There may never be peace

Prospect Magazine

There may never be peace


There may be no happy ending to the Israeli-Palestinian clash, says Britain’s former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Israel

“Song for Peace” is written on the bloodstained paper that was in the jacket pocket of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin when he was assassinated on 4th November, 1995 by Yigal Amir, a member of an extremist Israeli nationalist group 

For the last six years I have served as a British ambassador in the Middle East, first to Israel and then to Saudi Arabia. I leave the region with particular sadness that in this period the chances of a solution to the long-running conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians—on which, ultimately, turns the issue of Israel’s acceptance in the region—have grown bleaker. These are my ten rules for why this is the case.

Rule 1: “The worst thing will always happen at the worst possible time”

Examples are legion. A few follow.
The assassination in 1995 of Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister, was the one fatal act which could have—and did—effectively end any hope that the Oslo peace process would get anywhere, even if the formal last rites were delayed until 2000 in Camp David. Hezbollah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers in July 2006 destroyed any chance that Ehud Olmert, then prime minister, would be able to make a large unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank, as he had promised during his election campaign, in the wake of the withdrawal from Gaza by Ariel Sharon, his predecessor. The Goldstone report on Operation Cast Lead [a United Nations fact-finding mission, led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, on the Gaza conflict of 2008-2009], published in September 2009, appeared at just the moment to make it even harder for Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, to descend from the tree into which he had been encouraged to climb by faulty American tactics in the starter phase of the Obama administration. Obama settled in at the White House—an American president at last fully understanding why solving the Palestinian issue is vital for American, and western, interests—just as Israel voted for a right-wing government which would thoroughly complicate his efforts.

One sub-rule of this main rule is the complexity of overlapping political timetables. Peace making is all too often on hold because there are Israeli, or American, or even Palestinian, elections. The rhythm of peace-making efforts is constrained above all by the short horizons of the American system, and the intense preoccupation of Israelis with their own political system (see Rule 8).

Rule 2: “Everyone is afraid of being a sucker”

Fears of being a sucker (a “fryer” in Yiddish and now Hebrew) are an explicit part of Israeli political discourse, but are just as evident in the Palestinian approach to peace making. Both sides feel that concessions they have made in the past have not been reciprocated, and are therefore determined not to take the first step this time around. Such worries prevent the Israelis in particular from coming to terms with the reality that since they hold the majority of the cards, they will inevitably have to make the greater concessions. And the West Bank barrier—now as much psychological as physical—means that most Israelis can ignore the morally questionable realities of occupation.

The corollary of this rule is that each party, to avoid being a sucker, acts in a manner destined to prevent progress, thus ensuring an outcome which is actually a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The rule applies more widely in the region. There is no Arab inclination publicly to suggest the possibility of a less than fully prescriptive, or even a graduated, approach to the Arab Peace Initiative (which offers Israel the prospect of normalisation in the region) because those governments assess that Israel would simply take advantage of any first move on their part and leave them suckered. Besides, they’ve got enough on their plate at the moment (see Rule 9).

Rule 3: “Only the Americans can, and the Americans can’t”

There is no prospect of the Israelis and Palestinians doing their own deal—the key issues are simply too hard (see Rules 6 and 7). No one but the Americans has the leverage and the historical record to persuade the Israelis to make the necessary concessions and to underpin any deal with the necessary security guarantees. The maxim “we can’t want it more than the parties” is fundamentally fake: neither side has yet reached the level of exhaustion where it is ready to offer the necessary compromises, and both would prefer to avoid the most testing questions. Indeed, both sides need to be able to tell their constituencies that while in an ideal world they would not have gone so far, Uncle Sam has made it clear there is no alternative. But the United States has only fitfully been willing to play such an imperial role, and the Americans can never be a genuinely impartial broker—the whole weight of their system and their perceptions tilt them towards the Israelis. The problems this can cause were brutally apparent at the Middle East peace summit at Camp David in 2000, when Yasser Arafat, then Palestinian Authority chairman, rightly suspected every American initiative of being pre-cooked with the Israelis. Obama has yet to prove he will be the president who proves there can be exceptions to this rule, although there are now hopes that he might press harder on this issue in Obama Term 2. Assuming, of course, the next four years are not Romney Term 1…

Rule 4: “It’s easier for a right-wing Israeli government to make peace than a left-wing one” (a rule sometimes called “only Likud can”)

This rule is, I suspect, both true and untrue. Proponents point back to 1979 and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s deal with Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat for the return of the Sinai; or Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir’s acceptance of the invitation to go to the Madrid peace talks in 1991; or Sharon’s uprooting of settlements and withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. They perhaps omit, for example, that it was Rabin who made peace with Jordan in 1994. Yes, any deal struck by a right-wing Israeli government will be an easier sell to a sceptical Israeli public than one struck by a government of the left. But I think the rule severely underestimates the equal and opposite reality that any government of the right will find it far more difficult to make the necessary compromises on what is not only seen as a critical security buffer, but is also the “Biblical homeland”—Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and East Jerusalem. That’s why the settlers have been so successful in exploiting an Israeli system in which many share their longing to “return,” and have been able to establish so many facts on the ground which severely complicate (and may already have blocked entirely) the path to peace. Begin could give away the Sinai since only a few Israeli extremists would have claimed that this area too formed part of God’s original promise.

Rule 5: “Incrementalism doesn’t work”

Partly because of Rule 2—everyone is afraid of being a sucker. Most models of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking are designed to leave the really hard issues, Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees, to last. But the Palestinians in particular worry that this means that those issues will never be on the table: hence their understandable insistence on the “nothing agreed until everything agreed” mantra. The fact that the Israelis have never been prepared to agree that there should be no change to the status quo in relation to issues to be left to the final stages of negotiations (such as no further building in East Jerusalem) compounds Palestinian worries about the risks of incrementalism, as do their bitter memories of the way settlement construction continued apace during the Oslo process.

Rule 6: “It’s all about Jerusalem and the Right of Return”

Analysts dispute whether this is a conflict about land or religion.  I believe it is essentially a dispute about identity, with land and religion as principal expressions of the identity issues involved. The two issues which are key to the identities which are in conflict are Jerusalem and the Right of Return—the Palestinian refugee issue. Any Israeli or Palestinian leader who cannot say that each morning is ducking how hard it will be to make progress. Of the two, the refugee issue is the easier, although any internal Palestinian leader will be wary of signing up to any deal which means that his brethren in camps in Lebanon and elsewhere cannot come back to Jaffa or Haifa—unless perhaps such a deal comes with the firm backing, and resources, of the international community including the Arab world. Bear in mind also that the Israelis will baulk even at acknowledging that there is any such thing as a Right of Return (even if it is not to be implemented), rejecting the implication that there was such an original sin at the heart of the creation of the Israeli state. They would argue that responsibility for the problem should be shared with the Arab armies who invaded in 1948 and even with those Palestinian leaders who advised their communities to get on the road. And that it is wrong for Israel to take a hit for this particular refugee problem when Arab states have never come under critical scrutiny over the manner of the departure of their Jewish citizens in the early years of the Israeli state.

Rule 7: “There cannot be a deal on sovereignty of the Old City”

The core of the Jerusalem identity issue is the Old City, and a main lesson of 2000/2001 (from Camp David through to the parameters proposed by President Bill Clinton) is that it is not possible to do a deal dividing sovereignty there between the Israelis and the Palestinians, particularly when it comes to the Temple Mount/Haram-al-Sharif. The 1947 UN partition plan got it right—there will have to be some kind of special arrangement, at least for the Old City. There are models, and sovereignty could be given to God (leaving Israeli and Palestinian mortals to agree only to administrative arrangements), or kicked into touch (as when Olmert, in his potentially taboo-breaking 2008 offer to Abbas, suggested an interim arrangement for the Old City). Without such a deal, there will be no wider Israeli-Palestinian deal. And without an Israeli-Palestinian deal including a satisfactory resolution of the Jerusalem issue, Israel will never be accepted by the Islamic world.

Rule 8: “The difficulty of reaching a deal is compounded by the dysfunctional political systems on both sides”

This rule is easily illustrated on the Palestinian side. The gap between Fatah, dominant on the West Bank, and Hamas, controlling Gaza, raises the question of whether the Palestinian Authority will ever feel able to make compromises to do a deal with the Israelis. Fatah is also still struggling to make the transition to a credible political party, and too many Fatah knives are aimed at Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s back. On the Israeli side, a political system of proportional representation with a low threshold for parties to win seats in the Knesset is all too often a recipe for short-lived governments held hostage by the smaller and harder-line members of any coalition. Intriguingly, Benjamin Netanyahu’s deal with Shaul Mofaz, now vice prime minister, raises the possibility of a government with sufficient political bandwidth to go all the way, if it wanted to. But does it?

Rule 9: “The international community has never wanted it enough”

The Palestinian issue has been left unresolved too long. It was not until the 1937 Peel Commission that some British officials had the courage to understand that the full meaning of the 1917 Balfour declaration, and that the only way to meet the national aspirations of the two sides, was a two-state solution. Since 1948, and above all since 1967, international will to push for such an outcome has all too often been lacking, with the Americans in particular only slowly coming to the same realisation of what peace will take, having rejected the European Union’s 1981 Venice declaration, which in many ways started the process of scales falling from international eyes.

If—at least for the foreseeable future—the only alternative to a two-state solution is continuing conflict (see Rule 10), and if such conflict represents, as it does, a threat to wider US and western interests in the region and more widely, then a sustained international drive to achieve a two-state deal should be a no-brainer. But as the experience of the Quartet (the US, UN, EU and Russia) confirms, the Americans are genetically indisposed to move into a genuinely multilateralist mode on this issue; and the EU has failed over the years to translate declaratory clarity into operational strategy and tactics, or to use its potential weight as Israel’s most important export market and economic partner. And both have failed to put their efforts together and link them to a wider regional drive to bolster moderation and contain or constrain the extremists. We should focus on transatlantic agreement on the big carrots which could be deployed to encourage the parties to move in the right direction, and the big sticks which might be necessary if they are reluctant to do so.

The other side of the “we’ve never wanted it enough” coin is that an argument can be made that the international donor community has in effect propped up the Israeli occupation by pumping in aid money which has taken the edge off Palestinian frustration. There are good humanitarian reasons for much of the assistance which has been given, and indeed (more recently) good state-building ones. But I fear the staggering level of international assistance has fostered a widespread dependency culture in Palestinian political life (for all Fayyad’s valiant efforts to reverse it) which has contributed to their leadership problems. Has the time come dramatically to scale down the funds we give the Palestinians, in order to put the full weight of the occupation on Israel, a burden I do not think they would be able to endure given, inter alia, the heavier weight it would mean to a society which needs to think of itself in morally positive terms?

A further question: why isn’t the moderate Arab world more active in pressing its western partners to get its act together and sort this one out? There are many reasons, and just at the moment the pressures of the Arab Spring, the deepening Sunni-Shia divide in the region, and the linked perception of a need to counter an Iranian push for greater regional hegemony, have inevitably pushed the Palestinian issue down on the Arab agenda. But one reason—of which Israel should beware—is the Arab reading that Israel needs a two-state solution more than the Palestinians, and, like the Crusader kingdom, will face eventual extinction if it does not make its peace with the locals rather than continue to rely on its overseas backers (for the US now read Christian Europe then). So the Arabs can wait.

Rule 10: “Failure in the most likely outcome”

This is the most complex conflict I know. And it may already be too late to achieve a two-state solution, even if that would have been the right solution, and the only possible solution. I cannot imagine any American government able to do what is necessary to press the Israelis to take the steps which are ultimately in Israel’s interest. I cannot imagine any Israeli government able to take the steps necessary to rein in the settler movement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem for a sustainable two-state solution to be achieved. I find it hard to imagine any internal Palestinian leadership with the authority to make the compromises on the Right of Return without which no Israeli would support a peace deal. And it’s difficult to envisage any Arab leader ready to translate the Arab Peace Initiative into actionable, supportive activity.

Nor can I imagine any viable alternative to a two-state solution. I don’t think it’s realistic to think of going back to ideas such as a UN Trusteeship for the Occupied Palestinian Territories. I don’t believe either side is ready seriously to contemplate an Israel-Palestine federal model, although I am intrigued at the thought of how that might offer a way into the Jerusalem issue—the seat of a federal government serving both parts of the federation. I am intrigued too—but not convinced—by the concept of separate Israeli and Palestinian governments within an overall single state—the “parallel state” model. Nor do I believe it would be feasible, or indeed right, to try to live with the new realities on the ground and offer to pay Egypt and Jordan to soak up Gaza and a rump West Bank, hoping to push the Arab world to accept a version of Greater Israel.

This might be a Jewish and Arab problem, but it is a Greek tragedy. When you put all the above rules together, they mean there cannot be a happy ending. I hope I’m wrong.

Correction: the print edition carried the wrong orientation of the image because it was taken from Getty images where it was wrongly displayed

  1. July 23, 2012

    Ramesh Raghuvanshi

    Peace is possible If Israel understand the plight of Palestinian.Israel is more responsible to increased enmity between two neighbor.Israel occupied land of .Palestinian and made them refugees.Israeli are very rich and Palestinian extremely poor. If Israel want genuinely peace in that region must abandoned their wicked religious dogma” An eye for an eye and tooth for tooth”That teaching now out of date we are living in 21 Th century.Israel must remember now many countries have nuclear weapons and can receive same answer to you.If all world want to live peacefully we must abandoned religious dogma and change our old psyche

  2. July 23, 2012

    Francine Last

    A very balanced and well argued article. I’m inclined to agree. The biggest tragedy is America’s partisanship and absurd politics. American presidents can’t do the right thing, because Americans themselves are so ill-served with propaganda and misinformation, they have no idea anymore what is the right thing to do. Their simplistic view of good and evil prevents them from seeing the very real human tragedy that has become the Gaza Strip.

  3. July 23, 2012

    John Ellis

    A convincing article. I have certainly despaired of Obama’s inability to carry forward his ‘good noises’ at the beginning of his term – his re-election is one small cause for optimism to set against these bleak ten commandments. Israel (and Jews more widely) need to accept that we are way past the shadow of the holocaust . Sure, the Arabs are no saints but a bit of statesmanship by the Americans telling Israel how it is in terms of breaking UN resolutions and that continuing non-compliance will result in gradually reducing financial support, along with cast-iron guarantees on security, would go a long way to unlocking this singularly large log-jam

    • July 23, 2012


      I am one of those “Jews more widely” that you refer to. I am pretty surprised by your glossing over what was for the Jewish world was a far reaching experience. A third of worldwide Jewry were lost in the holocaust and had this happened in isolation you may be forgiven for belittling the experience, but this was after 2000 years of Christian persecution. In the final analysis you don’t like what we have become, i.e. fearful of our survival whether at the hands of the Arab world or Western liberal democracy. If I was an abused child you would make allowances for me being damaged goods, but a damaged people you fail to understand and are unable to realize your world made the Jews paranoid. It’s within this context you want the Jews to make concessions that may lead to the annihilation of another 6 Million.

      • July 24, 2012

        Francine Last

        The problem is that Jews think that BECAUSE of their tragic history, any abuses committed by them should be disregarded. As you say, if you were an abused child you may be forgiven, but if you were an abused child who then became an abuser yourself (which so often is the case), why should the next victims be blamed?

        Another reason that the world is tired of this, is the concept that somehow Jews are the ONLY victimised people in the world. They aren’t. I would argue that blacks have been far more victimised throughout the ages and somehow, they can never use that to justify any atrocities done by themselves. It’s time that Jews accepted that today, they are now hugely powerful and influential (they have the power to determine who rules the Whitehouse and much of the West’s foreign policy). It would be better if Jews used that power and influence for the common good of ALL humanity!

        • July 25, 2012


          Steve, I’d like to apologize. It was not my intention to be offensive. I simply was picking up on a previous comment made, that it may be time for the Holocaust to be put to rest. And I feel that considering the atrocities that have been borne by many, many other ethnic and religious groups who don’t have museums and books and classroom lessons dedicated to their tragic histories, the world often forgets about others (or worse, are often completely ignorant of many of the awful things that have happened to others – today for example, many Native Americans live in abject poverty and still petition the UN to be recognised as the victims of genocide. How much of the world takes notice of them? It may have been wrong of me to generalize about the power and influence of all ‘Jews’, however, there is absolutely no doubt that AIPAC wields enormous clout and very definitely has an impact on future US presidential candidates, who often go, tail between their legs to AIPAC meetings, prostituting themselves to the Israeli cause. It seems unconscionable today, that any candidate would dare to show sympathy towards the Palestinian people and presume to get elected.

        • July 25, 2012

          Amir Azulay

          What about the atrocities committed by the Palestinians on the Jews? You seem to forget that and somehow the sporadic and random killing of Jews in Israel with over 5000 rockets aimed at nursery schools is fine. This is after Israel unilaterally withdrew from the land. What did they get? A state on their doorstep who’s only interest in life is to destroy Israel. its easy to blame Israel for everything but those who repeatedly choose violence as opposed to peace are the Palestinians. You need to acknowledge that too.
          There is no chance for peace, the only solution is a total unilateral withdrawal by Israel with handing over of the state of affairs and security to the European Community to monitor and secure the peace and build the future for the Palestinians. BUT then if any Palestinian rockets land in Israel, Israel reserves the right like any sovereign nation to respond to an attack on its land and the righteous people that only see the Palestinian pain and suffering need to shut up!

      • July 26, 2012


        The “prospect of annhaliation of another 6 million Jews” flies in the face of reality. There is no doubt that many Arabs feel angry enough to claim to want it, but the gap between these words borne of frustration and the brick and mortar reality of Israel both within it 1948 borders and outside of them make its prospect totally non existent; that’s not even taking into account majority Palestinian and Arab opinion which is a long way from genocidal.

        In societies where the correct efforts are made to treat people of different beliefs and ethnicities equally, society and the law does support and attempts to empathsise with the abused, but if the victim of abuse goes not abuse themselves, they are sent to prison or somewhere else suitable to rehabilitate. Israel needs space and time to get over it’s trauma, but it also need to be held accountable for its crimes. this isn’t anti semitic, this is being treated the same as others. All right thinking Israelis should yearn for this, given their history.

        Genocide is not specific to European Jewry, and the holocaust (that particularly callous, mechanized snuffing out of so many lives) has nothing to do with Palestine.

        Israelis shouldn’t fear a nuclear Iran, Iranians should. A well supported and defended Israel will rightly destroy the acting nation who attempts to wipe out even 600 Israelis (look at all the innocent lives stunted and destroyed in Gaza). Your comments reflect just one of the mass delusions which Israelis use to self sooth in the face of their consistent attempts to negate, deny and dehumanize Palestinians.

      • August 4, 2012

        Alan Mackie

        And what about the Palestinians who the Jews are now abusing? Two wrongs do not make a right.

  4. July 23, 2012


    A very balanced article. Rule 9 is very interesting. I am not sure your explanation is the correct one. The crusader state analogy used by the Arabs is more an attempt to legitimize the lack of action than a real strategic concept, because on the policy levels I am relatively certain that the Arab governments appreciate that the crusader states would have been significantly more permanent had they possessed nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. My reading isn’t that the Arabs think that they can wait to achieve their goals and so are doing nothing, but that the whole attachment to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict has become rhetorical and that the Arabs no longer particularly care about the reality of the matter. It has become the equivalent of the attachment of Christians to Jerusalem and the Holy Land, a metaphysical place somewhere else that can be defined and redefined according to local needs – hence the common and public obsession with Zionist and Imperialist conspiracies.

    Strangely I think that de facto the situation is going to evolve in the direction that you reference of Egypt and Jordan soaking up Gaza and the West Bank, but without a de jure Arab acceptance of a Greater Israel. This will not be a resolution, but it might provide some stability.

    Unfortunately I find myself agreeing with your conclusion. Thank you so much for the article. I think that it contains an encapsulated wisdom that all optimists that approach this conflict should study before proceeding to come up with simplistic solutions.

  5. July 24, 2012

    Irvin J. Farber

    A well written articvle, but essentially nothing new. It fails to point oujt that for nineteen yeats the Arabs had control of all of the territory that they now claim for a Palestinian state, ande took no action to establishb one. Every time the Arabs were offered a state they refused it. Additional pressure on Israel is not the answerr. Pressujre must , instead, be put on the Arabs to accept the idea of Israel. Workiing out boundries and the status of Jerusalem will be a painful, but possible process once the Arabs are willing to accept the idea of a Jewish state of Israel beside an Arab state of Palestine. Until then there can be nothing but the staus quo. The Arab states appear to be getting tired of the situation. The US and the UE will have more urgent things to think about, too. The Palestinians will gbegin to realoize that thefre is no future for them in the conflict and they will turn their attgention to everyday life. And the world will just keep spinning.

    • July 24, 2012

      Francine Last

      There are two problems with your point of you:

      1. That the onus is on the Arabs to accept and recognise Israel, while there is no reciprocal demand. Why don’t the Israelis have to accept and recognise the Palestinians? After all, the threat to the Palestinian people is far greater than that to the Israelis. Israel is growing, expanding and getting stronger. The Palestinian territories are shrinking and sinking into further abject poverty. The Israelis have freedom, the Palestinians are prisoners.

      2. The concept of a ‘Jewish’ state is adverse to the concept of a free democracy in which all citizens of the state of all ethnic and religious groups are treated equally. By creating a state for one ethnic or religious group to the exclusion of all others, Israel is sanctioning hostilities and prejudices against minority groups. Israel should enshrine the concept of a truly multiracial state that treats all it’s citizens as equals.

      • July 25, 2012

        Amir Azulay

        Francine, you have no clue do you. Israel not only accepted the Palestinians, they created them. Look at history of the nomadic tribes in the area. There was not Palestinian people, this was a fabrication. Fact is more of these tribes live in Jordan and are a majority there.
        Do you understand that the Palestinian decree calls for the destruction of Israel? You most probably don’t understand that the humanitarian rights that Israel shows to Palestinian terrorists is according to the Geneva convention, while Israel prisoners are simply beheaded or burnt.
        Your myopia of the situation is distorted from watching too much Al Jazeera – why don’t you go to the area and live it for a while?

        • July 25, 2012


          That is completely untrue historically.

          There were sedentary populations of Arab peoples living in the area for centuries. During the early aliyat they made up the majority of the population, and only a few new agricultural Jewish settlements were set up, while towns were predominately Arab.

          There’s also been plenty of scholarship (read: professional historians not politicians) dealing with Arab Palestinian identity prior to the creation of Israel. It’s disputed how widespread it was, especially among the rural and landless (after Jewish groups bought the land from absentee landlords in Beirut they usually kicked off all the Arab peasants, it created such a problem that Yishuv leadership was forced to deal with the issue).

          I’m constantly appalled by how poorly many Israeli or Israeli apologists know their own history. The early Yishuv is well documented, and many of the things you’ll read in personal correspondences would shock you. Ironically early Jewish leaders prior to the creation of Israel (and the terrible policies that helped create it, including expulsion, deliberate use of propaganda to instill fear of massacre in Palestinian civilians, then after the war confiscating Palestinian property and barring all refugees from EVER returning to their homes) had a much better understanding of the negative effect they had on the indigenous people. Early Yishuv leaders were more sympathetic to Palestinians than the right-wing bigots of today.

    • July 26, 2012

      Francine Last


      It’s nice to see a wise response to much of the distortions here. I didn’t even bother responding to Azulay’s comment, as it is beyond the realms of reason and fact. There is so much hyperbole involved in the Jewish issue.

      I have a theory about ‘settlers’ who move and recreate history for their own benefit and often justification. If you listen to many American pundits, they too seem to distort European and American history to justify their actions.

      The fact is, that the modern Jews of today’s Israel, bear little cultural or even physical resemblance to the ancient Jews of the Holy Lands. Israelis are largely ‘western’ in appearance, culture and outlook and therefore, I believe are imposters. “The Invention of the Jewish People” by Prof. Shlomo Sand (an Israeli) demonstrates that the mass migration of people from all over Europe before, during and after WWII, was made up peoples, many of whom were not Jews but other persecuted minorities (like gypsies) who wanted a place to go where they could live peacefully. So they claimed Jewish heritage (and some converted to Judaism) when arriving in Israel. This consequently makes a total joke of the idea that there is an ancient and continuous lineage between Jews of the past and Jews today. Suffice to say, this argument, that the Jews have an ancient and biblical (literally, God-given) right to the land at the expense of all others who have lived there since, is hogwash, but no politician has the guts to come out and call the bluff, because of the power of the Israeli lobby in the US.

      • August 4, 2012

        Jeremy Woolf

        These comments are glib and in particular overlook the fact that a very large proportion of Israel’s population are the descendants of jews from Arab lands who were also made refugees by the conflict

        • August 6, 2012

          Francine Last

          I do not overlook the fact that “a very large proportion of Israel’s population are the descendants of jews from Arab lands who were also made refugees by the conflict”.

          I think you missed the point I was making.

          I was referring specifically to the ‘settlers’ from Europe who are taking Palestinian land and justifying the destruction of Palestinian homes by claiming a biblical God-given right to the land based on some highfalutin notion that traces their lineage back to ancient biblical Jews. As the scholar, Shlomo Sands has demonstrated, many of the ‘Jewish’ refugees that came to Israel in recent times to settle there, are not (or were not until they converted for convenience) even Jewish!

  6. July 24, 2012

    Aryeh Freidson

    In my opinion Phillips left out the main reason why Peace is unlikely: Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis want a two state solution. The Netanyahu government in Israel is supportive of the settlements and has never shown reason to believe that it supports the Idea of a Palestinian state. On the Palestinian side, both Hamas and Fatah has never acknowledged Israel’s right to exist, let alone the 2 state solution, as demonstrated in numerous refusal to Israeli propositions (Arafat rejected Barak’s proposal in 2000 and chose to begin the Intifafda (guerrilla war), Abu Mazen rejected Olmert’s proposal in 2008).
    The Israeli’s struggle with the Idea of dividing the land and evacuating the west-bank settlers, but they did a few proposals. for the Palestinians, the two state solution is a bluff.
    This is the reason why we won’t be witnessing a peace contract in the near future. It is a mystery to me how Phillips fails to recognize it, and raises doubts about whether Europeans have a clue of what’s going on in the Middle East.

  7. July 25, 2012

    Cal Kris

    This is cogently expressed. Maybe my only quibble is with Ambassador Phillips’ statement about shared or international control of Jerusalem: “Without an Israeli-Palestinian deal including a satisfactory resolution of the Jerusalem issue, Israel will never be accepted by the Islamic world.” For a long time, it seemed that Arab countries would never stop using the phrase “zionist entity” for Israel. But they have. I also dislke the cliche “foreseeable future”. No such thing.

  8. July 25, 2012

    David Guy

    Talk about smug. Phillips misses the elephant in the room (or is it a camel). The existence of Israel is a double blashphemy accordng to Islam. Firstly because it was once Islamic territory and that can never be surrendered – something that should give Spain, Bulgaria, Cyprus and F.R. of Yugoslavia something to think about. Secondly because the only correct position for Jews (and Christians) vis-a-vis Muslems is subservient Dhimmi. You could argue that not all Muslims accept these points but the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists do and they are the rising power. Besides this isn’ t radical theology. It is completely mainstream. Whether the nationalist-Fatah-PLO side agee is not relevant. They are too scared of Hamas and its supporters to put it to the test. One would think that after having served in Saudi Arabi he would have picked this up.

    He has also missed the second camel. The Arabs hate the Jews and Israel (and generally don’t play the not-antsemitic-just-a-critic-of-Israel gambit beloved by Leftists and Foreign Office bureaucrats) and wish it nothing but destruction. Those few who do not are marginal, have no influence and probably most importantly don’t have the arms.

    Putting the blame on Israel is nothing but sophistry. Under those conditions Britain would give nothing away either. Perhaps the United Kingdom should show an example to Israel by surrendering Gibraltar, the Falklands or any of the 12 other 14 British Overseas Territories it picked up over the centuries.

    • July 25, 2012

      Francine Last

      It looks as though the Israel lobby has come out to play on this website (and who said they weren’t powerful and influential???). The sheer force and self-righteousness of the pro-Israel comments here, demonstrates that everything I said about Israeli domination is true.

      There remains a perpetual justification of aggression from Israel (who after all is the only nuclear armed nation in the middle east and backed by the most powerful nation the world has ever known) and yet it STILL plays the victim card. The argument that Israel has a right to defend itself would hold true if it were defending itself within its legally sanctioned borders, not on occupied territory that it has illegally claimed for itself. If there were the peaceful possibility of an exchange, a Palestinian able to live the life of an Israeli, versus, an Israeli going to live the life of a Palestinian in the Gaza concentration camp, I’m sure that there would be more takers from the Palestinian side. After all, who would want to live in a place where you are not free to move in your own land because of endless checkpoints, guns pointed at you, and walls surrounding you? The myth that the Palestinians want to see the destruction of Israel is a self-fulfilling prophesy created by Israel. The Palestinians are fighting for justice and freedom against a bullying occupation. That is all.

      • July 25, 2012


        You cheapen the word genocide when you use it that way. That is despicable, especially from a people who have experienced it.

        You can find dozens of quotes by Israeli leaders and military officials suggesting that there has never been an existential threat against Jews in the Middle East. A hatred of Israel is not a hatred of Jews. Even the ones who hate Jews don’t want to attempt genocide.

        No government in the Middle East ever. Ever. Would commit an act like that. But you dehumanize Arabs so much you forget they are people. Your ridiculous hyperbole serves your point but in turn makes you into a racist. The assumption that Arab peoples are so barbaric and brutal that they’d knowingly commit genocide is pure racism.

        • July 26, 2012


          It is a fact that Western (white) people have “knowingly committed genocide” in the past. It is reasonable to believe that they might do so in the future. You say that it is racist to assume that Arab people might do the same thing. But wouldn’t the racist position be an assumption that Arabs are less likely than whites to commit genocide?

          Given human history, shouldn’t all peoples worry that their neighbors might kill them? Unilateral disarmament is folly for any nation.

        • August 7, 2012

          David Guy

          Gerald, On what planet do you live? It is true that anything can be found in scripture but what one finds and how one publicises it say everything.

          This is how Hamas, the Mufti of the Palestinian Authority and cute (if bloodthirsty) children on You Tube demonstrate they really don’t want genocide against the Jews.

          “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.” (related by al-Bukhari and Muslim).

  9. July 25, 2012


    This is a good summary as to why a diplomatic solution is not possible under current circumstances.

    On a very profound level, much of the Arab world views life in a very different way to most in the West and Israel. Israelis generally know this more than Westerners because half Israel’s population either lived in Arab lands, often for millennia, until they were driven out, or are their recent descendants. Many Israelis are Arabic speakers and follow the Arab media.

    They understand that the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel by the Jews (who, according to both traditional versions of Christianity and current versions of Islam, were supposed to have lost God’s favour) was a hugely traumatic event for Islam, Arab Christianity and Arab nationalism. Traumatic in a way the secular minds of the West finds it pretty well impossible to appreciate. This trauma cannot be cured by diplomacy alone.

    And it’s little to do with the narrow Israel/Palestinian relationship. True, the history of that relationship doesn’t help, but deep down it is a symptom and not a cause of the conflict. Arab/Muslim Kuwait expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs following Saddam’s invasion with not a peep from the Arab or wider Muslim world. Arab states (with the exception of Jordan which is majority Palestinian Arab anyway) profoundly discriminate against their Arab and mainly Muslim Palestinian brethren who live on their territory. Unless you are lucky enough to be oil rich sheikh, the best off (in every way) Arab people in the Middle East are those who are citizens of Israel.

    So we need to look elsewhere. Peace will follow when the Arab/Muslim world feels able to construct a new narrative that does not see it as an affront to God or to their dignity for there to be a non-Muslim and non-Arab polity in the Land of Israel. Muslim scholars could, I suspect, quite easily construct such an narrative if the will were there. Jews and Arabs recognise one another as children of Abraham. They are cousins. That’s a good start.

    Western policy should be 100% directed to changing at the most profound level the mindset of the Arab/Muslim world. Have we translated into Arabic and uploaded onto the internet any of the great works of the Western enlightenment? Is ‘The Only Way is Essex’ on the internet dubbed into Arabic for those with more mass-market tastes? Is there a ‘Voice of America’ but in Arabic and focussing on intellectual matters rather than the news? Seriously.

    As far as possible (and I accept there are limits to what we can do, but I’m sure can do something), we should help the scales fall from their eyes. The prize is big. Not only would it end the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, but it would bring the chance of peace and prosperity to the mainly poor, violent and corrupt Arab world, and it will solve the West’s problems with Islamist extremism too.

  10. July 26, 2012

    Charles Crawford

    I am a former FCO colleague of Tom Phillips (from the late 1990s, dealing with Balkan issues).

    The key one is (in my view) Rule 6: “It’s all about Jerusalem and the Right of Return”

    There is always something trite about reductionist/essentialist arguments, but they nonetheless get to something really important. What IS this problem really ‘about’?

    As noted by other commenters, for Israelis this issue is about identity in a pretty direct sense – do they even exist as a coherent community, or not? Much Arab/Islamist opinion (now articulated in an extreme form by the Iran regime) says that they should not exist as the basis for a distinct state as currently constituted.

    Given what happened in Europe in the mid-C20 it is not surprising that the Israel side feels that it has little room for manoevre when it comes to making concessions that might in a slippery slope way call Israel’s very existence into question, de facto or de jure.

    I recall President Izetbegovic telling me that the Bosniac/Muslim community in Bosnia was so small (some 2 million people) that it could not afford “ethnic disarmament” for fifty years until it was quite sure that its neighbours (Serbs/Croats) were not bent on scattering it.

    The underlying dynamic here too is therefore simple. Neither side sees any advantage in “ethnic disarmament”.

    The emerging Arab/Islamist mainstream is content for Israel’s resistance to erode over time by creating an endless existential unpleasant if not violent uncertainty. The Israeli leadership responds by digging in hard: it finds no propsect of even finding let alone parking on a safe place that guarantees Israel’s very existence. The Palestinians are collateral damage.

    The article spots this on Rule 9: “[Israel] will face eventual extinction if it does not make its peace with the locals rather than continue to rely on its overseas backers (for the US now read Christian Europe then). So the Arabs can wait.”

    Railing against Washington does not help. It is understandable and arguably good that if the Americans are forced to choose between a country that practises some form of substantive democracy/pluralism and a whole range of countries that are substantively undemocratic, openly homophobic and/or national socialist, it will choose the Israel option.

    The best way to create a context within which Israel can be compelled to look for strategic compromises is to democratise the Middle East and give citizens there some direct stake in a reasonable peace process and growing shared prosperity.

    Unfortunately the world for 50 years has accepted the worst and most extreme forms of Arab undemocracy, not least in Saudi Arabia itself. In short, a policy of “the worse the better” suits too many capitals. Thus Rule 10.

    • July 27, 2012


      Agree that democracy is necessary for there to be peace in the Middle East. I wonder whether there is more that Western powers can do to encourage democracy – or at least a version that will make peace more likely?

      The widely quoted UN “Arab Human Development Report 2002,” which was compiled by Arab scholars, reported, amongst other things, that in the 1000 years since the reign of the Caliph, the Arabs have translated as many books as Spain does in one year. Unless this has changed dramatically in the last 10 years, why don’t the Western powers step into the breach?

      The democratisation of knowledge that followed the invention of printing, was absolutely key to undermining absolute religious certainties and clerical power – and with it absolute monarchical power – in Renaissance Europe. Printing paved the way for democracy.

      It is hard to see how pluralist democracy can take hold in Arab states unless the hold of the leading Islamic clerics is weakened. The will of God will always trump the will of the People – at least until the People start to question whether those (they are only people!) who are telling them what God wants (the clerics) really do possess a direct line to God.

      Arab rulers, in partnership with the clerics, do whatever they can to ban and censor texts that weaken their legitimacy. But long-term that’s a losing game – especially with the internet. Intellectual curiosity is a powerful force – particularly in countries where things are not going well. We should do more to encourage it.

  11. July 27, 2012

    James l Grove

    Congratulations to Tom Phillips for a neat summary of the multiple problems without once mentioning the H-word. The waters are repeatedly muddied (though it often looks more like blood) by the Israeli government and its sponsors accusing its critics of anti-Semitism and by appealing to the Holocaust in justification of its otherwise unscrupulous policies. Can someone explain to us the thread of reasoning (even bad reasoning) by which one of the worst crimes of the last century can possibly justify a quiverful of offences against international law and UN resolutions (not to mention common morality) in this? I acknowledge the contributions above but none answers this conundrum.
    But reason seems to have little place in the conflict. Unreasonable demands on both sides are further confounded by dogmatic religions (even American evangelicals have joined in, looking eagerly for the Last of Days). Is a balanced judgement possible? Perhaps we should see Tom’s conclusion as being relatively optimistic compared with the last outcome of all: a general conflagration in the Middle East.

    • July 27, 2012

      Francine Last

      The fundamental problem lies in the exploitation of the Jewish paranoia which is mostly totally irrational, but not always. Deep rooted paranoia is intrinsic in the Israeli psyche and although most historical persecutions against Jews have actually been perpetrated by the West and Christians, the fact that Israel is surrounded by Arabs, means that they now have redirected their paranoia towards their Muslim neighbours.

      This is all very understandable, but ultimately dangerous. Understandable because their history justifies their insecurity; dangerous because their paranoid behaviour causes them to perpetrate unjust crimes against a totally disenfranchised population. Ordinary Palestinian men, women and children are denied their basic human right to lead normal lives, and are collectively vilified and punished for simply being born Arab/Muslim (I know, ironic isn’t it?). The danger lies in the fact that paranoid people often end up creating the very problems they fear and fulfilling their prophesies.

      In the long-term, Israel has no option but to overcome its paranoia and loathing of the Arabs and learn to live alongside them in peace. The longer it tries to maintain dominance through weaponry, the less likely it is that Israelis will ever be accepted.

      • August 4, 2012

        Alan Mackie

        Paranoid schizophrenics are very dangerous people and need to be protected from themselves and the public at large – and not indulged as the corrupt lobby based American political system does.

    • October 20, 2012


      Why don’t check the facts before you spread here lies. Is the equation of dead between Nazi Germany and Britain will tell us who is the beast and who is the angel?

  12. July 27, 2012

    David P

    “the Americans can never be a genuinely impartial broker—the whole weight of their system and their perceptions tilt them towards the Israelis.”

    I’m not sure about the rest of the article, but I would say that American views toward Israel are shifting. I remember when criticizing Israel here meant the end of your career. This has quickly changed. Now I’m genuinely surprised to meet liberal Jews below the age of thirty who actually uncritically support Israel. On my heavily-Jewish campus, critique of Israel is now absolutely the norm. As it is with the New York Times editorial policy – not exactly a bastion of Gentile moods. Most commentators here see a chasm opening up between American Jews and Israelis.

    I’m not saying that America is opening up to Palestinians – or Muslims – in particular. But the country is becoming less European in character (ie. election of Obama, immigration, etc.), and while we still have a very “Jewish” culture, it’s separating itself from the Old World divisions, and the Evangelical wing seems to be losing some of its political muscle as well. Frankly, the idea of a rabidly pro-Israel American culture is a distortion. Only a tiny sliver of the population ever cared much at all about this conflict, on either side. Those few impassioned ideologues would try to encourage the rest to see it their way, but the ‘popular’ viewpoint was never very deep, in my opinion. The country is now far more willing now to evaluate its alliances with countries as based on OUR national interests. Also, the foreign policy of the neoconservatives has been thoroughly discredited by all parts of the political spectrum here. Remember, support for Israel either in government circles or among the populace is actually quite new, and post-dates the 1967 war and Nixon. Finally, the Arab Spring will have consequences for American perceptions of the region, particularly on the Left, that have yet to fully come into focus.

    In short, I think you’re being a bit premature.

    • July 30, 2012

      Francine Last

      David P

      “Frankly, the idea of a rabidly pro-Israel American culture is a distortion. Only a tiny sliver of the population ever cared much at all about this conflict, on either side.”

      This doesn’t explain the vehement need for every presidential candidate to grovel and proclaim their unswerving regard and dedication to Israel (just listen to the comments of the Republican candidates and more recently, Romney and Obama). Nor does it justify the bombastic threats and gestures against Iran (in regard to Israel) or notably, the lack of support for the Palestinians.

      If there was no political capital to be made of this just before elections, they wouldn’t do it. So while it is true that American Jewish opinion may be changing, the more conservative AIPAC still has the greater powerful influence on US foreign policy.

  13. July 29, 2012


    The underlying truth that the Israelis and their supporters currently refuse to acknowledge is that you cannot ultimately build a secure and content society on the backs of the suffering of others.The explicit oppression of ordinary Palestinians is ultimately untenable. Many, if not most, Israelis are aware of this but respond in various ways. Some try even harder to remove Palestinians from their horizon, or resort to ever more absurd rhetoric according to which even young Palestinian children are ‘terrorists’ whom it is legitimate to kill (as witnessed during Operation Cast Lead). But these are acts of a guilty conscience. In the end, Israel will either have to commit wholesale genocide / ethnic cleansing in order to rid themselves of the daily reminders of their own involvement in the suffering of others, or reach an equitable agreement and try to make amends. The sooner this latter happens the better it will be for them, the Palestinians and the rest of the world.

  14. August 4, 2012


    The concept of “fucked if you do and fucked if you don’t” comes to mind.
    I sometimes have to kick my self to remember that Jews have been specifically persecuted for 2000 years and that though the Holocaust was over more than 60 years ago in the mind of the survivors, their children, grandchildren, great and great great grandchildren the persecution might not be over.
    The history of humankind is a history of struggle and slaughter but no one group, apart from the Jews, has been targeted for 2000+ years.

  15. August 4, 2012


    I am sick and tired of Arab Israeli conflict. Can’t the hard liners on both sides give it a rest for the sake of their children living in peace. Wish USA, EU and UNO rise above their vested interests and have enough guts to be an honest broker to resolve this dispute (even by forrce if it has to be) in the interest of regional and world peace.

  16. August 6, 2012

    Ramesh Raghuvanshi

    I agree from last 2000 years Jews are suffered terrible mainly from Christians and not from Muslims.When Jews were wandering as refugees around the world only Hindu gave them shelter, respect and honer.Thee are till Israeli are living peacefully in India Some Israeli migrated to Israel on invention of white Jews but white Jews are treating them very baldly because their color is black..I always wonder how white Jew forget such a little time how they were treated by white Christians in Europe from first century , they were burned, throw away from their country.Most cruelly there were treated by Hitler and his gang.Are Israeli living in Israel the holocaust?I ask Israeli why you are treating very badly to your Indian brothers badly?Why your are not live peacefully with Muslims?Really speaking you occupied land of Plasticine unlawfully That one is international crime but as you are rich and you are getting support of America that is why you are living in Israel.If you have right to develop the nuclear weapons why you are denying same right to Iran?Please abandoned your eyes for eyes and teeth for teeth psyche and live peacefully with Muslims

  17. August 7, 2012

    David Guy

    There was much that disturbed me about this article even if expressed in diplomatese. There were the echoes of antisemitic memes (Jews are stingy -so make them pay for occupation; Jews control American foreign policy – everything is precooked and Jews killed our saviour – look at the blood). There was the blame Israel but condone the Arabs in virtually every rule. There was the message that America and Europe should put so much economic (and other?) pressure on Israel that the pain breaks it while not even a hint of pressure on the Palestinians. Even the Arabs, rather than put pressure on Palestine, where they have bonds of common language, history and culture, should put pressure on Europe to put pressure on Israel.

    And there were the glaring omissions. How is it possible to discuss factors working against a solution and ignore the Islamic theology that is the basis of Hamas, the obsessive Jew hatred in the Arab world and the unique UNRWA definition of unending and inherited refugee status as factors? How can the former British ambassador skip Perfidious Albion” ‘s contribution to this mess? What is this moral equivalence that equates a democracy that has administered a working state for 63 years and 18 elections and a failed yet-to-be state that would fail without massive aid and hasn’t even managed a 2nd election? Would Britain accept even one of these rules that need to be forced on Israel ‘for it’s own good’ in her own conflicts?

    A virtual line-by-line rebuttal, taking more space than is possible in a comment, can be found in ‘Fool Britannia’

    • August 8, 2012

      Francine Last

      David Guy

      You are completely missing the point. Using Hamas as a justification for the punishment of an entire population is utterly ludicrous. There is no other modern nation that punishes and imprisons an entire ethnic group based entirely on their genes and religious culture.

      Furthermore, Israel would start to have a far better understanding of its neighbours if it bothered to ask WHY Arabs hate Israel and really tried to see things from their perspective (Native American proverb: ‘walk a mile in my moccasins before you judge me’). The obsessive hatred is not one-sided. I have heard many, many Jews proclaiming utterly xenophobic comments against Arabs.

      Finally, I dispute the concept of democracy in a nation that wants only one ethnic group to prevail. Israel wants to be recognised as a Jewish state. That is a contradiction in terms. A true democracy acknowledges its multicultural, multireligious, multiracial population and does not give one group greater rights and privilege over another.

      Also, despite being an independent state, Israel receives more aid from the USA than any other nation!

      And finally, Britain has not stolen any land from other people, is not pushing other people off their land and making it their own and it has not imprisoned an entire ethnic group behind walls, barbed wire and check points since the early 19th century.

      • September 27, 2012

        David Guy

        1) Hamas is not separate from the Gazans. It is their government and when it chose to go to war it had the support of the people. War has consequences and losing a war has even more consequences. No one is being punished because of ethnicity or religion. Israel is doing what it feels it needs to do to protect its people. If the Gazans actually tried to disasociate themselves from Hamas you might have a point. but they don’t try. If you truly cared about the Gazans you would be telling them to cease attacking Israel.
        2) Why do the Arabs hate Israel? Many reasons you ignore. The state of Israel is a blasphemy in Muslim eyes because anything the Muslims have once conquered remains Islamic Waqf for ever and because Dhimmi (Jews and Christians) must never rule over Muslims. Further reasons: Israel is a permanent humiliation for the Arabs. They can rationalise defeat by the West but how can they rationalise 6 million despised Jews routing half a billion Muslims. A further reason is a combination of jealousy and real politics. The Arabs, even with oil, have achieved nothing to rival Israel. It is much easier to scapegoat Israel than face up to their own failures.

        What it isn’t is anger over the treatment of the Palestinians or indeed any Arabs. They don’t hate Kuwait for expelling her Palestinian population and killing 20 times more Palestinians than Israel did in the Gaza War. They don’t hate Lebanon for her Apartheid against Palestinians. They don’t hate Syria for her slaughter of her citizens nor even suggest that the Palestinian Authority is obliged to absorb the Palestinian refugees from Syria.

        3) With the exception of Lebanon EVERY member of the Arab League and that includes the possible future state of Palestine has declared it to be Arab and Muslim. The best they can offer others is toleration. No Arab in any Arab country has more genuine freedom than Israeli Arabs and no non Arab minority in those countries comes even close to the rights and privileges Israel grants her minorities.

        4) Israel DOES NOT receive more aid than any other nation and if it did the point would still be irrelevant because every Presidential, Congressional and Senate investigation has said the same thing. America benefits from the aid to Israel. For the record. It should surprise no one that Iraq and Afghanistan are the actual highest aid receivers. It also should surprise no one that America gives more aid in the form of military assistance that would otherwise have to be paid for out of their pockets to each NATO member than it does Israel, even if hidden in the Defence Budget. BTW even if Israel leads those those countries labeled Foreign Aid it is closely followed by Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan. Even Palestine receives half a billion dollars p.a. Would you like to tell me what America gets in return?

        Britain never stole any land? Ask any Spaniard or Argentinian what they think of that one. If you knew any British history you would know that that the British failing efforts to retain its empire were far more brutal that anything you accuse Israel of doing and at no point did the survival of Britain on her home island depend on keeping an ethnic group constantly threatening genocide from carrying out their clear, public and unambiguous threats.

        • October 4, 2012

          Francine Last

          To David Guy

          “Hamas is not separate from the Gazans.”
          - You are right. This was true democracy which USA so often pretends it wishes to export, except of course, when it doesn’t ‘approve of’ the decision made. Hamas was elected because it had the genuine interests of its people at heart. It was elected because Fatah was(is) corrupted and ‘bought’ by Israeli/US. Because the US/Israel has declared Hamas terrorists (FYI, the Nazis called the French terrorists during WWII, because they were their enemy. However, the Allies called them people that were fighting for freedom from occupation).

          “It is their government and when it chose to go to war it had the support of the people”
          - Yes, it has the support of its people to stand against an illegal occupation. Israel has (and continues to) stolen land from the Palestinians. You only have to google maps to see how much their land has shrunk since Israel was created. It is ironic that you believe that it is right to occupy a land and then condemn the people for fighting against occupation. It is a completely irrational idea. Israel is not protecting itself from annihilation, it holds all the cards. It doesn’t NEED to occupy the Palestinian land. It WANTS to. And it can only do so, because it has nuclear weapons, tanks, missiles, drones, stealth bombers, fighter jets, AS WELL AS the US military might behind it. The Palestinians have nothing… Nader. They are absolutely squashed and can make tiny little overtures to stand up to the mighty Goliath (America/Israel), but of course, they won’t get anywhere.

          “The state of Israel is a blasphemy in Muslim eyes because anything the Muslims have once conquered remains Islamic Waqf for ever and because Dhimmi (Jews and Christians) must never rule over Muslims.”
          - This is a nice excuse for the Israeli propaganda machine. It says basically, the Muslims hate us, therefore we have every right to occupy their land and subjugate them. It’s absolute hogwash though.

          “Would you like to tell me what America gets in return?”
          - Business contracts and kickbacks.

          “Britain never stole any land?”
          - I did actually emphasize the fact that it hasn’t taken or occupied land since ‘the 19th century’. Furthermore, and very importantly, apart from those colonies that declared independence from Britain, such as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, whose colonials like Israelis, made the land their own, Britain actually gave “back” its former colonies to the original native populations. So India is now Indian again, and African nations are now African again. I’m sure that many Native Americans would like America to be given back to them, but apart from the fact that it’s unlikely to happen, it’s another story entirely! Still, my point is, Israel could give Palestinian land ‘back’ to the Palestinians!

          And to continue on that point, since there are approximately 6 million Jews living in the USA and 5 million living in Israel, perhaps the Israeli Jews should all move to the US (they could take over Texas). They would be surrounded by people who absolutely adore them and could influence US politics without screwing up the Middle East. The Arabs would be happy and the Jews would be worshipped and never persecuted again. Everyone wins!!!!!

  18. August 7, 2012


    I think commentators are right to draw attention to bigotry in Islamic countries and from Hamas; They should also not shy from pointing it out when it comes in the form of Israeli Government policy.
    -In area C in the West Bank Palestinians live under military law while the settlers live under civilian law. There is a 99.7 conviction rate for Palestinians, meanwhile, settlers literally get away with murder, often collaborating with the army in doing so. These facts can be corroborated by Israeli sources.
    -Some guy up there seemed to imply that because israel is better at elections, it somehow excuses their behavior. Brilliant, allow East Jerusalemites to participate in municipal elections then, Allow people under occupation in the West Bank to have a say in the structures which dominate their lives and while you are at it accept the results of Palestinian elections whenever they happen. that would make Israelis really, really good at both elections and democracy.
    -Someone else seems to think that Islamic fantasies about wiping out Jews are somehow representative of all Palestinians, therefore they all should be punished. Please answer the following multiple choice: When settlers in Hebron talk of bombing their 200,000 Palestinians neighbors all the way to Jordan and beyond, is that A) the same? B) totally different because they are god’s children? C Just some desperate extremists talking bile, albeit extremists who don’t suffer a fraction of what Gazans endure.
    -Various CIA reports and quotes verify that Israel was complicit in at least allowing Islamic Fundamentalism to develop as a counter weight to the secular PLO, so where does that leave your arguments regarding the Israeli treatment of Palestinians vis a vis the existence of Hamas?
    -Wasn’t the Haganah a terrorist group?
    -Isn’t their a difference between Palestinians fleeing their homes in the light of massacres and Jews coming to somewhere they culturally regarded as home after being encouraged by Zionists to do so? Is that person really a refugee? do you guy know that is probably a lie or do you just not like the nuts and bolts of proper historical research much?
    There are laughable amounts of denial and downright dishonesty above. There is no excuse for what is happening the West Bank, No excuse for the status of Palestinians (or illegal immigrants for that matter) within Israel. No excuse for the impoverishment and radicalization of Gaza and no end to the profits coming from all of it for defense and technology companies in the US, The EU and Israel. Eratz Israel Zionists: both secular and religious; You can dig around for another 2000 years for answers to your fake beliefs, you still won’t find them, you’ll just get more and more ok with causing the level of suffering that you do, until it becomes unsustainable. Then maybe you will understand why some impoverished, under educated Palestinian children think it is OK to want Israelis dead. Its because lots more of them have died in their own back yards as a result of this conflict. It’s because Israeli bombs and bullets caused their deaths, its because Israelis live in their fathers house, with their own tragic history and a very short memory.

    • August 8, 2012

      Francine Last

      What an awesome response!

    • September 28, 2012

      David Guy

      Only about 5% of Territory Palestinians live in Area C and are subject to military law. The rest are either totally under Palestinian control in their day-to-day affairs, either by agreement between the PLO and Israel (the Oslo Accords) or de facto because Israel totally pulled out of Gaza in 2005. If the Palestinian Authority has made the difficult passage from terrorist group to Mafia can hardly be the fault of the Israeli military. Nor can the brutality and intolerance of the Taliban-like Hamas. That even 5% are under military law is unfortunate and should have been temporary except for the Palestinian decision to engage in warfare instead of a negotiated settlement.
      99.7%!!! Are you talking about Syrian elections? The reality is that this is not a normal situation where the police can investigate a crime and rely on public cooperation. This is a war zone, albeit low-intensity, and those who kill or attempt to kill Israeli soldiers and civilians are regarded as heroes by their neighbours. The PA actually pays them a salary while in gaol. It is hardly surprising that courts will generally accept the word of a soldier over that of the declared enemy.
      East Jerusalem legal residents have the right to vote in local elections. That most don’t exercise it owes more to Palestinian intimidation than anything Israel does. Fatah has declared that voting in local elections will be seen as accepting Israeli sovereignty and will be punished. Only the very brave and very connected will risk death or serious injury to vote.
      Why is it that apologists for Palestinian genocide fantasies ignore that every poll shows that an overwhelming majority do hold those views? Why do they ignore the victory of Hamas in the only election? Hamas has never hidden its belief that killing Jews is an Islamic religious obligation and must be the only government since the Nazis who have ‘kill the Jews’ not once but twice in their basic declaration of principles. Why do they assume when Fatah talks of destroying the Jewish state that that is somehow possible without destroying the Jews?
      Israel’s initial support of Hamas came from a misguided belief that they were a social action group whose major goal was raised education and living standards. It was a mistake but to pretend that Hamas isn’t intent on war and murder and that most Palestinians don’t support it is equally naïve.
      Proper historical research shows that many Palestinians left before there was any military action at all. Historical research also shows that the Palestinians themselves were responsible in exaggerating the events at Deir Yassin in the hope it would raise fighting spirit and instead their actions lead to a panic. Historical research also shows that many left to make way for the Arab armies after being assured they would come back and take the Jew’s property in a few weeks.
      The status of Palestinians in Israel is better than Arabs in the surrounding states and improving. It is immeasurably better than that of non Arab minorities across the Arab world and their status is declining as are their numbers.
      There is no connection between education and terrorism and many terrorists had university degrees including Arafat and Habash but if we are going to discuss education why ignore the incitement from kindergarten and earlier to die as Shahids against Israel. Why not ask yourself why Palestinians and Arabs in general kill so many of their own? Why not ask what it is about Arabs that a few cartoons or a z-grade movie trailer that few have seen leads to murder and destruction? Surely Israel hasn’t bombed all their houses?

  19. September 26, 2012


    yea! interesting response!!!

  20. October 3, 2012


    Is there a constructive way forward? The status quo has been holding Palestinians under house arrest since 1967, as in they are stateless, have no passports, can be evicted by the occupation any time further expansion requires more of their land, and the western press is too sensitive to print the bottom line score of how many Palestinians are killed by Israelis and compare it to how many Israelis are killed by Palestinians.

    Respect for people who have different belief systems is first and foremost respect for people, who have the same basic needs, and hopes or fears, regardless of how wealthy or educated they may be.

    There is no going back however recognising cause and effect requires looking to the future and leaving the past in the past.

  21. October 20, 2012


    The British never studied not remember their responsibility to the Islamic-Jewish fight over Palestine. Most of the nowadays problems were created by the British occupiers of the land and their “divide and rule” policy. It seems that Tom Phillips is the same. Knows much, but less understanding. It’s pitty !

  22. November 16, 2012

    Jan Lapter

    Gaza was emptied of Jews in 2005 not 2004. An ambassador should know.

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Tom Phillips

Tom Phillips is a former British Ambassador to Israel and to Saudi Arabia. He is an Associate Fellow of Chatham House 

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