Imagine such adversaries as Israel and its Arab neighbors cooperating peacefully on joint economic ventures such as water and irrigation projects or attracting tourism together.
Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, feels that vision could become reality - and announced in a speech on the House floor Thursday that he will soon introduce legislation to form a Middle East Development Bank to help finance the dream.The bill should be ready just in time to mark the 10th anniversary of the Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel on March 26.
Owens, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said his proposed development bank would use public and private U.S. assistance to bolster local financing of projects for all countries in the Middle East.
Its side benefits would be enabling Israel and Arab countries to work together on major projects and tacitly recognize each others' right to exist - which Owens said he hopes could lead to real peace in the region.
To show that interest in such help exists, Owens said, "During my most recent trip to the Middle East, I was approached by such diverse people as liberal Palestinians and conservative Likud members seeking my support for U.S. assistance for economic development in the West Bank and Gaza Strip."
He said some cooperation among adversaries has already been achieved in the area.
"For example, Jordan - despite the fact that it does not have any peace treaty or normalized relations with Israel - has entered into a number of cooperative agreements with Israel concerning water issues and other areas of mutual interest.
He said Egypt and Israel also have a number of scientific and economic exchanges.
Owens, who serves on a subcommittee overseeing the Middle East, also recently helped New York businessman S. Daniel Abraham found the non-profit Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation, which also makes exchanges in the Middle East possible.
Owens said, "It is my belief that the very nature of the Middle East region dictates that there be regional cooperation, and that such regional cooperation - even on a small scale - can lay the foundation for peace and stability in the region."