The February Debate: The Middle East Peace Process: Are The Chances For A Two-State Solution Fading?

Lord Lothian, Global Strategy Forum’s Chairman; Sir Tom Phillips, former UK Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Ambassador to Israel; and Patrick Seale, journalist, author and consultant, with a special interest in Middle East affairs, will speak in a debate entitled ”The Middle East Peace Process: Are The Chances For A Two-State Solution Fading?”

In recent years, well-wishers of a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine have had little reason for optimism. On the Palestinian side, political disunion and a steady stream of rocket launches into Israel scarcely provided a promising background. On the Israeli side, increased settlement activity, assassinations and incursions into Gaza further drained any hopes for peace.  On both sides, discussion turned to what a one-state solution might look like, bringing alarmingly conflicting visions into the debate.

The darkening mood in the region met an equally disheartened echo among the outside sponsors of the peace process. Work in the Quartet ground to a halt. Trust between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu grew ever more fragile. Additional tensions over Iran, the diminishing prospects for post-Arab Spring reform, and the civil war in Syria fuelled further doubts, leading many Western leaders to warn, in the words of Foreign Secretary William Hague, that chances for a two-state solution are “slipping away.”

Has anything changed?  Perhaps. The unexpectedly centrist outcome of the Israeli election, a tentative reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas together with a promise of renewed US engagement on the part of the incoming Secretary of State, John Kerry, have prompted a stirring of hope that the deadlock may be easing. Is this hope realistic? Or will the political alignments on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides remain ultimately hostile to compromise?  Will the centrifugal forces of settlements and rockets push the parties into deeper mutual antagonism? Will the new US initiative have heft? Or is it merely rhetorical? How can advocates of a two-state solution best incentivise the parties to re-engage in serious negotiations?

To discuss these issues, we are delighted to welcome a distinguished and expert panel.  Lord Lothian, Global Strategy Forum’s Chairman; Sir Tom Phillips, former UK Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Ambassador to Israel; and Patrick Seale, journalist, author and consultant, with a special interest in Middle East affairs, will speak in a debate entitled ‘The Middle East Peace Process: Are The Chances For A Two-State Solution Fading?’  The discussion will be chaired by Ian Black, Middle East Editor of The Guardian.

LORD LOTHIAN PC QC DL was first elected to Parliament in 1974 and served as a Conservative Member of Parliament until his retirement at the May 2010 General Election. He was subsequently appointed to the House of Lords as a Life Peer.  He has held the posts of Deputy Leader, Shadow Foreign Secretary and Shadow Secretary of State for Defence.  On stepping down from the Front Bench in 2005, he was appointed to the Intelligence and Security Committee, on which he continues to serve.  In 1993, he was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office, and in January 1994 was appointed Minister of State at the same office. As such, he was responsible for the negotiations leading to the Northern Ireland Peace Process, and was the first British minister to meet with Sinn Fein and the IRA for 25 years. He is the Chairman of Global Strategy Forum, which he founded in May 2006.

SIR TOM PHILLIPS retired from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2012.  His last two posts were as Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and Ambassador to Israel. From 2002-2006 he was the UK Special Representative for Afghanistan and Director South Asia.  His previous Foreign Office experience included two postings in Africa, the second as High Commissioner to Uganda; a posting to Washington as Counsellor External and Joint Intelligence Committee representative; and serving as head of the Eastern Adriatic Department at the time of the Kosovo crisis.  Before transferring to the FCO, Tom worked for five years for the Department of Health and Social Security. Before going to university in the 1970s to study at Exeter University and then Oxford for a BA and an M.Litt, he was a journalist. Tom is a member of the Wilton Park Advisory Council, and of Chatham House. His publications include an article in Prospect (August 2012) on the 10 rules for why there may never be a solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and (under the name Tom Vaughan) a novel on post-colonial Africa. A collection of his poems, entitled ‘Abroad’, will be published later in 2013.

PATRICK SEALE is a journalist, author and consultant, with a special interest in Middle East affairs. He was born in Belfast and was educated at Balliol College and St Antony’s College, Oxford, where he was elected a senior Associate Member and was awarded a D. Litt.  He has worked as a foreign correspondent in many parts of the world for Reuters and The Observer, and for fifteen years ran his own literary agency and art gallery in London.  He writes weekly syndicated columns for several newspapers.  His books include: The Struggle for Syria (OUP and Yale University Press); and Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East (IB Tauris and California University Press). His latest book, The Struggle for Arab Independence: Riad el-Solh and the Makers of the Modern Middle East (Cambridge University Press and French and Arabic editions) won the 2010 award of the British Institute of Middle East Studies (BRISMES).

When: Tuesday 12th February 2013
(12.30–2.30pm)

Where: The National Liberal Club (David Lloyd George Room), Whitehall Place, London SW1A 2HE

Attendance strictly by RSVP.