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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

US/UK policy on Israel/Palestine today

Speaking purely for myself, as a Liberal Democrat friend of Israel who obviously supports the Coalition Government, I have heard nothing from that government today with which I disagree. Quite the contrary. Certainly nothing that contradicts this speech by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at Lib Dem Friends of Israel's lunch in November. The Americans and British are profoundly right to be seeking to move forward on the Israeli/Palestinian peace process, however much one can get into discussing the detail of how best to achieve that.

President Obama and David Cameron have given their joint press conference, and the President is now addressing Parliament (actually, he's just finished). Much was said at the press conference (including in the Q&A) about Israel and the Palestinians, and I don't have a transcript or video of all of that. What I do have is Mr Cameron's opening remarks. And, speaking for myself, and not on behalf of anyone else, I broadly agree with him - for the simple reason that I agree with anyone who is obviously adopting a sensible, constructive approach to the Israeli/Palestinian peace process, which Mr Cameron clearly is. Of course there many details to be argued over, but who can disagree with the Prime Minister when he says: 
...we must reach a conclusion to the Arab-Israeli peace process.
Again, I congratulated the President on his recent speech on the Middle East which was bold, visionary – and set out what is needed in the clearest possible terms:
An end to the terror against Israelis. The restoration of dignity to the Palestinians.
Two states, living side by side, in peace.
Yes, the road has been – and will be – long and arduous.
But the prize is clear.
Conclude the peace process and you don’t just bring security to the region.
You deny extremists of one of their most profound, and enduring, recruiting sergeants, weakening their calling and crippling their cause.
That’s why whatever the difficulties, we must continue to press for a solution.
Actually, I fear that he might be wrong about the "recruiting sergeants" bit; I hope he's right, but I fear he might not be. Sadly, if you look at what motivates extremists around the world, I don't believe that solving the problems of Israel and the Palestinians will stop many people from becoming and remaining terrorists, etc. I understand that I am challenging the conventional wisdom on that, and hopefully, when we finally have a two-state solution, I'll be proven wrong among the terrorists of Pakistan, Dagestan, etc - let's see. 

Meanwhile, President Abbas has said "no" to Netanyahu's latest suggestions. Whatever you think of Mr Netanyahu's premiership, I wish Mr Abbas had been like Sadat, Mandela and Gorbachev and surprised the world. If he'd said yes, he'd have been calling the Israeli Prime Minister's bluff and who knows what good might have come of it? Remember, what Netanyahu was saying is that he (Netanyahu) has said let's have a Palestinian state alongside Israel, so now it's time for Abbas to say let's have a Jewish state (Israel) alongside a Palestinian state. Mr Abbas would have been doing his people an enormous favour if he had agreed to at least explore this in further discussions.

UPDATE Here is the full transcript and video of the Cameron/Obama press conference, highly recommended as a tour d'horizon of the foreign policy scene.

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