There may be no happy ending to the Israeli-Palestinian clash, says Britain's former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Israelby Tom Phillips / July 18, 2012 / Leave a comment
“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…