The Middle East peace conference this week in Spain will not provide a quick fix to the conflict between Israel and Arab states, Kansas University political scientists said today.
"I want very much to be optimistic, but my fear is that relatively little will come out of this conference in the short run," said Deborah Gerner, associate professor of political science.
However, Gerner and Philip Schrodt, professor of political science, said the meeting between Israeli and Arab delegations holds promise for the future.
Schrodt said it is significant that such fervent enemies agreed to sit down face-to-face at a peace conference.
"They resisted doing so for 40 years," Schrodt said.
"To achieve peace, you must be willing to sit and negotiate," Gerner said. "That's the most important source of optimism."
GERNER said the Madrid conference is a sign that participating countries believe it fruitless to press for their ideal resolution to hostilities in the Middle East.
"To continue to have this vision of an ideal world dooms them to constant conflict," Gerner said.
She said peace talk participants Israel, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestinians are far apart. Israel is especially rigid, she said.
"As long as the Israelis won't compromise on issues important to Arab states, the mere act of sitting and talking is not productive," Gerner said.
Schrodt said the outcome depends entirely on how willing the United States is to pressure Israel into concessions.
"The U.S. wants Israel to give up the West Bank and Gaza for a lasting peace. Israel doesn't. The U.S. must use financial leverage to force it to," he said.
ARAB LEADERS realize they are in a weak negotiating position, Schrodt said. Arabs cannot defeat Israel militarily and can no longer turn to the Soviets for help, he said.
Schrodt said the conference begins at a time when competition in the Middle East between the United States and Soviet Union has subsided.
"All parties recognize that, in a sense, the status quo can't be maintained. The Middle East without Soviet influence, is not the Middle East of the past," Schrodt said.
"What this adds up to is if the U.S. is not not willing to play a heavy role, nothing will happen," he said. "The U.S. has to be willing to pressure various sides."
Gerner said determining the long-term impact of the peace conference is difficult.
In terms of the Israelis and Palestinians, the Palestinians have been unable to defeat Israel militarily and Israel has been unable to defeat Palestinian nationalism, she said.
"IN THE long run, I'm optimistic because I think there are individuals of good faith on both sides that understand this reality," Gerner said.