Robert Goldman is leaving his 2-year-old job as legislative director for Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, to start the new Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation as its executive director.

Goldman, 27, will use his experience from working with Owens in his assignment on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East for his new position.Of note, Goldman's new boss - Dan Abraham, president of the new center - traveled this week with Owens for his visit with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat. Owens described Abraham as a friend, and Abraham has lived in Israel.

Goldman said the goal of the new center will be to build cultural and economic bridges between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

"A peace treaty doesn't necessarily bring true peace. Egypt and Israel have had a peace treaty for 10 years, but they have few exchanges that make them feel comfortable or help them understand each other better," he said.

Goldman said his center will be politically neutral - not favoring Israel or the Arabs. It will promote cooperation on cultural exchanges and economic programs beneficial to both sides, such as water development.

"Water could be the key to the development of the Middle East, and it is to both sides' advantage to work together," he said.

Goldman added that the center is primarily an educational association, not a lobbying group - although he expects contact with Congress will be necessary to help aid some of the exchanges planned.

He said his job will be to start up the new center "from the ground up. We don't have anything yet."