The last Policy Forum event before the summer recess was held in Parliament last night where Dr Hussein Agha, a Senior Associate Member at St Antony’s College Oxford, and Professor Shai Feldman, Judith and Sidney Swartz Director of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University, discussed the state and future of the Middle East peace process. Dr Agha opened the proceedings by questioning whether the peace process was ever actually alive in the first place because of the repeated failures of the interim agreements since the Oslo Accords. He continued to give a short history of the peace process and argued that basing the resumption of negotiations on the issue of settlements was wrong and counter-productive.
Professor Feldman then did a short speech by providing the audience with a snapshot of where the peace process now stood and argued the prospects were not encouraging. He continued by saying that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, hasn’t given up the dream of a ‘greater Israel’ and the real problem for Netanyahu is with his own party, not his coalition parties. He further commented that there is a much greater chance of reunification between Likud and Kadima now because of the coalition. He concluded his speech by analysing the role of America in the peace process by questioning whether Obama has the drive to actually do something for the peace process.
The two short speeches were then followed by a lively discussion between the panellists and the members of the audience. The questions and comments ranged from what fresh ideas would acceptable to the Palestinians and the internal debate in Israel about settlements to the wider peace problem in the Arab world and the impact on the peace process of recent events in Egypt and Syria.