At the First Plenary Session of the World Economic Forum
26 January 2007
Thank you, Charlie. It's a great pleasure to be with you. This is the fifth year that Rania and I have had the privilege to attend this meeting in Davos. It never fails to be an extraordinary experience. We are honoured to be with you again.
We meet here at an historical moment for my region and the world. After nearly seventy years of Arab-Israeli conflict; after a 40-year occupation of Palestinian land, there is new international attention and willpower to end this long and destructive clash. It is a rare opportunity to effect change … to marshal global commitment and resources, and help create a new dynamic of hope in the Middle East.
We cannot afford to miss this opportunity. The continued denial of Palestinian rights is a fire starter for global and regional crises, crises that are arising more frequently, with greater destruction. The dangers are recognised by the Forum's Global Risks Network, which names Middle East instability as a “core global risk.”
We must act. And all of us have a contribution to make. The exceptional leaders who gather here bring insights, tools and strategies from the world's most vital sectors. Over the years, these Forums have built unparalleled bridges of understanding and progress. The challenge now, is to carry this work forward to success. The priorities we identify must lead to action; action that will help create a sustainable and self-reinforcing peace.It begins with new expectations – a vision of where the Middle East can be in ten years' time.
It is a vision of ordinary life where people can go to shop or work without fear … where ambulances don't face checkpoints to get the sick to hospitals … where young people are able to build families and plan long careers … where the first-grade students of 2017, Israeli and Palestinian, can look back as adults, and have no memory of the conflict years. History shows that peoples with bitter grievances can find reconciliation and go forward. This can happen in the Middle East.
It is a vision of an expanding regional economy, whose resources and energies go into productive growth, not wasteful conflict; where cross-border partnerships and shared interests will create new synergies; and where smart investments in our young people will expand access to opportunity. History shows that peace and progressive policies can create economic miracles in developing regions. This can happen in the Middle East.
It is a vision of an Israel that is at peace in the neighbourhood, and is part of the neighbourhood. History shows that long-time adversaries can define new relationships of peace and regional cooperation. This can happen in the Middle East.
And it is a vision of a sovereign, viable, and thriving Palestine, whose people are engaged in creating a future of prosperity and progress. In all history, global justice promises no less. This can, and this must, happen in the Middle East.
Building such a future requires courage and commitment. The Arab States demonstrated just that in 2002, when we united behind the Arab Peace Initiative. This landmark initiative put forward bold proposals for a sustainable peace: two states, living side by side … security guarantees for Israel by all Arab states; Israeli withdrawal from Arab territories occupied since 1967; a sovereign, viable and independent Palestine; and a comprehensive settlement and lasting resolution.
It is time to take advantage of the unprecedented opening that this Initiative represents. To the Israeli public, let me say: the Arab Peace Initiative is real. Work with us. Isolation and unilateral action can never lead to the positive future that you and your neighbours want and need.
To the Palestinian people, I say: you have suffered long enough. The Arab Peace Initiative, can deliver on its promise: lasting independence, security, and a share in the opportunities of the 21st century.
To the international community, especially the members of the Quartet, I say: You have an historic role and responsibility to stand behind a peace. Your determination to achieve results will be critical to success – and it will send a global message about your values and leadership.
And to all of you, here, I say: It cannot be left to government alone. An important part of an irreversible peace is creating the foundations for co-existence. The majority of people on both sides want peace - and they will risk moving forward if they trust the process can work. That means tangible results, and sooner rather than later. No one does that better than the achievers in this room. Regional and international business, NGOs and other civic groups are urgently needed – as project partners, facilitators, funders, investors and visionaries.
There are opportunities in every sector: cross-border partnerships that give both sides a stake in the future of peace; development and education initiatives that engage young people; investments in economic growth and opportunity; communications projects that create new dialogue; professional exchanges that bring together experts to work on common concerns like health, water, the environment; information sharing between civic groups in humanitarian relief, children's services and so forth; and much more.
Many of these areas involve the highly effective mechanism of public-private partnerships, something we in Jordan have spearheaded. I know a number of you are already working on activities in areas I've named. But I believe we can multiply our impact.
This May, Jordan will be hosting a World Economic Forum meeting bringing global and regional leaders to the shores of the Dead Sea. It is the fourth time we have hosted this influential dialogue on the future of our region. At this critical juncture, I have proposed that this year's meeting focus exclusively on building peace structures. We want the world's top leaders to come to the heart of the Jordan Valley; to lend their support to the region's creative thinkers and achievers; to explore the possibilities; design strategies; mobilise resources; and achieve results. And I am extending an invitation to each and every one of you, to join us in this tremendously important enterprise.
The challenges are certainly real. But it is because the stakes are so high, that we must seize every chance to make a difference. In the years ahead, the Middle East faces major requirements for development. Youth are more than fifty percent of our population; they are coming of age with high expectations for opportunity, for security, for respect. The means to respond are there. We are rich in human talent and a heritage honouring education and culture. There is economic promise in IT, tourism, and more – increasing regional economic cooperation and dynamic young leaders who are committed to the future. I am especially proud of all that Jordanians have done to tackle development and reform. Such initiatives have been a priority for Jordan for the past eight years, and we are achieving success.
All this can give us great confidence for the future of the Middle East. And that is vital for the entire global system, in which our region plays such a strategic role. But the region cannot move forward with an unhealed wound. There must be peace.
The theme of this annual meeting is the shifting power equation. But world shaping events and changes are not just challenges, they are choices. We have the power to shift the equations – whether it is peace and war; or poverty and prosperity – by what we do, together, to understand and take action.
Now is not the time to isolate good ideas in professional silos. Nor can we accept walls between different peoples and faiths. Here at Davos, in May at the Dead Sea, we can re-imagine the future and then help make that vision happen.
The movement is real. I urge you to be part of it. To bring the promise of this century to those who desperately need it. To create a future for them, for us.
Thank you very much.