While I always believe that it is good for parties in the ME to speak with each other, we have to be careful to not get expectations raised to a level that will ultimately prove impossible to reach at this time.

Perhaps Arab states will now recognize that Israel is not their enemy, but rather radical extremists such as Hamas and Hezbollah, which seek not only to destroy Israel, but also to bring down the leadership of several Arab states.

Much groundwork needs to be done before a settlement can be reached, but having nations such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who do not have diplomatic relations with Israel, at the conference is a positive sign.

Israel has shown in the past that it is willing to take substantial risks for peace. The Arab countries must understand that the right of Israel to exist in peace and security is essential if true peace is to come.

We all know the endgame of negotiations in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute: two states living side by side in peace and security -- an Israeli Jewish state and a Palestinian Arab state. One hopes that in the not too distant future such a dream will come to reality.

Perhaps this conference can be the first step toward putting negotiations back on track.