Former British Ambassador to Israel Expresses Doubts on Israeli-Palestinian Peace

In an op-ed in a British magazine, former envoy to Israel and Saudi Arabia lays down ten reasons the chances of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement are slim.

Tom Philips, one of the most influential Western diplomats to serve in the Middle East in recent years, suggests that the European Union rethink its aid to the Palestinian Authority, so as to place the whole burden of responsibility for the occupation on Israel – a load the Israeli public is not likely to succeed in carrying.

In a long op-ed published in the British monthly "Prospect Magazine," Philips laid down ten rules which paint a grim picture of the chances of reaching an implementing a peace agreement to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Philips wrote that he cannot imagine an American government will come about that will be able to do what is required in order to pressure Israel into doing what is in its best interest.

He doesn't think there will be Israeli government able to rein in the settlement movement in the West Bank and Jerusalem, in order to make a two state solution feasible.  

Nor does Philips believe that no Palestinian leadership will be able to make the necessary compromises on the "Right of Return," without which no Israeli would make any kind of peace agreement.

The ambassador, who served as a delegate in the British embassy in Israel during the 1990's, also doubts that Arab leadership will be able to transform the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 into a government program that supports peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The retired European diplomat criticizes the European Union for not using the tools in its possession for initiating the diplomatic process. Philips wrote that over the years, the EU did not strategically use its leverage as chief importer of Israeli goods and economic partner. At the same time, Europe was unsuccessful at containing other radical factions in the area. Philips suggests that the focus be on a transatlantic agreement that would be based on the big carrots needed for encouraging the two sides to move forward, and the big stick, necessary in case they fail to make progress.  

Philips claims that the United States favors Israel, and therefore can never be a true, unbiased mediator. He writes that Yasser Arafat was justifiably suspicious of the Americans, as they "cooked-up" the Camp David Accords in advance with Israel, in 2000.

According to Philips, President Obama must prove that he can be the exception to the rule in the subject, and that there is hope that should be be reelected, he will increase the pressure on Israel.

Philip notes that the exorbitant amounts of money donated to the Palestinian Authority by foreign powers create dependence. He claims that the Arabs believe that the Israeli needs a two-state solution more than the Palestinian side, because, as in the days of the crusader kingdoms, if Israel fails to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians, and continues to rely on assistance from abroad, Israel will be annihilated.

The retired senior diplomat points out that one of the obstacles on the path to peace is each side's fear of being labeled "suckers." The two sides feel that concessions they've made in the past have gone unreciprocated, and thus remain steadfast in refusing to make more.

In general, Israel holds more cards, and thus will be forced to make more painful compromises, according to Philips.

Philips concedes that that the most difficult concession - without which an agreement is impossible – is the need to divide Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

Philips ends his piece by calling the situation a Greek tragedy, with no happy end in sight. "I hope I'm wrong."

Former ambassador Tom Phillips.
Guy Raivitz