European Council on Foreign Relations

Sharon didn’t embrace peace, he defeated it

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Widespread media speculation about whether Ariel Sharon would have concluded a peace deal with the Palestinians had he not slipped into a coma eight years ago may be missing the point. Coming to grips with Sharon’s modus operandi, which has driven so much of Israel’s history and continues to shape its policies, requires more than a merciless-warrior-turned-avuncular-peacemaker narrative.  

Sharon, who was buried on Monday, exemplified the ethos of Israel’s founding generation – a by-any-means-necessary nationalism tempered with realpolitik, always seeking to push the boundaries of what could be politically, diplomatically and militarily possible at any given moment. Sharon’s journey has been painted as a pendulum swing from hawk to dove, but a closer read shows a remarkable consistency in maintaining the founding consensus of Israeli

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Testing the two-state solution: time for Europe to get tough?

According to a recent “Two State Stress Test” conducted by the European Council on Foreign Relations, diplomacy is the only factor currently sustaining the two-state solution in Israel/Palestine. Any lessening of diplomatic intensity would leave the prospects for a two-state outcome even more fragile. Yet half way into the US’ 9-month push for peace, it remains unclear what if any progress has been achieved.

Although the US has largely succeeded in enforcing an information blackout around talks, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are thought to remain diametrically opposed. Nor have the parties managed to agree upon terms of reference for talks, or even on how to build upon previous negotiations. Such is the impasse that the US is reportedly readying to unveil its own bridging proposal in early 2014 outlining the contours of a permanent status agreement in the hope of forcing

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The two-state solution after 2013

Will the two-state solution survive to 2013 and outlast this blog? The year which is about to end was ostensibly a good one, particularly in light of the resumption of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians thanks to John Kerry’s efforts. In fact, the two-state solution as we knew it (the one based on the birth of a territorially contiguous Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, living peacefully alongside Israel) is increasingly less likely to be implemented any time soon.

It is not just about facts on the ground, which have brought many bad items of news and few good ones in 2013. It is also about the two political and public debates in Israel and Palestine. These may come dramatically into play in the next prisoner release, due to take place in late December―more on this in a minute.

At the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), we have conducted

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Two-State Solution in Israel-Palestine: crossing the Rubicon?

Back in December 2002, the European Council rang its alarm bells for the first time “at the continuing settlement activities, which threaten to render the two-state solution physically impossible.” 1 Since then, innumerable Cassandras in Europe, the United States, the Arab world, Palestine and Israel have voiced their despair and warned about the perils of the fast fading two-state solution in Israel-Palestine. Year after year there has been a growing chorus of cries suggesting this may be the ‘last opportunity’ for a two-state solution, that we may be dangerously inching towards the shores of the two-state Rubicon. But how can we actually know when developments on the ground have become is it really irreversible? How can we determine with any degree of objectivity and precision how close we are to the Rubicon, or whether the Rubicon of the two state solution has already been crossed

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The EU and the Middle East Peace Process

Today EU foreign ministers discussed the Middle East peace process and the Council conclusions include a few positive developments. For example, ministers are proposing a “package of European political, economic and security support to both parties in the context of a final status agreement”. However, it is also surprising to see the EU’s somewhat confused and muddle-headed references to a "one-state reality" at a time when this is closer to the current situation on the ground than a two-state outcome.

As highlighted in ECFR’s new Two-State Stress Test project, third party diplomatic interventions are currently the strongest sustainer of the two-state model based on analysis of trends in 2013. Any lessening of this intensity would leave the prospects for a two-state solution even more fragile.

Nevertheless, Europe must be clearer on disincentives. Our Two-State Stress Test (TSST)

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