote a better understanding of the policy choices facing American decision-makers."
Martin Indyk, a Brookings senior fellow and former two-term U.S. Ambassador to Israel under Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, will head the new center. He will oversee a core group of analysts as well as visiting fellows -- both Arab and Israeli -- who specialize in the region.
Research is to focus initially on four areas: constructing a Palestinian state; the lessons from the Camp David peace accords; the implications of a change in the Iraqi regime; and Iranian reformation.
In addition, the center will have monthly policy forums and conduct an educational program for mid-level government officials, congressional staffers and business executives.
In his speech, Abdullah cautioned against American military action against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, saying that such moves would fuel the existing anti-American sentiment in the Arab world. He called for the use of diplomatic means to address U.S. concerns.
In addition, Abdullah said that the major problem with previous attempts to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians has been that the deals have failed to concretely address the most difficult questions of how Palestine and Israel would coexist. He said this uncertainty has fueled the cycle of retaliation that has erupted.
"Are we going to continue that cycle or are we going to be bigger than that and realize once and for all that what the Israelis need is security?" he asked.
On the other hand, Abdullah said that the lack of hope that stems from endless negotiations with no seeming end has lead to the disenchantment of everyday citizens, both Arab as well as Israeli. The key would be to move away from the wishes of governmental leaders and attempt to reflect the will of everyday people who want peace, he said.
"If we don't articulate hope, how do you expect a Palestinian or Arab to stick his neck out to stop terrorism?" said Abdullah. "No one is willing to take the risk for peace because peace has not been articulated clearly. The same is true for the Israelis. I suggest we are listening to too much of what the leaders are saying and not listening to what the people want."