Although it might seem paradoxical, I am a prince who is in favor of strengthening civil society. I do not believe in paternalistic relations. All societies go through that phase, which is no more than a stage of their development. I believe in progress, in the revolution of understanding; but it is not indispensable to change the structure of the state. A democratic state can be constructed with the aid of government, and I am not speaking of a lay government, because conservatives would not accept that in our region. In our country, religion is inseparable from the state. Believing practitioners and religious values play a great role. But religion, of course, does not have to serve as screen to hide political interests. The Lebanese have a saying that I like: “religion belongs to God, the nation to all.
I believe in the power of the intellect. In these recent times there are no great ideas in the Arab world. Revolutionary situations have always arisen when the idea of Arab unity crumbled. The Israeli-Arab conflict has precipitated things. Over the past 50 years, the Arab world was seen itself shaken by revolutions in Egypt and Iraq. The nationalistic ideas of Nasser predominated in 1960’s. Presently, the revolutionary situation emanates from the fight against terrorism, and unfortunately many governments have taken up that struggle as a pretext for further restricting liberties so as to strengthen themselves.
In all, the Middle East is becoming terribly exhausting in its relations with the United States. The American have begun to refer to the “Great Middle East” the immense area that extends from Morocco to Bangladesh, one of the most populated regions in the world. In that area there exists no regional security institution, because each capital talks to its neighbor with Washington serving as the intermediary. There is no a concrete aid program for regional development. The United States promotes democracy, but individually-country by country, and democracy is not the same for Egypt as it is for Syria, without even speaking about Israel, which is on the brink of civil war. The region must be safeguard itself from the nuclear military threat. Why doesn’t Israel do what the others demand of it?
I call for the creation of a Middle East Assembly, for dialogue between the peoples of the region. Let us call it, for example, MECCA (the Middle East Citizens Assembly). I think that the declaration of George W. Bush on the “Great Middle East” is beautiful, but hollow. Democracy will not come from the outside. One of the problems of the present policy are extremist missionaries. These are American Christians and Zionist Israelis. Peculiarly, we have seen alliances created between them. On the one hand we see their urging of crusades, on another one, we see the call for holy wars.
People are the agents of democracy, those who must construct it and enjoy it. However, the rich are the ones who accumulate fortunes thanks to foreign influence, and that gives rise to extremism. We should take as a model the European Union and apply an antro-policy, created by people, instead of a petro-policy.

Vremya Novostyey (Russia)

“Ближний Восток сильно страдает от отношений с США ,” by Hassan bin Talal, Vremya Novostyey, May 25, 2005. This text has been adapted from an interview.