Lord Stone of Blackheath spoke in the Queen’s speech debate on the government’s failure to embrace the Middle East peace Process. His remarks are interesting. He promotes the Arab Peace Initiative as well as endorsing the Two States One Homeland concept. He said:
My Lords, to continue on that theme, the gracious Speech made no mention of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, perhaps because it seems so intractable. I want to mention two new, ambitious but viable projects for reconciliation and ask Her Majesty’s Government for their involvement in them. The United Kingdom is in a unique position to move things forward, and it would be in our interests to do so.
The first is a movement called Two States One Homeland, which asks for the people of both sides to understand the narrative of the other as their genuine beliefs and accept them with compassion. Many Israelis now accept that the Palestinians believe that the 1947 declaration of the State of Israel was a Nakba to them—a disaster—and that the region is their homeland and they want consideration of their right to return. Many Palestinians are accepting that the Israelis believe that from biblical times the whole area was their homeland and living in parts of the West Bank is precious to them. They each regard the whole region as their homeland, but they know that they cannot live together as one comfortably in one state, so they agree to two states: a state of Israel, a state of Palestine and a confederation of these two sovereign states.
Two States One Homeland is a project currently on the move. The best international lawyers are agreeing to help the people on both sides to work out a constitutional settlement for each of the two sovereign states and jointly to create an overall constitution for the new confederation. International security experts and experts from both sides are deciding how the separate countries can run their own military and police forces and how, in addition, there will be a joint military and policing authority working across the two states.
On trade and investment, finance and currency, there is a team of Palestinians, Israelis and international corporations planning to invest in the region, particularly in the new Palestinian state. On the holy sites, rabbis, bishops and imams are working together with compassion and within their own golden rule to create a system whereby the sites are open for the benefit of all peoples, who are treated with due respect. There are groups working on this project on education, health and welfare and sustainability and ecology.
Secondly, alongside Two States One Homeland, there is a team in Israel and Palestine promoting a regional plan.The Arab peace initiative, the API, of 2002 was at the time an all-in-one, take-it-or-leave-it offer to which Israel did not respond. The new team presented in 2011 an Israeli peace initiative, an IPI, that accepts the API as a framework for Israeli-Palestinian regional negotiations. The IPI team is non-left and non-right—it is the pragmatic centre-thinking in Israel, with 1,800 prominent Israeli signatories, including ex-military and ex-security figures, diplomats, scholars, Middle East experts and business leaders. They have been talking for some time with the 22 Arab countries which we hope would support those projects. Together, they have developed a regional diplomatic proposal to resume negotiations, leveraging the API and the IPI. They are about to begin the development of a regional economic plan to invest tens of billions of dollars building infrastructure projects, agro-industry, water and energy plants, health and education establishments and new cities.
President al-Sisi of Egypt is on board. In a recent speech, he addressed Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation with courage and leadership. I applaud him and call on our Government to lend support. Let me quote a couple of sentences from his historic speech of only last week. He said:
“Egypt will be quite ready to play a sincere and responsible role to help set up a real opportunity for this cause … I say to the Israelis and the Palestinians that there is already a great opportunity for a better life, a better future for greater stability and real cooperation. Shall we seize that opportunity and move forward?”.
He has invited the leaders of both countries to come to speak to him and his people in Cairo.
The IPI team is also connecting Jordan, Palestine and Israel together with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and theUnited Arab Emirates. The aim is that this whole contiguous region, containing one-third of all the people living in the Middle East—150 million people—will benefit from work, welfare, health and education and human rights. We also have media partners who will act responsibly not by talking up war and killing in order to inflate their ratings but by reporting on the processes, described here, in informed, even-handed, compassionate and positive terms.
Would Her Majesty’s Government consider convening a meeting of leaders and experts, with whom we are working on all sides to develop these two concepts; to use our soft power, the British Council, in education at all levels; to help them to build universities with British standards; in health, to plan and build hospitals and systems; and to have UKTI encourage our business community to become involved in these developments and investments?
In 1947, the UN declaration was to form two equal entities; in 1967 there was a war, in which I was a volunteer, which broke that apart. Can we get together and make 2017, the 70th anniversary of the UN declaration and the 50th anniversary of the war of that split it, a year when we begin, collectively, to heal the rift?
This is what Lord Stone said on 23rd January 2016 in the Debate in the Lords on the question asked by Lord Grade of Yarmouth who wishes “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to increase understanding of the Middle East.”.
Lord Stone of Blackheath (Lab): The noble Lord, Lord Grade, is right. Peace will come only when individuals on all sides understand the narrative of the other side and open their hearts to their suffering. This is the route to peace between Palestinians and Israelis and here it is in seven stages in two minutes.
- First, Israel accepts the Palestinian belief that the 1948 declaration of the state of Israel was a Nakba—a disaster —and that the region is their homeland and they want consideration of the right to return. The Palestinians accept that the Jews believe that from biblical times the whole area was their homeland. Yes, the settler issue needs settling. Having understood this historical context and agreeing that they cannot live together comfortably as one state, they agree a confederation of two sovereign states—the state of Israel and the state of Palestine; one homeland, two states.
- Secondly, we now have the best international lawyers agreeing to help both sides work on a constitution of the two states. Israel already has a constitutional agreement. Palestine needs one. Also, jointly, they create an overall constitution for the new confederation.
- Thirdly, security experts on both sides decide how the separate countries run their own military and police force and how, in addition, there will be a joint military and policing authority working together over the two states.
- Fourthly, on trade and investment, and finance and currency, there is already a team of Palestinians, Israelis and investors across the world who have been working on a project called ‘Breaking the Impasse’, pledging billions of dollars to invest in the region, particularly in the new Palestinian state, once there is peace.
- Fifthly, on the holy sites, we have spoken to rabbis, bishops and Imams about the theocracy of the region and they will work together as they preach, with compassion and within their own golden rule.
- Sixthly, the Arab peace initiative, in 2002, was an all-in-one, take-it-or-leave-it offer, and Israel did not respond. A team is now working on a phased implementation of the API. In this way, 22 Arab countries would support the project.
- Seventhly and finally, the media, acting responsibly, do not talk up war and killing, but report on the process described here in informed, even-handed, compassionate and positive terms.
There we have it. One homeland, two states and peace, in two minutes.
I ask the Minister if Her Majesty’s Government might consider convening a meeting of leaders and experts with whom we are working from all sides, in each of these seven fields to try to develop this concept.
As tensions grow between Israelis and Palestinians, there are worries that we may be seeing the beginning of a Third Intifada. Some already call the past three months the ‘stabbing intifada.’ Since mid-October there have been near daily stabbings or car rammings, both forms of popular resistance. That these attacks have almost exclusively been in the form of stabbings is itself a consequence of the occupation. Beyond peaceful demonstration, Palestinians have few other resources or means by which to show their frustration at decades of occupation. This is in the face of disproportionate response from Israeli soldiers who instantaneously shoot dead culprits of any attacks. In the past week alone five Palestinians who either stabbed or attempted to stab Israeli soldiers were shot dead. In total 21 Israelis and one US citizen have died as a result of Palestinian attacks, while Israeli forces or armed civilians have killed at least 137 Palestinians in the same period, 87 of whom authorities described as assailants. This is not to deny Israelis the right to defend themselves in the face of attack. However, this uprising represents another call to look beyond what is happening today; to look at the bigger picture, and incur action, not only to stem the flow of these stabbings, but to work towards the promotion of peace.
As the wave of violence increases within the West Bank many academics are labelling the rise of Palestinian violence the Third Intifada. Unlike the uprisings of 1987 and 2000, which fully involved the PLO, it seems that Mahmoud Abbas’s PLO is not partaking this time. With two-thirds of Palestinians stating they would want to replace President Abbas, it seems that the main thing the new Intifada is “shaking off” is Abbas’s control in Palestine.
In his UN General Assembly speech two weeks ago, President Mahmoud Abbas stated that Palestinians would “no longer continue to be bound” by the Oslo accords due to Israel’s consistent violations. However, many Palestinian’s do not believe this will lead to any change in on-the-ground realities.
The attacks over the last week have taken place in areas outside of the PLO’s control: Tel Aviv and East Jerusalem. This new generation of protestors are not, and shall not be controlled by their leadership, nor will they allow the PLO to have a role in the uprisings.
Mahmoud Abbas’s uncompromising opposition to violence has left many of the new generation of Palestinians feeling disenchanted with the PLO. Over the past ten years Palestine should have benefited from numerous Western interventions, such as a regenerated West Bank economy, with help from the UK and the US. They should have also established a united Palestinian Government, and secured the release of numerous political prisoners. Instead, this generation of Palestinians have seen the gradual occupation of East Jerusalem, a security force which collaborates with the Israeli security department and the continual violation and occupation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
This new Intifada is a defiance against a government which has increased the loss and despair of the Palestinian population.
As lone wolf attacks by Palestinians continue within Jerusalem and the West Bank, each individual becomes their own leader. They “shake off” Abbas’s waning presence, and fight for their freedom. Something most believe Abbas has not succeeded in delivering.
A week ago the Palestinian state flag was raised for the first time in the rose garden of the UN, fostering hope and symbolising the refusal to abandon a Palestinian homeland. The flag honours those lost in the fight for statehood, those in jails, those killed at checkpoints and those occupied in Gaza.
However, the raising of the flag will not lead to the restarting of the peace process. Mahmoud Abbas’s statement that Palestine would no longer be bound to the Oslo Accords has confirmed the death of the 1990’s Peace Process. Just as Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement that Israel would “fiercely reject attempts to impose international dictates” on peace, weeks before severed Israel’s ties to peace. Such statements alongside rising tensions in the West Bank means that the peace process is now a distant memory. The flag has not rectified these issues. If anything it has created further ruptures within the already fragile relationship.
The past week has seen several people killed from clashes in the West Bank, with many more injured. These deaths have emerged from the frustrations which have developed due to a lack of a foreseeable solution. Although the flag has highlighted issues with the Peace Process, it has also galvanised the tense situation in the West Bank. The raising of the Palestinian flag has not addressed any relevant issues but rather papered over their cracks.
Whilst the UN may have willingly raised Palestine’s flag and accorded the state non-member observer state recognition, it has not come close to a solution for the conflict. As the Palestinian flag flew over the UN, Israeli Settlements deemed illegal by the UN continued to be built near the Palestinian city of Ramallah. The UN did not condemn such acts. Without UN support Palestine shall not gain statehood, nor secure the control of its towns and cities. These continual violations of marked borders have not been resolved through the raising of a flag. Nor has the flag settled the violence which erupts from these land disputes.
The fact that the Palestinian flag now flies over the UN of course represents hope. However, it also overshadows the real issues at the heart of this problem. We must take the flag at face value. As for now, there is no Palestinian state, no Peace Process, nor a solution, there is merely a flag. A flag which represents hope to many but does little to improve the lives of those within the conflict, who remain in despair.
The recent shooting of a young Palestinian student at an Israeli checkpoint has once again prompted Israel and Palestine to resort to blaming one another. Incidents like this have become indicative of the problems involved in sustaining a Peace Process, as both states attempt to garner support from the International Community for their point of view. A year on from the Gaza War, and following the re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu, an end to the ever-increasing cycle of violence between both states seems unlikely. The recent shooting is a stark reminder of the one major hurdle to the Peace Process: a lack of trust.
On Sunday, an even more troubling outcome was that Israel’s security cabinet approved a crackdown on Palestinian protests. The legislation will allow Israel’s security forces to use their weapons more easily against Palestinian stone-throwers and increase punishment for young offenders. Justification for this legislation comes from the assertion that the young Palestinian student was trying to attack Israeli soldiers. Meanwhile the Palestinian state denounced the young student’s death as an inevitable outcome of a premeditated attack. It is arguably premature to enact legislation that amounts to a clamp down as a consequence of this attack when the real course events remains clouded. As both sides battle to prove the other’s hand in the killing, the collapse of trust the Peace Process becomes ever more evident.
This ‘shoot first, think later’ strategy has become Israel’s default course of action in relation to Palestinians, and given the increasingly tightened legislation towards Palestinian activism, tensions are unlikely to subside soon. As the International Community continues to support the Palestinian state, Israel’s rhetoric will harden. Such micro-level incidents have proved a useful propaganda tool when it comes to Israel’s public shaming of so-called Palestinian terrorists. And, with tensions in Jerusalem heightening, alongside, this new legislation, the road to dialogue looks almost non-existent. Such tensions arise from a mutual lack of trust inherent in the relationship between the two states, and the two communities. These societal ruptures create a never ending cycle of blame that gets in the way of the important work that needs doing if we are actually moving towards peace.