NEW YORK — Former President Bill Clinton gives a Mideast peace even odds, even though talks have been stymied repeatedly.
Changed situations for Israel and the Palestinians have given them “quite a good chance to reach an agreement," Clinton said as he moderated a panel on the Mideast situation Tuesday night as part of the annual Clinton Global Initiative.
"There are reasons to believe it will happen,” he said. “Everybody pretty much knows what a deal would look like . . . the chances are at least 50/50 that there will be an agreement."
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The panel featured Salaam Fayyad, prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority; Israeli President Shimon Peres; and the crown prince of Bahrain, Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa.
When President Clinton asked them to envision what the world would be like for them on the first day of a peace, they agreed that it would unleash a time of economic growth, among other things.
Peres, who said water and electricity issues must be resolved, opined, "The sun is the world's strongest nuclear reactor." Hunger must be eradicated to maintain peace, he said.
After peace is achieved, he predicted, the area will see a time of "burgeoning tourism."
Earlier in the day, Clinton warned of the growing devastation of the global economic downturn in his speech opening the sixth annual CGI, which brings together leaders from government, business, and philanthropy who make financial commitments aimed at tackling poverty and disease around the world.
Clinton announced new financial commitments to help Haiti recover from the effects of a massive earthquake in January, and to Pakistan, where monsoon rains led to deadly flooding last summer. He also announced a new program to help Louisiana's gulf coast, which is still recovering from the massive oil spill and the effects of Hurricane Katrina five years ago.
Clinton said the Gulf region had been hit by "everything but a plague of locusts" and said climate change had made events like hurricanes and flooding more frequent and deadly.
"There is every reason to believe the incident of economically devastating natural disasters will accelerate around the world with the changing of the climate," Clinton said, urging governments and world leaders to be better prepared for such events.
Clinton also pressed attendees on the need to educate and empower women and girls in developing countries, saying the global economy would improve with women's full participation.
"There are still a lot of places in this world where women are part human and part property and where men define their meaning in life," Clinton said.
The Associated Press and other wires contributed to this report.
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