President George H.W. Bush reflects on Middle East peacemaking

The Madrid Peace Conference, convened on Oct. 30, 1991, was the first official face-to-face peace negotiation involving Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians. It was a watershed moment for American diplomacy, but the two decades since have witnessed a region facing substantial challenges and instability, with major uncertainty regarding future efforts toward peace.

President George H.W. Bush sat down with Baker Institute founding director Edward P. Djerejian to discuss the conference’s legacy as part of the institute’s joint Nov. 2, 2011, conference with the U.S. Institute of Peace. (A live webcast of the conference is available on the USIP website.)

In the video below, which was shown at the conference, the president discusses the intensive diplomatic effort that resulted in the Madrid conference. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, President Bush says he thought the time was right for direct negotiations.

He says the talks facilitated discussions between Israel and Jordan that resulted in a 1994 peace treaty between the two countries.

“We must recognize that the peace is in the interests in of all parties and that war is in the absolute advantage of none,” President Bush said. “The alternative to peace in the Middle East is a future of violence and waste and tragedy, and in any future war lurks the danger of weapons of mass destruction.”