Bronwen Maddox introduces the August issue of Prospectby Bronwen Maddox / July 19, 2012 / Leave a comment
There is a temptation common to foreign correspondents immersed in a region of agonised turmoil: to believe that they are witnessing events that, even in the bloodiest way, represent some kind of progress. Tom Phillips does not suffer from that affliction. He retired in July after two years as British ambassador to Saudi Arabia and, previously, four years as ambassador to Israel. His conclusion is that there may never be peace between Israel and Palestinians. Neither side has leaders capable of making a deal; the window for a “two-state solution” may already have closed, because of Israeli settlement building on the West Bank and demographic changes; he can envisage no other route to peace.
This is a stunningly bleak conclusion from one who has been professionally committed to trying to advance a solution. But he is right to say it. The reminder that permanent failure is an option—“the most likely outcome,” in his view—is a retort to those leaders whose instinct is to kick negotiations perpetually down the road in search of a sliver more advantage, or to avoid the immediate sacrifice of a deal. They should look head-on at the implications if there is no deal, ever.