New Approaches to Israel-Palestine Peace Efforts

New Approaches to Israel-Palestine Peace Efforts

Event Information


The Middle East Policy Council convened its 88th Capitol Hill Conference on Wednesday, April 26th. “New Approaches to Israel-Palestine Peace Efforts: Can Regional Powers Make a Difference?” revealed how a two-state solution continues to recede into the distance as a feasible resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a trend fed by the actions and attitudes of the parties to the conflict along with the shift in the region from domination by state actors to non-state ones. Given the long history of each panelist working on this issue, and the fact of their prior unwavering support for a two-state solution, this changing assessment of what today might constitute a realistic outcome of the conflict was striking.

Richard J. Schmierer (former U.S. Ambassador to Oman; Chairman of the Board of Directors, Middle East Policy Council) moderated the event and Thomas Mattair (Executive Director, Middle East Policy Council) was the discussant. The panelists included Chas W. Freeman (former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia); Hady Amr (Nonresident Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution); Ian Lustick (Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania); and Riad Khawaji (Founder and CEO, INEGMA).

Mr. Amr described the reality facing Israel and the Palestinians to a choice between “two states or one mess.” Despite recent U.S. efforts under Secretary of State Kerry to achieve a two-state solution, continuing Israeli settlement expansion is rapidly making that outcome impossible. In his view, Israel faces a choice between settlements and Jewish-majority democracy, but cannot have both in the long-term. Mr. Amr urged the Trump administration to focus on economic and infrastructure development in the occupied territories. He cited recent studies which concluded that a small transfer of land to Palestinians in Area C could lead to over $1 billion in economic benefits. In a similar vein, Gaza would benefit greatly from infrastructure investment, particularly around water resources.

Dr. Lustick recalled the seemingly endless series of processes since 1973 that have each failed to produce an enduring peace settlement. He described this lack of progress through the economic concept of a Nash equilibrium, with the four major parties to the conflict lacking incentive to unilaterally change their position if the other actors remain constant in theirs. (Dr. Lustick defines the four major parties as the United States, Israel, the Palestinians and a peace “industry” comprised of NGOs, academics and other organizations funded to promote the prospect that a two-state solution is still feasible). The only way to break this stasis, he argues, would be some sort of dramatic change to the status quo, like the Palestinian Authority dissolving itself or Israel publicly abandoning the two-state solution.

Mr. Khawaji emphasized the changed environment in the region today, as compared to past decades when negotiations took place. The region is in the middle of a “rebirth” with non-state actors exerting growing control. In the case of Israel, this is particularly pronounced: Hezbollah is on its northern border; Islamist groups are present in the Sinai; Jordan is overwhelmed by Syrian refugees; and Iranian proxies can attack Israel at any moment, and often do so when peace talks are underway. He also envisions a single-state solution where the international community would be forced to give the Palestinians equal rights. This view is reinforced by domestic political realities inside Israel, where coalition politics largely precludes discussing accommodation with the Palestinians, a political dynamic that is unlikely to change.

Ambassador Freeman suggested that Judiasm in Israel is being transformed into a state ideology that rationalizes racism in the form of subjugation of the Palestinians. He cited recent survey data showing sharply divergent views of Judiasm between American and Israeli Jews, and that Israelis increasingly value Judiasm over democracy. This trend is contributing to the impossibility of a two-state solution. As a result, Ambassador Freeman also sees the inevitability of a one-state solution, but one where all inequalities must be removed. This could lead to a new Palestinian struggle for civil rights, as opposed to self-determination, a shift already underway among segments of the Palestinian population. This would also require Israel’s international backers to demand equal rights for Palestinians, something that has not been consistently advocated for during the course of decades of Palestinian demands for self-determination.

The full video from the event is available on the Middle East Policy Council website. A full transcript from the event will be posted in a few days at and published in the next issue of the journal Middle East Policy. For members of the media interested in contacting these speakers or other members of the Middle East Policy Council’s leadership, please email


Event Speakers

Chas W. Freeman, Jr.

Chairman, Projects International Inc.
Former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia
Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense
Former President, Middle East Policy Council

Hady Amr

Nonresident Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Brookings Institute
Former Deputy Special Envoy, Israeli-Palestinian Relations, U.S. Department of State
Former Deputy Assistant Administrator, Middle East, USAID

Ian Lustick

Professor, Bess W. Heyman chair, University of Pennsylvania
Former President, Politics and History Section of the American Political Science Association
Member, Council on Foreign Relations

Riad Khawaji

Founder and CEO, INEGMA
Middle East Bureau Chief,
Defense News
Middle East Correspondent, Jane’s Defense Weekly


Richard J. Schmierer

Chairman, Board of Directors, Middle East Policy Council
Former Ambassador, Sultanate of Oman




Thomas R. Mattair

Executive Director, Middle East Policy Council



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