The vast oil wealth of the region, coupled with the volatile and seemingly intractable Israeli-Palestianian conflict, has increasingly drawn the Middle East into the forefront of world politics and economics. More recently, the rise of Islamic-fundamentalist movements in the political arena has introduced a new dimension to political life in the region. It has once again opened the debate on one of the most fundamental questions in the history of the Muslim civilization: what is the proper relationship between Islam and the state? Furthermore, what status would non-Muslims have in a "Muslim state?" The problem is also posed in the case of Israel, which was founded as an exclusively "Jewish" state.