Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

  • Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a Two-State Solution
  • When Peace Fails: Lessons from Belfast for the Middle East

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Europe and the Middle East Peace Process

For a number of years I have advocated that the United States enter into a partnership with the European Union for the purpose of sponsoring a non-biased peace process in the Middle East that can engage with both the Palestinians and Israel and bring pressure on both of them. The model for this dual mediation is the Anglo-Irish peace process in Northern Ireland from 1993 to 2007.

But recently an article on the Real Clear World website pointed out that Stephen Wall, a former senior British Finance Ministry official responsible for policy towards Europe and author of a book on British European policy, said that as a result of the Euro crisis in Europe with both Greece and Ireland in trouble and Spain and Portugal threatening to go bad, he expected to see the whole European economic and political project to unravel within his lifetime. He is 64. So figure some time within the next 20 years at the outside. This is partly because Europe is forever trying to run before it can crawl properly.

It has instituted a common currency without having a common monetary policy or economic policy binding on all member states. This has led to the present crisis.

Since 1979 it has been issuing policy statements on the Arab-Israeli conflict and trying to get its foot into the door of regional diplomacy. But in the early 1990s when a crisis--or more correctly, several interrelated crises--occurred in Europe's backyard in the Balkans, Brussels was asleep at the wheel. The Bosnian civil war was finally resolved by American mediation in late 1995 after Washington grew tired of Europe's empty claims of preeminence. Tens of thousands died in the killing fields of Bosnia--many under the noses of European peacekeeping troops--while Europe struggled unsuccessfully to come up with a common problem. This was because Germany supported the Croats in Bosnia and Croatia while Britain and France favored the Serbs for historical reasons dating back to World War I.

It may be another decade before the region is again ripe for a peace process. Before the Palestinians are united around a common negotiating position that would allow a solution with Israel. A decade before the Arabs in the surrounding countries have dealt with the issues arising out of the Arab Spring. That will give Europe and the United States a decade to work out a solution and implement it before Europe collapses. In Northern Ireland it took nearly fourteen years to do this, and the conflict in Northern Ireland is much simpler than that in the Middle East without hundreds of thousands of refugees, without holy sites in Belfast sacred to three of the world's major religions, and without a massive ongoing settlement effort by unionists on nationalist land. 

So maybe all the pessimists are right and the conflict is unsolvable.

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