Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

George Mitchell and David Miliband on the Middle East

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 17th October, 2011

Chatham House this afternoon hosted a ‘conversation’ with former US Senator George Mitchell and former Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband on the theme ‘The Middle East in the 21st Century’. It was striking that the focus of the discussion was almost entirely about that most 20th Century of questions: the Arab-Israeli conflict and the related ongoing occupation of the Palestinian West Bank. George Mitchell — who was President Obama’s Envoy to the region for a period — believes there will be a two-state solution one day, but stuck to Washington’s line that this can only come about through negotiation. I made the point that so long as settlement expansion continues, in East Jerusalem as well as in the West Bank, there can be no negotiated settlement and indeed a Palestinian state is looking increasingly unviable. The US is the only country that can put sufficient pressure on the Israeli government to halt settlements, but it has shown its unwillingness to back calls for a halt with any action (such as cutting aid to Israel). Moreover, George Mitchell — charming and drily witty as he is — also endorsed the US line on voting against the Palestinian Authority’s current attempt to get statehood recognised at the United Nations. David Miliband, interestingly, said he thought that President Abbas had used brilliant tactics in making this move, in that it thrust the issue of Palestine into the limelight when it was running the risk of being overshadowed by the so-called Arab Spring. David Miliband also wished to see the peace efforts further internationalised, with Arab states having a more direct input and Europe making its voice heard more strongly.

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One Response to “George Mitchell and David Miliband on the Middle East”

  1. I was there too, although I was watching on TV in the overflow room at this very popular event.

    Israel has accepted the international commununity’s invitatation to peace talks with the Palestinians in Amman. The Palestinians say they won’t go without another settlement freeze – they are wrong, and they should go the peace talks in Amman.

    As Mrs Clinton said last week in an AP interview:

    “But it’s by no means a coincidence that you had a succession of Israeli prime ministers, no matter where they started from, who have all ended in the same place, that we need to do this. You had Netanyahu, who doesn’t – who often it’s not written about this way – who embraced the two-state solution, which had not been something he had done before. And as I remind the Palestinians, Bibi Netanyahu agreed to a 10-month settlement freeze. I dragged you all to Jerusalem and stood on the stage with him and said look, this is a big deal, never been done before. There was never a settlement freeze when Rabin was there, Barak was there, Sharon was there. Ten months, and then for a confluence of events, the Palestinians didn’t come to the negotiating table until the ninth month, one week.”

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