(MENAFN - Jordan Times) One of the most important problems in our dialogue with the West is that we seem to be talking past, rather than to, each other.
Dialogues, thus far mostly between academicians, usually end up pleasantly, with everyone pleased with everyone else, but no tangible results are seen.
In the two- to three-day meetings, everyone agrees on the need to confront and combat extremism, yet each side maintains its own interpretation of extremism.
There is no agreement on what constitutes extremism, which sometimes translates into terror. Such a situation immediately raises a number of questions.
Who is more "terrorised" by the other, the West or the Arabs, especially now when the Arab world is divided to the point where it has no real voice even in regional affairs where, in fact, the Arabs have become the prey or the prize over which regional and international powers fight.
The truth of the matter is that Israel is not, nor does it feel, threatened by the Iranian nuclear programme, but wishes to prevent Iran from possessing the "nuclear option" for fear that Iran may wish to share its hegemony over the region.
Israel is aware, and certainly knows, that the Iranian nuclear option will never be resorted to because of the situation of mutual deterrence that would arise if it did.
Simply put, Israel does not wish to share its military hegemony with anyone else across the region.
We now have a highly unusual situation, with two extremist ideologies: a militant Iran to the east and an extremely Zionised Israel that insists, along with the West, on the Jewishness of the state. Turkey's mild ideology seems to have been neutralised by the crisis in Syria and the Kurdish issue that this crisis has caused.
The remaining power in the region is the United States, which for the moment is entangled in its own presidential elections and internal issues.
The US and the entire West condemn extremism, which to Arab ears appears hypocritical.
How can the West condemn Arab extremism and turn a blind eye to the brutal extremism of Israel? And can individual acts of terror, ugly as they are, be equated with a systematic programme of terror planned and executed by a state that calls itself a democracy?
Such questions about extremism are not an intellectual academic exercise. They are questions of life and death to the Arabs.
Who terrorises who? And can the Arabs, in all honesty, be a threat to the West when they cannot protect themselves from Israel, neither individually or collectively?
The West's terribly eclectic approach in defining extremism remains a dark puzzle to the average Arab, particularly when he contemplates the vast chasm between declared principles and actions.
At one time, the Muslim Brotherhood was considered extremist, although the politics of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and his government look much like a continuation of what existed before.
And finally, what are the causes of extremism? What causes a young man or woman to carry out a suicidal mission against one target or another? It is a reckless act resulting from the desperation and hopelessness of one who has nothing to live for and sees no other alternative.
The Arabs are merely asking for a settlement, not true justice. UN Security Council Resolution 242 does not represent full justice; it is only a settlement that the Arabs are today willing to accept.
Are the settlers, who now dictate the politics of Israel, extremist or not, and can anyone expect that the Palestinians will indefinitely agree to their brutality?
This week, 30 Western nations are carrying out military manoeuvres in regional waters. On whose behalf is this armada, this show of power and why? Are not the hundreds of drones regularly dispatched by the US and Israel to mercilessly target certain individuals acts of extremism?
There is need for a mutual understanding of what constitutes extremism and, more importantly, what is at the heart of it.
The writer is director of the Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies and former foreign minister of Jordan. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.