Don’t Forget Me

And, sir, it is no little thing to make mine eyes to sweat compassion”, (William Shakespeare, Coriolanus).

This is my last blog post for The Next Century Foundation. During my time at the NCF, I addressed several hot issues, speaking about different situations and topics, even very controversial ones, which have sometimes generated harsh reactions. I suppose it is inevitable if you are speaking about politics, human rights, dictators, victims or perpetrators. These social fabrications give us a social identity and lead us to often take on conflicting and controversial positions, dictated by interests, simple visions or specific goals. In such circumstances, the “political animal” inside each of us reveals itself trying to impose its own point of view.

However, in spite of the ideas and values that humans can have, every person is made up of feelings and emotions. Before being classified as political animals, humans are sentient beings, with emotions and feelings which define us and make us unique. The same sort of emotions and feelings that are gradually being extinguished with the frenetic and uncontrolled evolution of this world. And today, I want to talk about this. Today I want to talk about who we are. Today, I want to write about the emotions, hopes and feelings that define us and how this world is changing them. And I will do it by speaking through the lense of one of the generations that, more than any other, is experiencing this change in full; a generation that particularly expresses the contradictions of our society but also the dreams and the betrayed hopes: my generation, that of the Millennials.

We live in strange times. Times of great uncertainties, immense fears, incessant and fast changes. I am the son of a generation that has been living through the golden years of development, where entrepreneurs would invest in the job market and believed in the value of their employees. Years where politicians would constantly strive to find new ways to improve people’s lives. The high level of births, the prolific job market, the certainty of the future, the first and the second car, big savings, the summer holidays by the sea or in the mountains. And then the great investments, the incentives to progress, research and development, the high general morale, the man on the moon, the hope for a future of well-being for everyone.

But sometimes expectations about the future are bigger than what reality has to offer and, just like a bubble that swells excessively, sooner or later reality explodes right in your face. And here, all of a sudden, we have a system where the excessive well-being and the immeasurable potential of the third industrial revolution clashes with the individual economic interest. The big industries and multinationals come into play and alter the balance. Human greed grows stronger and stronger while the big multinationals knock on the doors of politics for some “boosts”. And there you go; the first agreements born to maximize profits by damaging workers’ rights; national factories shutting down to re-open in those countries where labor costs 1$ a day, or renegotiating workers’ union achievements with politicians in exchange for a few bribes or support during election campaigns; the high transnational finance getting hold of large company shares and becoming the main protagonist of a new global perverse game. The cost of labor for multinational companies drops dramatically while working hours increase. As a consequence, the price of produced goods decreases. Small and medium-sized businesses close or fail for they cannot compete with similar standards, whereas those able to make it through are the big names of industry or those entrepreneurs who, through criminal support, have managed to reach out to and influence politicians to get some extra procurement contracts or personal favors. The West becomes the center of unbridled capitalism, with no rules, with no ethics or respect. Everyone for themselves. It is against this backdrop that my generation, the Millennials, is born. The first true generation without any clue about its future.

The final blow comes with 2000 and all its technological capacity. It started with the first mobile phones and laptops on a large scale, up to smartphones and tablets. Technology moves; the great giants of Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Amazon develop; technological power becomes incredibly significant. And here’s Black Friday, the purchases with a click, the ads in every corner of the city, superfast transportation and trains in the underground every minute. The illusion of a world as a global, super-technological and limitless village is born. A sense that all this frantic lifestyle is necessary and inevitable emerges.

The savings of our parents are spent in this super-technological world while employment becomes more and more an urban legend. The new contemporary frontier of slavery 2.0 is born. Jobs poorly paid with meal vouchers; fixed-term contracts; easier layoffs; unbearable working hours. The prediction of Charlie Chaplin in his movie, Modern Times, comes true. Man becomes a productive factor with no rights, little money and a need to spend money without worrying too much about the future. It is the betrayal of the dream of a global Californication that we all expected: a happy world with more freedom and less problems to think about; a world where everyone can work and build a better and sustainable future.

But man’s greediness has shattered this dream. The betrayal from a global political class of spineless servants of high finance and powerful world lobbies has sanctioned the end of this dream. And while constitutions drown in an ocean of decay, my question is, what is left of all this?

On the one hand, there is an army of clueless kids, educated in the best prep schools which are financed by international magnates, who repeat as robots notions of economic and political theories aired on televisions and published in newspapers by those same people responsible for such a global delirium. Those same theories that legitimized the unbridled capitalism that is crushing us; theories such as those of the great industrialization or those that ultimately justified the plundering of the marvelous African countries or wars of interest such as those in Iraq or Libya.

On the other hand, there are people who live in the moment, who believe in what the World tells them to believe, only able to find their own identity in the television culture of the Big Brother, phony talk shows or in the trashy pop-porn culture spread throughout the day by MTV. George Orwell’s predictions have never been so true, huh?

And then, what remains is a people of perfect strangers.

I turn around every day, in the train, on the bus, down the street, and I see hundreds of people far away. People with a blank look on their face, lost in the void or on the screen of their smartphones. Lonely, sad, aloof people, with not much of humanity left; people walking quickly through the streets remorselessly hitting whomever is in their path because they are too intent on continuing their virtual conversation with someone miles away; people unable to express emotions or feelings; people too busy masking their loneliness behind the perfect image of their virtually perfect life on Instagram; depressed people no longer connected to reality; people who get together and break up through a telephone because they are incapable and afraid of meeting or knowing each other in a normal, real, natural way. And finally, people unable to associate, to connect, to unite and resist the power, or to oppose unjust decisions.

So what is left of feelings, of humanity, of us being people? For some reason, I’ve always been afraid to answer this question. Particularly, in the last period of my life.

During my time at The Next Century Foundation, I have been able to reflect a lot on politics, religion, people and the complicated relationships that bind us to each other and that bind us to society. I have not really ever considered anything I am writing right now. Not because I did not think about it but rather because this complex machine of intertwined relations, politics, economy, religion and power is difficult to fully understand and, above all, to make it work. And in this sense, in the end you end up accepting it because you understand that things are almost always impossible to change, peace will always be difficult to establish, power will always preserve itself and religion will always be used as a political tool to manipulate the masses. So, almost passively, you end up accepting the status quo of things. Almost like a condition of the universe, immovable and immanent. Everything has always been this way and it will always be this way.

At least until this World decides you are the next target and this status quo affects you in person, lashing out at you with all its strength. And then everything changes. You withdraw, let yourself down, look for explanations, seek yourself and your role in the world. You frantically turn around to find yourself, unsuccessfully. And you cannot help but compare your situation to that of the contemporary world, that of a world that perhaps will never change; and that of the Millennials, that of a simple person surrounded by lonely individuals, unable to sense or feel emotions in one of the largest cities in the world. You wonder if maybe it is just the natural order of things that you eventually have to accept, because perhaps that is how it works, because it has always been and will always be like this. In the last few months of my life, I have been looking for an answer to this question, without luck.

Until something happens; that deus ex machina you need to get you out of trouble. And here comes the answer to your questions. Something that helps you to understand; something like a trip to Holland, a beer with a trusted friend, an exhibition of an artist or walking in the rain in the streets of London without a destination. And it is at that precise moment that when you look into people’s eyes – those you’ve been so reluctant about or that you’ve lost hope in – you suddenly see something different, something you’ve never seen before, something that changes your perspective. And you can suddenly feel a vibe, a feeling, a sparkle that leads you through their eyes. And, like a flash in a pan, you are able to feel all the power and the emotions that each of them has locked within and that can be conveyed through their story or personality. Pure energy, pure emotions, pure humanity. The people’s smiling faces at the Tulip market in Amsterdam; the encouraging wink of a friend down at the pub that – around a pint and some good indie-rock in the background – shows you the right way of looking at things; the power of humanity in the symbolic life scenes of Banksy’s works that lead you to reflect on the true nature of people and humanity; the feeling of the rain falling on your skin in the gray of London’s streets that brings you back to life and connects you to reality again. Your prospects start to change and now you can see things differently. Suddenly you can find an answer to that question in that stream of people and things around you.

And, like a flashback, everything suddenly made sense.

During my time at the Next Century Foundation, I met ambassadors, Lords, religious leaders; I even spoke to the World for 2 minutes before the UN Human Rights Council. All exceptional experiences. However, I now understand that none of these experiences would have made sense without a particular detail that each of them has in common, the confrontation with people. Before the NCF I had not realized how even simply talking with people is essential; how much people can express through their words, their looks or their smiles. And, above all, I had not realized how effective it is to be able to talk with them to try to solve problems.

This is exactly what humanity is. Humanity is talking, confronting each other, solving problems together, uniting different and opposite perspectives. When you can achieve that; when you can take your eyes off your smartphone for a moment and you turn around; when you abandon the social and political fabrications for a moment and drop the mask they gave you, it is only then that you see potential and opportunities in those stranger’s faces rather than indifference and solitude. In that precise moment, you can hear the flow I was talking about earlier. And you understand that that potential is unimaginable and terrifies governments and institutions, and shakes the establishment. Just like the stories I tried to tell you about so far in my articles. And whether it is the Christmas truce or the international mass mobilization for the death of a young man in Egypt, you realise it is all about looking at the world from another perspective. If some people managed to refuse to fight, to kill and be killed, on European soil a little less than a century ago, destroying the socio-political fabrication of wars; if some people managed to get together to protest against a fierce dictator in Egypt without being afraid of the consequences; if one man could revolutionize his country after being imprisoned for 27 years, upsetting the entire institutional set-up based on violence, lies and terror; if other great men like Martin Luther King or Gandhi or so many others have managed to mobilize millions of people around an idea of peace, justice or freedom, then we too can change this mad world.

It is all about being able to channel those vibes into positive, collective paths. And you can only do it through dialogue, confrontation and associationism. Talking and dealing with people, precisely. Alexis de Tocqueville once said that the only way to resist power in a positive and constructive way is through the democratic instrument that starts from the bottom, by means of associationism from the municipal level, from small realities.

People are the solution to the world’s illnesses. And the positive dialogue that you can have with them. Social Capital. It is so simple. The greatest evils of our generation come from this absurd lifestyle that is offered to us in the form of well-being, technology and comfort. Loneliness, depression, indifference, hatred and division are all the fruit of a society that tends to divide us and speculate on our collective incapacity to react, associate and confront each other. It is that simple, and we are the cure.

It is possible. And you can find the proof around you. Turn off the TV, put down your smartphone for a moment. Go down the street, talk to people, listen to what they have to say. Take a hike in the park, maybe in the pouring rain. Try to feel something. Go to the pub, read a newspaper and comment on the news with bystanders. Have a coffee or a beer with them. Ask them how they are and give them a smile. Everything will change, everything will be different.

And speaking of smiles.

Once, a bearded man told me that if you try to smile while walking down the street, this will positively influence your attitude towards others and, above all, your self-confidence. I will never forget those words. I recently tried to do it often and, I’ll tell you something, it worked. If you try to walk down the street smiling at the people you meet, most of them will reply with a smile. And you will feel different as well, more secure, more positive towards others and the world. It’s all about that. Those emotions and feelings I was talking about before. They can come out, if triggered.

We only have to reconsider our values, our priorities for a moment. What we want from life and what we are looking for. And above all, remember who we are and where we come from, always. Love every single rise and fall and take them as an opportunity to grow and improve yourself and the world around you. I think this is the solution, the cure for the ills of mankind. Creating a community of people based on diversity and dialogue. Only then can we overcome all this. And we, Millennials, have boundless potential to do so.

By the way, I have gone too far. And now it’s time to conclude this post.

My time at the NCF gave me a lot. I grew up a lot professionally but mostly as a person. I owe you a lot, William and Veronica, to your kindness and warm welcome. I was welcomed and treated like a son. You gave me a lot to think about and work on. You gave me a smile in tough times and support when needed. And for this, thank you.

Then there is you, Rory, William and Yousef. Some young minds full of passion and desire to change things. You are fantastic. Every day, I saw in your eyes that power and passion of which I spoke about right above, waiting just to be fully exploited. And I know you’ll find a way to do it, it’s just a matter of time.

You were my second family here, in this gigantic crazy world of sharks. I’ll never forget that. And I’d like to conclude this blog post with this thought, while sipping my double espresso in some coffee shop somewhere in London and listening to these fantastic notes of Redemption Song, one of Marley’s masterpieces. He succeeded! He succeeded in uniting people around words of peace and hope. Like Hendrix’s solo or Mercury’s unique voice or even the Boss playing a piano version of Thunder Road. This is the right time, the perfect moment.

Ciao NCF, a presto!

Luctor et Emergo ex Flammis Orior, Per Aspera ad Astra

#lastblogpost #peoplehavethepower #believe #change #ciaoncf

 

The Balfour Declaration: 100 Years On

It is exactly 100 years to the day since the signing of the Balfour Declaration, an event that has had profound consequences and which continues to shape the Middle East and the rest of the world today. The Declaration, a product of British design, made two promises. First, it promised a homeland for the Jews, a people facing widespread persecution  and who would go on to face persecution on an abhorrent scale. Second, it promised that the civil and religious rights of those non-Jewish communities already occupying the land would not be prejudiced. Decades of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians underpins this failure to fulfill that second promise.

Britain must accept responsibility for its role in this, but not shy away from the important role it can play in the future. The U.K. should begin by recognising the state of Palestine as an important first step, and on that basis, lead new efforts at peace and reconciliation which acknowledge the fundamental rights of Palestinians and also the right of Israel to its security. It is no good making further promises. It is time for a new approach.

Balfour Declaration Centenary

This year marks the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, a statement issued by the British government toward the end of the First World War. The Balfour Declaration promised to establish a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, whilst also respecting the civil and religious rights of the Palestinian people. No word, however, was given on the political rights of Palestinian Arabs. Furthermore, the word ‘national home’, as opposed to ‘state’, was deliberately ambiguous, with no precedent in international law. These ambiguities begat confusion and have led to the Arab-Israeli conflict, one of the most insoluble conflicts of the last century.

For the Jewish people, the Balfour Declaration was a watershed moment that paved the way for the creation of the Jewish state of Israel, whose value was highlighted after the tumult of the Holocaust. After mass genocide at the hands of Nazi Germany, Jews had a place to go to, a place to call home after such great geographic and emotional dislocation. And as we enter the centenary year, the achievements of the Declaration have rightly been extolled in certain corners, with Theresa May stating that Britain will mark its anniversary with ‘pride’. However, we should not forget, nor take satisfaction from Britain’s inability to fulfil only one half of the bargain. Five-a-half million Palestinians have been exiled from their own homeland as a result of a problem placed on their own front door by the British government, and a bitter struggle has ensued.

With such a complex and sensitive issue, the perspective of both sides must be acknowledged and engaged with. There is a danger that the Arab world, most crucially Palestinian Arabs, will see the way that Brits, Christians, Jews and other members of the international community celebrate the centenary without any professed sense of regret. We must show them that we condemn the areas in which the Balfour Declaration has failed, and empathise with the concomitant suffering of Palestinian Arabs.

The centenary year of the Balfour Declaration represents a fitting time for reflection, both on its achievements and its failures. And on Tuesday 31 October, the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster will host an exciting, important event. ‘Britain’s Broken Promise: Time For A New Approach’ will seek to lead Britons to a more nuanced perspective on this historic declaration.

Buy Tickets for the Balfour event here

 

The Next Century Foundation at the United Nations – Intervention on Discrimination and Intolerance against Women

The Next Century Foundation took part in the 36th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. During the General Debate on Item 9 “Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance” the NCF delivered an oral intervention on the issue of gender discrimination in the Arab States urging them to take the necessary steps in order to improve women’s conditions, following the recent example of Bahrain.

Temple Mount crisis: Why is there no peace process?

dome of the rock

On Sunday night, Israeli police officers arrested 33 people in a series of raids on suspicion of involvement in the violent clashes resulting from the Temple Mount crisis.

In response to the shooting of two Druze police officers serving in Israel’s Border Police, a paramilitary force, on July 14th, Israel’s government installed metal detectors and cameras at the entrance to the site which prompted violent clashes between Muslim worshipers and Israel’s police forces over the past two weeks. Three died as a result.

These arrests highlight the lack of a successful resolution of the spat, despite Israel’s government removing the metal detectors from the site. It was hoped this could have signalled an end to the crisis. With more attention having been given to Syria and Iraq in recent times, this crisis has reminded us of the importance of fostering a peace process in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

It should not require such violence to bring the Israel-Palestine question to the attention of the international community. Steps should be taken to ensure that Jews and Muslims can coexist peacefully. This can only be achieved through dialogue and  negotiation. Acts of violence, police raids and rioting merely encourage retaliation.

Water-Apartheid in the Palestinian Territories

water

The right to safe drinking water is recognised by the United Nations as a fundamental human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and an adequate standard of living”. The UN calls upon all states to ensure that every person, “without discrimination”, has access to “sufficient, safe, accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use”.

Yet this is a distant reality for millions of Palestinians living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip; instead they live with water that is contaminated, overpriced and chronically short in supply.

In the Gaza Strip, at least 95% of groundwater extracted from the Coastal Aquifer is so heavily contaminated it is “unfit for human consumption” according to UNICEF. After decades of over-exploitation by Palestinian and Israeli authorities, Gaza’s only aquifer has become severely depleted and susceptible to seawater and sewage contamination. Water shortages and widespread contamination are compounded by lasting conflict between Israel and Gaza’s de facto Hamas administration: in 2014 this conflict saw crucial water infrastructure targeted and destroyed by Israeli airstrikes. Subsequently, Israel’s long-standing blockade on Gaza continues to restrict the entry of specialist materials needed to rebuild and repair this damaged infrastructure.

DESALINATION vs electricity

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the right of Palestinians to safe water is systematically undermined through an unequal water-sharing agreement with Israel: the 1995 Oslo II Accord. This agreement grants Israel exclusive control of roughly four times the Palestinian allocation of ‘shared’ water resources, despite Israelis and Israeli settlers comprising a vastly smaller proportion of the West Bank’s population. The disparity in water consumption is shocking: a 2013 report by local NGO Al-Haq found that 500,000 Israeli settlers living in the West Bank collectively consumed over six times as much water as 2.6 million Palestinians.

Moreover, a discriminatory permit regime enables Israel to prevent Palestinians from building and maintaining water infrastructure in the West Bank. Where building work has taken place without Israeli approval, authorities have demolished vital structures including basic latrines, water tanks and piping networks serving Palestinian communities.

Faced with chronic water shortages and widespread contamination, many Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank spend between 20-30% of their income purchasing overpriced water from Israeli water company Mekorot or other unregulated private vendors.

This is a hugely unjust situation.

 

Lord Stone responds to the Queen

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:

Lord Stone of Blackheath Labour 5:05 pm, 23rd May 2016

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?

New Plans underway to Re-launch talks on Two-state Solution

The following has just come in from a senior Board Member of the NCF:

When the Israelis and the Palestinians are not talking “peace”, the world or at least the Middle Eastern region is a more dangerous place. That may be a bit hard to swallow in view of the wars and civil unrest apparent in many Middle Eastern countries. But it is even true in Israel itself where the beginnings of a new Intifada or uprising have already begun with seemingly unplanned but nearly continuous stabbings or car rammings by Palestinians ranging from their pre-teens to octogenarians which are occuring on an all too regular basis.

While one does not condone these vicious assaults (and the even more brutal counter measures taken by the Israeli security forces as some kind of collective punishment), there is a distinct reason for them — the complete lack of confidence on the part of the vast majority of Palestinians that their dream of independence or even equality of status will ever be realized. Such frustration has turned to anger and resentment, and many of these youngsters are responding with the only weapons at hand — kitchen knives mostly.

Thus, it is heartening to hear that there is still support for a two state solution. Secretary of State John Kerry was certainly found this sentiment wanting when he spent a good deal of his personal energy and political capital on seeking to bring the Palestinians and the Israelis to the table. He failed, of course, but he should be applauded for at least trying to address this issue.

The Next Century Foundation (NCF) launched a new initiative based on application of the 2002 Arab (or Abdallah) peace plan in stages. It looks towards resolving some of the toughest decisions first (I.e., Jerusalem) and then move on to other matters down the road.

This proposal was launched in Washington and in Jerusalem last week. Discussion with the Palestinians and other interested parties including the Quartet are pending. As long as the U.S. will not recognize the value of the Arab Peace Plan, however, chances of a breakthrough appear dim. End Introduction

———————————-

“New plans underway to re-launch talks on two-state solution”

AL-MONITOR

By Uri Savir

29 February 2016

The Quartet (United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia) decision taken on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 12 is a landmark for the efforts of the international community to revitalize an Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution process. The Quartet decided to compose a report that will outline the obstacles that today are preventing a renewed peace process as well as recommendations for restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The driving force behind the Quartet’s decision was the EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. An official close to the High Representative told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that there is a consensus within the EU that without a political horizon, the situation within the Palestinian Authority risks deteriorating, possibly leading to an armed intifada and even to the resignation of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mogherini believes that, similarly to the case of the Iran deal, it is important to create an international consensus of the main powers for the sake of Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution. In this way, the Quartet may become a mechanism that will bypass the Security Council and initiatives of individual countries such as the United States and France.

According to the official, the report will be prepared by envoys of the Quartet to the region and presented to the foreign ministers for a decision as to how to proceed. It will include a common analysis of the existing roadblocks for a peace process, and therefore will deal in detail with settlement expansion, land appropriation, incitement to violence and violence, both in regard to the Palestinian sporadic terror attacks in the past three months and to Israeli settler violence against Palestinian civilians.

The EU official said that the Quartet does not intend to blame any of the parties, but rather to analyze the situation in a balanced way in order to create a better environment for the renewal of a two-state process.

As to a formula on the renewal of negotiations, it will have to be negotiated by the foreign ministers of the Quartet, based on the recommendations in the report. Mogherini herself, according to the official, will consult in advance of the report with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas, as well as with the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

The EU sees the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 as a valid basis for future negotiations, but also recognizes the need for mutual land swaps in relation to the 1967 lines and for security arrangements to satisfy Israeli interests within a two-state solution.

While the decision on the report was reached in consensus, there is a diversity of views within the Quartet about the kind of policy platform to set for all future negotiations.

A senior State Department official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that Secretary of State John Kerry is very much in support of the Quartet report. The United States will, in view of sharp European criticism of Netanyahu’s settlement policies, attempt to balance in the report what it perceives as excessively critical approaches toward Israel by the EU, Russia and the UN.

In the American view, the Arab Peace Initiative cannot be the main basis for future negotiations as it does not emphasize sufficiently the necessary security and anti-terror arrangements within a permanent status agreement.
The Obama administration, according to the official who is frequently in the region, is interested in creating a policy platform for a two-state solution for the post-Obama era. It will do so both within the Quartet and also in the form of US policy guidelines for a two-state solution. Various expressions of such guidelines are still being considered, including the possibility of an important presidential policy speech.

The Quartet decision is significant both in the short and long term. For the immediate future, it may give Abbas a political horizon to point to.

In regard to Israel, it may start a political debate over the value of the Quartet’s recommendations. In the long term, the mechanism — more than the specific recommendations — is of importance; it may be the beginning of a conflict resolution process on the Israeli-Palestinian issue by international consensus and not merely, as in the past, by the United States.

In all likelihood, a new platform for a two-state solution process can be realized only after the upcoming US presidential elections and after the two parties — Israel and the PA — have exhausted all other alternatives.

Peace: The Andrew Stone formula

The Lord Stone of BlackheathThis 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.