A British diplomat has suggested that EU countries should reconsider the aid they give to the Palestinian Authority in order to put extra pressure on Israel. Tom Phillips says that this will shift on to Israel the financial burden of providing services for the people under occupation. Phillips, who served as British ambassador to Israel and Saudi Arabia, made his comments in an article for Prospect Magazine, adding that the Israelis are unlikely to be able to bear the extra cost of the occupation.
According to Phillips , peace is unlikely between Israel and the Palestinians. No US administration will ever be able to put its own interests before Israel’s and impose sufficient pressure on Tel Aviv. At the same time, he claimed that no Israeli government will ever be able to stop expanding and building new settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and thus provide a glimmer of hope for a two-state solution. A third “no” scenario is that no Palestinian leadership will ever be able to abandon the right of return for refugees; Philip also doubts the ability of any Middle East leader to put the Arab Peace Initiative into practice.
The retired diplomat regrets that he was unable to use some cards he had to push the peace process forward during his time in office. The EU, he believes, failed to use its economic weight as a large market for Israeli products to establish a strategy to bring Israel to the table. At the same time, the EU could not crack down on extremism in the region.
As a new strategy, Mr Phillips suggests a North Atlantic agreement through which both sides of the conflict have incentives to take the right way, with sanctions in place for those who do not respond positively.
America, he adds, will not be an objective mediator in the peace process because it always displays a pro-Israel bias. Barack Obama, however, will have an opportunity to be the exception to this if he wins a second term in office later this year.
While the huge level of economic aid given to the PA has created a culture of dependency, Mr Phillips notes that the Arabs think Israelis need a two-state solution more than the Palestinians. He suggests that Israel has to reach to a peaceful solution with the Palestinians instead of depending on political, economic and military support from overseas. The alternative is that the state will fail, as happened to the Crusader kingdoms of the past.
The fact that each side fears being seen as a flunkey, the British diplomat claims, is the main obstacle to any solution. Each side feels that previous concessions have been useless; therefore, Mr Phillips expects that they do not want to offer any more. However, he concludes, this is the most important thing at the moment, especially for the Israelis who hold most of the cards in their hand.
He insists that the Israelis have to agree on a divided Jerusalem and concede the sovereignty that they claim over Al-Aqsa Mosque. It would be a painful concession, he agrees, but nothing could be achieved without it.