EVENT VIDEO: In 2007, the world was given hope for an end to the violent Israeli-Palestinian conflict when authority leaders at the Annapolis Conference first publicly marked the ‘two-state’ model as the mutually agreed-upon framework for peace. Six years on the conflict continues, with diplomatic relations between the two sides as strained as ever, and currently no end to the conflict in sight.
Less than four months ago, a deadly battle between Israel and Hamas left any current prospects of peace talks in shreds. Nonetheless, the ‘two-state’ model retains a majority support among Israeli and Palestinian publics, acceptance in significant parts of the Arab world, and a consensus of support in the international community. What then stands in the way of peace?
Professor Alan Johnson Professor Alan Johnson , a senior associate at Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre (BICOM) stresses that a solution to the Israeli-Palestine question cannot be found until both sides make some tough compromises. Despite the popularity of the ‘two-state’ solution, Professor Johnson argues that the two communities interpret the model differently. For Palestinians the ‘two state’ model is a question of territory— they demand the same right to holy land, to a state, to self-determination as the Israelis. For the Israelis however, ‘two states’ is a question of existentialism—as long as Israel’s security needs are not met, and a realistic agreement about the Palestinian refugees that doesn’t threaten Israel as a Jewish state is not formulated, peace cannot be achieved.
With whom then does the blame for ongoing conflict lie? With whom does the initiative for peace lie? Professor Johnson has argued that “peace cannot be Israel’s gift”— both sides need to be willing to negotiate and make tough concessions—starting with Palestine recognising Israel’s right to exist. In his view, the international community needs to work with the political reality on the ground, focus on bottom-up not top-down initiatives, set realistic expectations and look for incremental steps forward.
Professor Alan Johnson is an editor of Fathom: For a deeper understanding of Israel and the region and a senior research Fellow at the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre (BICOM). He was also a co-author of the 2006 Euston Manifesto, which sought to repair the theoretical collapse of the Left, by reclaiming it from new-age, reactionary Leftists that operated under reductionist assumptions of its philosophy and the values that it stood for. In his own words, Professor Johnson described the Euston manifesto as a “warning cry” against the blanketing of the entire progressive-democratic agenda under clichés such as “anti American imperialism”. According to the manifesto, the agenda must be redefined with values that most enduringly reflect the left, including democracy, human rights, the battle against unjustified privilege and power, and solidarity with peoples fighting tyranny.
Despite his involvement with the Euston manifesto, since 2003 he has remained in opposition of the Iraq War. He is a supporter of the democratic movement in Iraq, and has co-founded the Labour Friends of Iraq organisation. Nonetheless, he has maintained his view that although Saddam Hussein was deposed, the Iraqi people lost out as a result of the war.