May 08, 2019 News Rebecca Ernstsen In contrast to The Pearson Institute’s previous annual lectures, which highlighted the peace agreements successfully achieved in Colombia and Northern Ireland, this year’s address focused on a conflict with “no resolution in sight.” However, as noted by James Robinson, Institute Director of The Pearson Institute, we can learn as much from unsuccessful attempts at peace negotiations as we can from successful resolutions. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most well-known protracted conflicts in the world today, and is often viewed as intractable. Former Palestinian Ambassador to the United States Dr. Husam Zomlot, currently Head of the Palestinian Mission to the UK and Strategic Affairs Advisor to the Palestinian President, gave an impassioned address, striking a hopeful, determined tone, while acknowledging the grim reality of the current situation. Dr. Zomlot expressed frustration that relations with the current US administration have regressed and peacemaking processes seem to be moving backwards. According to Zomlot, “the Trump administration is engaged in a relentless campaign to derecognize and delegitimize the Palestinian people and their leadership.” Troubling Policies of the Trump Administration The Lecture took place at International House.Ambassador Zomlot outlined multiple ways in which the Trump administration has frustrated the peace process between Israel and Palestine. First, he noted the administration has pushed Palestine aside and has “sought to legitimize the illegitimate.” In contradiction to international consensus, the US has moved its embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing the city as the capital of Israel. Additionally, the administration has recognized the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights, which sets a precedent for continued expansion of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory. Second, by closing the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) mission in Washington and severing decades-long relationships, Dr. Zomlot argued that the administration has intentionally denationalized and derecognized the Palestinian people and leadership. Third, the Trump administration has sought to de-internationalize the conflict. In international forums, the US has protected Israel from being held accountable for its annexation of the Golan Heights, and continually put the Israeli government’s actions above international law. Over the past several years the US government has worked to dismantle the international framework that governs the Palestinian issue in an attempt at rendering international mediation and law irrelevant. Fourth and finally, the administration has reframed the conflict as an internal Israeli issue and has chosen to abandon a long-held position of US support for the two-state solution. Five “Ultimates” Professors Roger Myerson, Chris Blattman, and James RobinsonDecades before the Trump Administration, an attempt at making peace between Palestine and Israel began with what Dr. Zomlot referred to as the “Ultimate Promise.” The US-led international community promised to deliver the two-state solution if Palestine would accept certain conditions, namely, recognizing the 1967 borders of Israel/Palestine and accepting East Jerusalem as their capital. According to Zomlot, this “Ultimate Promise” led to an “Ultimate Compromise” in 1988, when Palestine pledged to accept these conditions. Though painful for Palestinians, such a compromise was viewed as necessary for the cause of peace. Unfortunately, the process was flawed and the compromise ultimately devolved into the “Ultimate Failure.” Because of the vast imbalance of power between Palestine and the US, and because the US acted as a sole arbitrator rather than mediator, the promise eventually failed. The US failed as a mediator because it couldn’t be neutral, given that Israel is a domestic issue in the US. This failure, according to him, shows that “international problems are not solved locally…they need international mediation.” Part of this failure is what Zomlot called the “Ultimate Retraction” – an unraveling of previous promises. In contradiction to previous administrations, the Trump administration has sided with a vision of greater Israel that precludes Palestinian rights. Such a position, Dr. Zomlot argues, does not serve the cause of peace in Palestine or anywhere else. The “Ultimate Retraction” will inevitably lead to an “Ultimate Consequence” as predicted by Ambassador Zomlot. If the promise has been retracted, the compromise cannot last long. Palestinian negotiators now have two options –abandon twenty-five years of negotiations, or affirm ever more strongly a commitment to international law and a two-state solution, but change strategy. According to Dr. Zomlot, their preferred option remains. Moving Forward Charting a path forward, Zomlot struck a hopeful tone, reflecting on lessons learned through twenty-five years of negotiations. First, Palestine will no longer pursue a bilateral process with the US. Instead, they will seek international, multi-lateral support that relies on the framework of international law. Next, Ambassador Zomlot affirmed that Palestine will continue to encourage a strategy of popular resistance. He noted the strength of the Palestinian people and their ability to survive and thrive despite opposition, using the example of marches in Gaza and of mothers facing the daily dangers of sending children to school because they understand the importance of literacy. As a fractured state, their people are protesting, and that protesting will continue. Last, Dr. Zomlot noted the responsibility of the international community to hold states accountable for their actions. Without any cost to Israel for occupying Palestinian territory, the status quo is unlikely to change. “Any strategy aimed at ending the occupation has to aim at the economic interest that sustains it.” Dr. Zomlot called on the international community to “make it costly for Israel.” Overall, Ambassador Zomlot maintained that Palestinians are optimistic. As the Trump administration acts unilaterally for short-term political gain, they believe it is more important than ever to remain committed to international law and order. A rules-based international order is worth preserving, not only in the interest of Palestine, but also in the interest of global peace, and Palestine intends to move forward. Related stories Putting the Peaces Together June 12, 2018 The Policy Entrepreneur April 13, 2018 Insurgents Are Learning to Be More Effective on the Battlefield February 07, 2018 Axelrod in the U.K. August 01, 2014 War Games April 01, 2015 Faculty Spotlight James Robinson The Reverend Dr. Richard L. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies; Institute Director, The Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts A prominent political scientist and economist, James Robinson has conducted influential research in the field of political and economic development and the factors at the root causes of conflict. His work explores the relationship between poverty and society, and he co-authored "Why Nations Fail."