The Gulf War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union paved the way for the biggest breakthrough in Arab-Israeli relations since President Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem in 1977. The dissolution of the Soviet Union, which in effect ended the Cold War, freed the Middle East from the constraints and protection of US-Soviet competition in the area, and placed the US as the main power in the region. The Gulf war of 1991 also proved a major factor in bringing about a breakthrough in talks between Israel, the Arabs and Palestinians. Just before the Gulf War, President George Bush promised Arab leaders, that should they join the US led coalition against Iraq, Washington would later turn its attention to sorting out the Arab-Israeli conflict. Now with the victory over Iraq, the US suggested an international conference with the participation of all regional states involved in the conflict. To overcome Israel’s objection to PLO participation, Palestinian representatives from the occupied territories, who distanced themselves from the PLO, were allowed to participate as part of a Jordanian delegation. The conference opened under the aupices of the United States and Russia on October 30, 1991. In spite of the sour atmosphere portrayed in the harsh opening statements made by the sides, the Madrid Conference succeeded in establishing a two track mechanism for future negotiations between Israelis, Arabs and Palestinians. The first was a multilateral track in which Israel, regional Arab states and other states outside the region would address five key issues: water, environment, arms control, refugees and economic development. The second framework – a bilateral track, was designed for direct talks in Washington between Israel and each of her main adversaries: Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinians, the latter two united in a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. The bilateral talks opened soon after the Madrid Conference, and on January 28, 1992, the multilateral talks began. However, there was little progress and no significant breakthrough in either track.



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26 Apr 2015 / 7 Iyar 5775 0