Press Release
Contact Information: Hussein Ibish
April 21, 2010 - 12:00am

ATFP Senior Fellow Hussein Ibish gave a keynote address at the second annual Israel-Palestine Piece Conference at Central Connecticut State University on April 16, 2010. Ibish told the audience that the context in which the conflict and the lack of peace was viewed in Washington had shifted dramatically in recent months, and had been gradually evolving over the past two years. He said that the conflict and the occupation, as well as Israel's actions including settlements in Jerusalem and other policies that have created a confrontation between the Obama administration and the government of Prime Minister Netanyahu, are now seen in a broad regional context by the American foreign policy establishment. He told the audience that recent comments by Pres. Obama, Sec. Clinton, Sec. Gates, Gen. Petraeus, Adm. Mullen and many others reflected the understanding that the lack of peace is a serious strategic problem for the United States and affects US policies throughout the region.

He was quick to add that administration officials are not blaming Israel, but all the parties, although there is a confrontation ongoing with the present Israeli government, and that these statements should not be construed as meaning that Israeli policies cost American lives, but rather that the lack of a peace agreement is dangerous for the United States. He said the special relationship between Israel and the United States is not and cannot be affected by these political considerations and that the commitment to Israel's security remains unshaken. Nonetheless, he said that because of this new context, which the present Israeli leadership seems to have been slow to comprehend, the present confrontation would continue until satisfactorily resolved, and even then might repeat itself because there is now a serious contradiction between Israeli policies and American national interests.

Ibish warned against any form of "schadenfreude" on the part of Palestinians or other Arabs, predicting that they would be the recipient of similar American pressures once the present dispute with the Israeli government is resolved, if not before. He also strongly warned against any temptation on the Palestinian side to sit back and wait for a US peace plan that some administration officials say they may contemplate drafting. He said it would be a surefire way of squandering the significant gains that had been made in the present dispute, because a US plan is unlikely to be either issued in the near future or accepted by the parties were.

Ibish said that the present Palestinian leadership is rightly skeptical that a major breakthrough in peace negotiations will be forthcoming within the next year or so, but was committed to a negotiated solution and opposed to any return to armed struggle or another violent intifada. He told the audience the Palestinian leadership had therefore moved to create a series of peaceful, nonviolent strategies designed to augment diplomacy and negotiations. He said the most important and thoroughgoing of these is the state and institution building agenda, which is proceeding apace. He cited a recent World Bank report which said that Palestinians were "on track" with the state building agenda they have set for themselves in August 2009, but noted the report said Israeli restrictions and international donor fatigue were serious threats to continued progress.

Ibish also cited as a new tactic the nonviolent protests against the occupation that have emerged spontaneously across the West Bank and are now being embraced and encouraged by the leadership. He said that economic measures and boycotts targeting settlements and other aspects of the occupation were a third nonviolent tactic designed to challenge the occupation and continue momentum towards a peace agreement without succumbing to violence or other counterproductive measures. He said these economic tactics were all designed to draw a clear distinction between Israel itself on the one hand and the occupation and the settlements on the other. He noted that this distinguishes these measures from much of the "BDS" movement that seeks to impose sanctions and divestment against Israel in general. Ibish said these three new tactics -- state building, nonviolent protests and economic measures aimed at the occupation -- represented a paradigm shift among the Palestinians for how to achieve independence. He said all of them call the bluff of all parties, especially Israel, and would force them in the coming months and years to answer the question of whether or not they ever believed their rhetoric about the need for a Palestinian state.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017