Needed: A Renewed International
Effort in the Middle East
A Discussion on the Role of the International Community

On June 28, 2007 the Palestine-Israel Journal held a public discussion at the Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem, featuring Prof. Shlomo Ben-Ami, former Israeli Foreign Minister; and Dr. Saeb Erekat, head of the PLO's Negotiations Department; and Dr. Daniel Kurtzer, former American Ambassador to Israel. The event was moderated by PIJ Co-Editor Ziad AbuZayyad and drew an audience of over 130 journalists, diplomats, academics, students, activists and members of the general public.
"Now is the time for a resurgent international role to promote a revival of the peace process," Dr. Kurtzer said. Despite the diplomatic paralysis, two factors make a renewed diplomatic effort possible: the Arab Peace Initiative reaffirmed in Riyadh; and the overtures from Syria, which "may be an opening through which to resume the process." The international community must help align the factors needed for its "achievability, viability and acceptability," he said. But he expressed concern that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's appointment as the new Quartet envoy might be an example of U.S. "outsourcing," with a limited mandate.
Prof. Ben-Ami said that the peace process had failed due to "failures within both the Israeli and Palestinian political systems," which were paralyzed and "incapable of carrying out historic decisions." He advocated a "robust international presence," suggesting that Blair could initiate a ceasefire among all factions and Israel's withdrawal from cities [that were reoccupied], with the the EU and Arab states monitoring the outcome. He called for a political solution-first strategy, i.e., "Make peace, then love."
Dr. Erekat reminded the international community of its humanitarian obligation to the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. He said that the PLO remains the only legitimate address for negotiations, with the only viable solution a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders with accompanying land swaps. "We don't need to negotiate anymore, we need decisions," he said. "Palestinians and Israelis cannot be forced by others to negotiate for peace; we need to decide for ourselves that we want peace." He welcomed the Blair appointment, saying that what was needed was "a concentrated effort by the Quartet," with the aid of the Arab Peace Initiative.

Excerpts from the discussion can be found at: