Shai Feldman & Khalil Shikaki discuss developments such as the 2015 Israeli elections, U.S.-Iranian nuclear deal, & recent Palestinian diplomatic initiatives have affected the Israeli-Palestinian conflict & prospects for a peace deal. November, 2015.
>> Hi, everybody. Welcome to our event on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I'm John Ciorciari. I'm the co-director of the International Policy Center here at the Ford School. We're delighted you can come to join us. First, I want to thank the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies here at the International Institute who helped support this event. I also want to thank our administrator, Thaya Rowe, for her work in organizing it. We're privileged to have two distinguished panelists who you see in front of you, Dr. Shai Feldman and Dr. Khalil Shikaki. Dr. Feldman is the Judith and Sydney Swartz Director of the Crown Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Brandeis University. He's also a Senior Fellow and a member of the Board at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He's a fifth generation Israeli and for some 28 years he was at Tel Aviv's Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, first as a senior researcher and then as the Center's director. Last, but not least, he is a former student of our own Bob Axelrod who supervised him at the Masters level. So obviously very, very well trained. Dr. Shikaki is a professor of Political Science and -- .
>> You're responsible now.
>> And a director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah. He's also a Senior Fellow at the Crown Center at Brandeis. And he is a recent visiting scholar here at the University of Michigan where he spent some time last year. And some of you had the privilege to getting to meet and know him then. Both are internationally recognized experts on Israeli-Palestinian issues and on Middle Eastern politics more broadly. You can find more details on their impressive backgrounds in the advertisement for this session and, if you haven't grabbed one already on your way in, please get one on the way out. A recent policy brief that Dr. Feldman co-authored which is on the table just outside of those center doors. Our guests will start with some brief remarks on current developments and future prospects for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We'll then move to a conversation and a question and answer session. [Inaudible], who's an MPP candidate here at the Ford School is going to help me field your questions on cards and then to ask a representative sample. Thaya will walk around the audience and collect your questions on note cards. She'll also have some cards to pass out and pencils, if you didn't grab one on your way in. And so, without further ado, let's please welcome Dr. Feldman and Dr. Shikaki back to Michigan.
[ Applause ]
>> Thank you, John. Great to be back here. Great to see Bob. So what I thought I would do is the following. For the past 11 years, this is the eleventh fall, that Khalili and I, together with an Egyptian colleague of [inaudible], have been teaching a class at Brandeis on the Arab-Israeli conflict, team teaching the class on the Arab-Israeli conflict. So the students for an entire semester learn about the conflict from a team which comprises an Israeli, a Palestinian, and an Egyptian. And I think almost exactly two years ago, an effort that lasted about seven summers culminated in the translation of our experience teaching this, co-teaching, team teaching this class to the publication of a textbook, the first textbook on the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict that is co-authored by a Palestinian, an Egyptian, and an Israeli scholar. It's called "Arabs and Israelis: Conflict and Peacemaking in the Middle East." If any of you want to have a little more information about it, there's some handouts here. But the reason I mention this is because of the analytical section. So this is a textbook that's written for an American university, which is to say for an American semester, for a 13 week semester. We have -- the book comprises of 13 chapters. And all the chapters have the same structure which is the first third of every chapter is called Main Developments. It basically provides the reader with the uncontested dimensions of the history of the conflict. And it is quite surprising that the uncontested dimensions of the Arab-Israeli conflict can fill actually an entire third of a chapter for each of the periods of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Uncontested means that Arabs and Israelis don't contest what happened during this period. And how do we know that a certain development wasn't contested? If the three of us agreed that it happened, then it happened. The second third of every chapter is about everything that is contested. And the nice part of that is that for the second third of every chapter you can read side-by-side for everything that is contested in the history of the conflict what was the Palestinian narrative about what happened? What was the Israeli narrative about what happened? And what were broader Arab narratives about what happened. And finally the final third of every chapter provides, is the analytical part. It's called Analysis. And essentially the aim is to provide a toolbox for students to analyze the most important turning points in the history of the conflict. So the idea is to provide students the kind of toolbox that they can use a year later, three years later, and so on and so forth. So we analyze the past but the idea is to provide the toolbox that allows students to try to understand the present and the future. The toolbox is very simple. It basically says you want to understand anything important that happened in the history of the conflict you have to answer for yourselves, essentially four questions. One, what happened in the international arena that can explain what happened in the conflict? Second, what happened in the regional context, in the regional arena, in the Middle East at large that can explain what happened between Israelis, and Palestinians, and Arabs during this period. Third, what happened in the domestic politics, in the domestic politics of the main protagonists, that could have been a driver for these turning points? And finally, what was the role of individual leaders in affecting these turning points? So what I thought I would do in the remaining of my opening remarks is to try to apply in very broad terms this analytical framework to get you a sense of why the Arab-Israeli conflict and particularly the Palestinian-Israeli conflict today is in such deep trouble. And I think the best way to understand it is to compare where we are today to a period that I would consider the golden era of Palestinian-Israeli peace efforts. And the golden era was 1991 to 1995. It's a golden era more broadly in Arab-Israeli peace efforts. And it was only a few days ago that Israel commemorated, noted 20 years, to the assassination of then-Israeli Prime Minister Rabin. And that assassination 20 years ago ended, in a way, that golden era that began in 1991. During this period of 1991 to 1995, there were, not one, but quite a few dramatic positive developments in Arab-Israeli relations, Palestinian-Israeli relations. There was the 1991 Madrid Conference, the first time that Arab states convened with Israel for the purpose of making peace in the Middle East. That launched a whole set of bilateral negotiations, including Israeli-Syria negotiations, and something that everybody already forgot ever existed, a very broad, deep, multilateral set of negotiations between Israel, 13 Arab countries, and the Palestinians. Dealing with a whole set of issues involving economic development, refugees, regional security, and arms control, and so on and so forth. Then, of course, you had the Oslo breakthrough in September of 1993. And finally, the last dramatic positive in November 1994, the Israeli-Jordanian Peace Treaty. So what allowed this golden era to take place? First of all, so now I'll try to answer for myself, help you. What happened at the global, regional, domestic politics, and individual leaders that explain these positive breakthroughs? Essentially this is a period that followed right after the end of the Cold War. The Cold War ending with an American victory. The U.S. was able to talk about a new world order that the U.S. would lead, and a new regional order that the U.S. would lead. At the regional level, you had just been through the Gulf War in which the U.S. led successfully a very broad coalition of Arab countries that included Egypt and Syria in a war to dislodge Iraq from the conquest of Iran. Led by a president, Bush 41, who knew, not only how to wage war, but also when to stop war, and, again, with an ambition to create a new regional order. And this, as I said, was a coalition that included Egypt, Saudi Arabia, even Syria, and that victory actually also tilted the balance within the region between, say the more moderate, the more pro-western countries and the more militant extremist elements in the region. At the domestic level, the domestic drivers were a PLO weakened by the Gulf War, weakened by the perception that Arafat sided with Saddam Hussein. He managed to get the financial backers of the PLO angry at the PLO for seeming to have sided with Saddam Hussein. And essentially the PLO, because of that, was driven to a whole set of compromises and concessions beginning with their agreement to go to Madrid in the framework of a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegations, and finally to accept major concessions at Oslo. Israel had to absorb a million refugees, a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union which gave the United States huge leverage over Israeli policy. Because Israel was dependent on getting 10 billion dollars of U.S. government loan guarantees to be able to absorb those million immigrants. You had the effects of the first Palestinian Intifada that persuaded Israelis that, at the time, that the occupation was not a feasible, indefinite proposition. All of this led to a change in government in Israel from the Likud to Labor, with Labor winning the 1992 election. So the Israeli domestic scene also changed as a result of these various changes. At the individual level, you had an architect. At the very least, to some extent, it was Bush 41, but more in the real practical matter, it was Jim Baker who was the architect of this effort to create a new world order and a new regional order. And he was the one who got -- he used the leverage that the U.S. acquired. He used the leverage, vis-a-vis, the Arab parties like Syria and the PLO, and the U.S. leverage on Israel to get everybody to Madrid. You had leaders on the Palestinian side and on the Israeli side who had legitimacy and who could deliver: Arafat on the Palestinian side and Rabin on the Israeli side. So all the stars were aligned in the right direction. The stars on the global level, on the regional level, on the domestic politics level, and on the leadership level. None of this, none of these exist today. None of these exist today. Okay. The U.S., following two wars in the Middle East, two trillion dollars, doesn't have the ambition to build a new regional order. President Obama tried twice, in 2009 and 2011, '12, '13, to negotiate some deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians and failed. It is extremely unlikely that Obama is going to try a third time. The region is in total disarray. Countries that when we grew up for the first 40 years of our lives, or 50 years of our lives, or actually 60 years of at least my life, up until five years ago who were central pillars of the region no longer exist. Syria no longer exists as we know it, as we knew it. Iraq no longer exists as we knew it. Libya, not exactly a pillar, no longer exists as we knew it. Yemen no longer exists as we knew it. And all the Arab countries are, without exception, consumed by the various ripple effects of the so-called Arab Spring. And so their attention is all directed internally. And the likelihood right now that they're going to roll up their sleeves in the immediate future and try to play a positive role is very, very -- is very unlikely. The domestic politics, I'll say on the Israeli side, Khalil will say more on the Palestinian side. The Israeli essentially, on the Israeli side, the right wing controls the agenda or determines the agenda right now. The Israeli right wing determines the agenda, in my view, not because it comprises a majority. It is able to control the agenda in Israel's case because the center and the center left of the map is paralyzed. It's at home. It's not active. It didn't change its views. It continues to support the two-state solution but, first of all, it's highly -- it's very, very pessimistic about the ability to implement, to achieve a two-state solution so even though that's still the preference it, after Rabin's assassination, and Rabin's assassination was a turning point, it was the first turning point. The Second Intifada was the second turning point. So Israelis basically, those people that still believe that the two-state solution is the only solution are not active, mobilized, committed in the way that the large minority of those on the right wing that are opposed to two-state solution are. They are also paralyzed by fear. Fear that is based on a very simple analysis that said Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2005 and the result was Katyusha rockets -- in 2000 --and the result was Katyusha rockets from Lebanon that paralyzed the Israeli north on more than one occasion. Israel withdrew from Gaza in summer of 2005 and the result was all kinds of rockets coming from Gaza that paralyzed the Israeli south. And so the simple Israeli says, "If we withdraw from the West Bank to allow Palestinian state, who guarantees that this reality is not going to replicate itself where the center core of the country is, where the large population centers are, where 80% of Israel's GDP is produced?" And finally, there is all this fear that results now in the last three or four years from everything going on around Israel. And when there is such turbulence, such chaos in a place as proximate as Syria, and when you're in Israel it's a very different reality than here because everybody in Syria has cell phones and everybody in Syria documents, makes these little tiny videos and it's on YouTube and it's broadcast, and re-broadcast, and re-broadcast in Israel and so you're very, very, very close to the slaughter that is already taken the lives of -- I don't know what the numbers now -- some people speculate as high as 300,000 in the Syrian sphere. And finally, at the individual level, there's no Rabin and there's no Arafat. There is a, I would say, a lack of courage, lack of real leadership, and, again, Khalil will maybe disagree with me but I think he won't, that Abbas is not Arafat and Netanyahu is not Rabin. And so, basically, if you look at all the four levels the situation and you contrast them to the golden era of the peace process, '91, '95, you know, other than sending you to the nearest pharmacy to get a bottle of Prozac I don't have, at least in this opening remarks, a way of uplifting your hopes because the situation right now is probably a really, really, really one of the most depressing downsides in this history of trying to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. And so I'll stop here before it gets worse.
[ Laughter ]
>> I'm also very happy to be back. Thank you, John, for inviting us to be back here. I thought Shai would say something optimistic and I would have something to disagree with and -- but then he ends with a highly pessimistic note. So we will be competing in who is more pessimistic. Shai focused on what he called the golden era of the peace process 20 years ago, more than 20 years ago, and compared it with the current situation. I'll be doing something similar, looking at, not 20 years back but, ten years back. Basically the way I'm going to define the current predicament that Palestinian and Israelis find themselves in is that the past ten years a certain status quo has emerged in Israeli-Palestinian relations. This status quo is currently being challenged. It is being challenged by the establishment itself that created that status quo. This is, however, is going to be a political confrontation. It is about to start. It is a little bit of that is starting but my expectation is that we will witness in 2016 significant political confrontations between the establishment in the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government. And the second dimension of this challenge is the popular challenge. The confrontations in the streets, the stabbing and the response by the Israeli Army and the Israeli Police and so on. The violence, in other words. And this violence at this moment it's not a major explosion of violence but my expectation is that it will become gradually a more, more serious explosion in 2016. Though, what had happened? Why are we today, therefore, moving in this trajectory that we are more likely to find ourselves in a major Israeli-Palestinian confrontation, both political, diplomatic, and violent? And to understand why this is happening I will take you a little bit ten years back. Ten years ago or so we have seen the beginnings of what became the status quo. This status quo was based on the assumption that it is in the interest of the Palestinians and the Israelis to have peace and quiet. So ten years ago, this is the end of the Second Intifada, 2005. Both the Palestinian establishment, unlike the previous establishment in the Palestinian Authority under Arafat, the new establishment defined the Palestinian national interest in peace and quiet terms. And this is of course was the also the definition that the Israelis very much adopted. So this element of the status quo was based, of course, on rebuilding the Palestinian Security Services but it was also - and, of course, allowing the Palestinian economy to prosper, and so, and the Palestinian Authority to build institutions, and so on and so forth. But it was also based on two additional pillars. One is Israel is not required to abandon any of the gains it made during the Second Intifada. Palestinian made some gains during the Second Intifada, most importantly in Gaza, but not much in the West Bank. In fact, in the West Bank things became much worse for the Palestinians because the Israeli Army re-occupied the West Bank. The new status quo was a sort of a unwritten, de facto kind of status quo. The Palestinians did not explicitly agree to it but on de facto basis they did. This new arrangement did not require the Israeli Army to undo the changes it made during the years of the Second Intifada. Thirdly, the new status quo, that is the post-war Intifada status quo, did not require the Israelis to implement any of their commitments under Oslo, commitments that were not implemented before the eruption of the Second Intifada. There are major elements in Oslo, most importantly related to Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank and the transfer of jurisdiction from the Israeli Army to the Palestinian Authority that did not take place before the eruption of the Second Intifada. These elements in Oslo were now suspended. In fact, it is even worse. Oslo began, and in terms of Oslo which were supposed to be temporary and interim in nature, now looked more like a semi-permanent deal. So this again, these are not things that the Palestinians explicitly endorsed or negotiated with the Israelis, but these are terms that the new status quo entailed with Palestinian, if not endorsement, and in this case I am referring to the establishment, that is the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, more or less not challenging. Okay, so what made that possible helps us understand why it is no longer possible for this status quo to continue. What made that possible? Well, most importantly, Abbas, the Palestinian president. Abbas's own mindset has been a very critical element in all of this. He is a person who actually believed that violence -- Palestinian violence -- was very destructive to Palestinian national interest. He believed wholeheartedly that it is in the national interest that the Palestinians, not only to stop the violence, but also to fight against violence along with the Israeli side. Abbas also believed that institution building for the Palestinians, most importantly creating a strong, effective police force that would have monopoly over force armed, arms, meant that there would be no arms in the Palestinian Authority under his control, other than that of the police which meant essentially dismantling or at least disarming all the militias, all the armed groups that prevailed in the West Bank. Abbas's goal therefore was to rebuild the Palestinian Authority and to be able to achieve all of that he was willing to engage, or to resume, Israeli-Palestinian security coordination. That security coordination, by the way, is that is the kind of evidence that the Israelis read to mean the Palestinians are fine with the status quo, fine with the elements of the status quo that I indicated earlier. Obviously, with the Palestinians seeing it in their best interest to ensure peace and quiet, the Israelis perhaps felt that things are really pretty good, the status quo is really good. Why change it? And that, of course, then leads to this prevailing attitude that Oslo maybe is not a bad thing if it is a permanent, or more permanent, thing. The second most important pillar that made it possible for this status quo to prevail was, of course, the emergence of Hamas, not only as a threat to the Israelis, but in this case, of course, most importantly a threat to the Palestinian establishment, a threat to the Palestinian Authority itself. The threat is not just the outcome of the elections when Hamas won in 2006, although that is part of it. The more important threat is the Hamas violent take over the Gaza Strip. Violently. Hamas took over Gaza from the Palestinian Authority from President Abbas and assumed control, unilateral control over Gaza. Abbas, and Fatah, and the PA establishment as a whole feared that Hamas will do in the West Bank what it did in Gaza. So now security coordination with the Israelis would even have an added value. It becomes a way of self defense against an internal enemy. That was certainly a second very important reason why this status quo has prevailed at that time. The results, of course, other things, very important things, including some of the things that Shai mentioned. The U.S. stepped in. Starting in 2006 we had a major U.S. push under the Bush administration. The Annapolis process started around the end of that year. So there was a revival of the peace process. Serious negotiations took place in 2008. And the international community stepped in. In one year the international community pledged to give the Palestinian Authority $5 billion in the next three years or so. You can see the extent to which both the U.S., which up until then really has not put a lot of effort -- I'm talking about Bush administration -- in investing in the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. All of a sudden it is putting considerable amount of effort. And the international community, the donor community putting a lot of money in the Palestinian Authority. There is no doubt that there was also a significant element of public endorsement. Palestinian public endorsement. You have to understand that when Arafat died in 2004, Abbas was elected. The public perception, among the Palestinians, I'm not talking about the Israelis, although we also found similar trends among the Israelis back then. This is end of 2004, early 2005. 2005 is when this status quo essentially was put in place. What was the impression of the public at that time is very, very important, particularly when we compare it to where we are today. Back then the level of optimism about the peace process went sky-high. The death of Arafat was -- and the election of Abbas -- was seen the public, by the public, as an indication that peace is just a short distance away, that if Abbas can't make peace, the father of Oslo, the most moderate, the most peaceful Palestinian leader, if he can't make peace -- wow, peace is simply impossible with Israel. The expectation, however, was Abbas would do it. And the level of optimism that we found in 2005 was simply unprecedented in those terms but there was obviously other things that facilitated Abbas's, Abbas going in this direction, most importantly the fact that he was elected in 2005. He was elected by 63% of the popular vote. So he had tremendous legitimacy. He could do whatever he wanted to do. The public voted for him. His election campaign was based on the elements I've just described in his own mindset. So he considered the vote that he received as an endorsement of his own platform in terms of organizing relations with the state of Israel. So what happened to all of these things? Well, to begin with, of course, let me again with Shai and what he said about where the Americans are today. After the efforts at Annapolis failed we had a new administration and the president again attempted to get the Israelis to free settlements and get Palestinians to go back to the negotiations and that effort failed. And then we have in the second term we have the Kerry mission and that, too, has failed. And the reaction of the administration after the failure of the Kerry mission was, "Well, we tried at least." But I think -- Shai and I were in Washington a few days ago talking to people in the administration -- my impression from these talks, and Shai may disagree with me, but my impression is the administration has absolutely, definitely no interest whatsoever in putting its hand back into this thing called Palestinian-Israeli relations. They have absolutely no interest in that. And they think there is absolutely nothing there that they can do. That even if they try, they will fail. And so they, they do not want to try. And, of course, if you look at the region, the region is really preoccupied with everything you can think of, from ISIS, to their own domestic affairs, so you cannot really rely the region to come forward and assist the Palestinians. There are a lot of people who talk about the Arab peace initiative and putting it together, but the Arab world, in theory this sounds really nice, but the Arab world isn't there really to get together and try to provide a safe haven for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. But it's not just about the region. In fact I think it is more so the domestic environment. The domestic environment both in Israel and among the Palestinians. The Israelis are still under the influence of the last decade of status quo, what I described as the status quo. And their impression about it is, "It's really good, you know, we have peace and quiet." Of course, they are now very worried about what's happening. And this could certainly generate change. We don't know when. It is not likely to be soon. And we don't know in what direction. In the past we saw that when the threat perception is high, both Palestinians and Israelis become very, very aggressive against each other and demand revenge and violence against each other. So if the same thing is to happen here again and if I'm right and next year is going to be hell for both Israelis and Palestinians, then it's likely that this will actually lead to greater, a more hellish kind of environment. Palestinians have a problem with the man and the establishment that has created that status quo. Finally the Palestinian public is awaken, so to speak, and basically said, "Who the hell put this status quo in place? Why did we accept to do this for the last ten years?" As I said, the public has something to do with that. But the public, of course, is in denial at this point. The public believes today that the leader who put this in place has no legitimacy any more. Two-thirds in our -- two months ago in our most recent survey said, "Abbas must resign." Fifty-three percent of the Palestinians said this Palestinian Authority and its establishment is becoming a burden on the Palestinian people for the first time ever since the creation of the Palestinian Authority we have a majority that defines the Palestinian Authority as a burden on the Palestinians. For the first time we also have a majority that says the Palestinian Authority must be dismantled. The question of the PA legitimacy therefore is no longer a question. The Palestinian public, which fully endorsed early on in this last decade that status quo I described, today is revolting against it and considering the establishment that put it in place as illegitimate. But the public is even angrier with the Israelis, of course. The public believes the two state solution is no longer practical. Two-thirds of the Palestinian public believe the two-state solution is no longer practical. We have much greater support today for a one-state solution. There's even more in that respect than this. We have what you might call the Oslo Generation. This is a socio-political development that has been taking place with us not fully really focused on it but it is becoming very clear with the young people in the streets, university students who are confronting Israeli soldiers everyday and dying every day. Last month, in October, 73 Palestinians died, many of them in confrontations like these but, of course, others died while attempting to stab soldiers or Israeli civilians inside Israel. Twelve Israelis have died during those confrontations. This Oslo Generation is essentially people the age of many of the students here, 18 to 22 is the age of this particular group. The higher -- the older you are the more likely what I'm about to say will not apply to you. But if you are 18 to 22 living in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, then you fit the description. You are totally alienated from the political process. You consider the Palestinian Authority as illegitimate. You consider the two-state solution to be unacceptable. You're more likely, in significant percentages, you're more likely to believe that a one-state solution is the way to move forward. They are not driven by religion. They're not driven by support for Hamas. These are, this age group is the most secular in Palestinian society. They are the least religious in Palestinian society. They believe in violence. We had, during this last decade for the most part, with the exception of the period in which Gaza was at war with Israel, Hamas was at war with Israel during the Gaza war, with that exception, with that exception during the last ten years up until two months ago, we did not have a majority of Palestinians in favor of violence, we had a majority, strong majority, against violence among all Palestinians, including among this age group, what I described as Oslo Generation. Today males in this Oslo Generation support violence by 72%. This is unprecedented. With the exception of very exceptional periods during the Second Intifada, we never had such radicalization among Palestinian youth. Where is this radicalization coming from? Well, coming from everything I've just described, of course. The lack of progress and the perception that the PA is illegitimate. But there is an additional component that makes the young, this youth group, to be more likely to be influenced by radical views and that is their reliance on social media. For this age group, 85% of them rely, 85% rely on social media for news on daily basis. Now compare this to those who are 50 and above. Fifty and above rely on social media for news by 4%. So only 4% of 50 and above look for news in the social media when 85% of this Oslo Generation looks for media in the social -- looks for news in the social media. The social media is very, very vicious, very, very poisonous, exaggerates everything. It is no doubt that this is something that will continue. People see videos of things happening almost live and it is generating a great deal of anger, frustration, and it is driving people, and particularly the students, to come out and demonstrate. I'm not anticipate that this will become a third Intifada, at least not anytime soon. I think the escalation, what I described as an escalation, these emerging confrontations are likely to continue to escalate but it will be gradual. It will be gradual -- I know my time is probably up, have been for a while -- is because, on the one hand as long as Abbas remains in charge he will continue to oppose outright violence. There is also that threat from Hamas. It has not disappeared so the PA, the Palestinian Authority establishment in the West Bank, still has to worry about its back and worry about Hamas. So it isn't going to be willing to completely disengage from security coordination with the Israelis, at least not soon. There's also public distrust in both the main -- the two major political forces, Fatah and Hamas -- which means that they're really not likely to be willing to engage directly, take orders from either side, which will mean that popular participation in all of this will not be very high. The Palestinian police force, the last ten years had in fact succeed significantly, have succeeded significantly in creating a very professional Palestinian security force. This security force is not going to crumble under pressure. It is still very, very effective and it has the capacity to prevent violence in the short term. Finally, the Israeli army, unlike its behavior in the Second Intifada, immediately after the eruption of the Second Intifada, the Israeli army made all the mistakes you can think of. The Israeli army is doing very few mistakes this time around. The Israeli army is much smarter in dealing with the current confrontations than it has ever been in the West Bank. For these reasons I think the escalation is likely to be gradual and we're not likely to see a third Intifada erupting immediately. But this, of course, doesn't mean it won't at one point down the road. Abbas will probably become much, much weaker. The Security Services will be demoralized the first time there's a major violent incident in which too many Palestinians are killed. There's no doubt that the public at this point is not being driven by major triggers like what happened in the Second Intifada with the Sharon visit to Al-Haram Sharif, the Temple Mount, back in 2000. And but something like this happening in the next few months could very well bring much larger popular participation. So with this note, of course, I'm tempted to say let's try to do something about this situation and prevent it. And I can give you some ideas about how to do that. I'm not going to do that, though, unless you ask me about it. And the reason that I won't is because I doubt very much that we will succeed. I doubt very much that there's anything that can be done given the constraints, both in Israel and on the Palestinian side. And given the fact that the Americans are absent. The Arabs are absent. The Europeans are absent. Given all of this it's highly unlikely that anything can be done to prevent this escalation from continuing. Thank you.
>> Thank you. Thank you both very much. You've laid out a compelling set of arguments about how at various levels the conditions are not at all auspicious for positive progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and indeed the status quo may be under great threat for something worse. But I do want to pick up on what Khalil ended by saying and ask you a little bit about positive potentialities, however unlikely those may be. Shai, in a conversation earlier you described to me the idea of being a policy maker interested in making progress in this conflict is being like an entrepreneur in a bad economy. And yet, you know, in your paper, which is outside for folks, on saving the Middle East you do prefer a few ideas on ways that this entrepreneur -- set of entrepreneurs -- could try to turn around what is undisputably a tough situation. I wonder if you could share a few of those and then I'd love also to hear Khalil's responses to some of the ideas that you would suggest.
>> So, let me just so I can see everybody. There is one, I think there is one potential source of positive change. I'll also share with you where the limitations are. But alongside all the negatives that we described there is one thing that is quite interesting on the horizon. And what's interesting on the horizon is that, compared to previous periods side by side with the fact that, as I said on many levels when you compare the situation now to what was during the golden period of the Arab-Israeli peace process, all the dimensions, all the trajectories seem to be negative. It's not quite the picture because at least in one respect we are in a positive, in some respects, a positive new era. And the positive new era is that for the first time in the history of Arab-Israeli relations, I wouldn't say the first time, but the degree of convergence between the interests of a number of Arab countries -- in the piece that's outside we call these Arab countries the "Concert of Arabia." The Concert of Arabia is essentially consists of the monarchies. The monarchies have done by comparison, they have weathered the storms of the Arab, so-called Arab Spring much better than the non-monarchies. So that includes Saudi Arabia, the smaller members of the GCC, Morocco, and so on. And Egypt, the republic member of the Concert of Arabia. And Israel. And the convergence of interest is that all the members of the so-called Concert of Arabia -- they just don't know yet that they are members of something called the Concert of Arabia, we invented it -- and Israel have two sets of common challenges, if not threats. One, all these countries are Sunni Arab countries and all of them regard the rising power of Iran and its increased involvement in various parts of the region whether it's Syria, whether it's Lebanon, whether it's Yemen, as a threat. And the second thing is that they are all threatened by the rise of terrorism. Terrorism everywhere. And terrorism is everywhere in the region today. It's in Iraq. It's in Syria. It's in Lebanon. It's in Yemen. It's everywhere. And so the question is whether you could see some -- and this confluence or convergence of interest has already led to unprecedented levels of cooperation between Israel and a number of Arab countries. Unprecedented level of cooperation between Israel and Jordan because there is a common threat both from ISIS and from all the threats revolving in southern Syria. There is unprecedented cooperation with Egypt over the chaos in the Sinai and everybody involved in the Sinai. And even the level of sharing intelligence with other countries in the GCC including Saudi Arabia is unprecedented. This is not an alliance and it can become an alliance but to become an alliance there is, as far as Israel is concerned, or even to become something less than an alliance but an affiliate of this Concert of Arabia, there is an entry fee. And the entry fee is that Israel accept the Arab peace initiative of 2002, which the Saudis regard as a Saudi peace initiative, at least as the basis for further negotiations on resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. The point why this is an interesting turning point is because potentially it actually provides the members of the Concert of Arabia who are interested for their own reasons in even greater cooperation with Israel and who are interested in, therefore, Israel becoming an affiliate of the so-called Concert of Arabia, it gives also them a leverage over Israel because the reality is that these threats, these challenges, are common to Israel and these countries. So the question then is, number one, you know, who is, so the greater convergence of interest is already there. The trajectory is already there. There are two big questions here. Number one is: Would all of the domestic Israeli constraints that I mentioned, that Khalil mentioned, allow Israel, or the present Israeli government, will create a situation which the present Israeli government will respond and move in the direction of accepting the entry, what I call the entry fee? There was already a slight, a slight change in the last few months when even Netanyahu said for the first time that there are, quote unquote, positive elements in the Arab peace initiative. That's very, very far from what's necessary to -- and the thing is, and the other thing that's lacking right now is, and that goes back to my opening remarks, there is no architect. There is no Jim Baker and there is no architect in the region. There is no Sadat. There is no, there is no -- there isn't anybody right now that can put the deal together. The Saudis are still sending the same signals. But the Saudis have never been architects in the region. So what I would say is that there are certain building -- that asides from the bleak picture that both Khalil and I painted -- there are some building blocks that provide some potential but there are big, big blocks here which involve the two sides' domestic scenes, in this case the Israeli domestic scene is a big problem and the fact that there is no Jim Baker. By the way, one thing that is not entirely accurate in what Khalil said about the U.S. government, there is still one person in the U.S. government that would like to see a third try and that's the Secretary of State who seems to have endless energies and endless optimism. But the problem is that even that Secretary of State knows that he can't do that without the support of the President, without the support of the White House. And I think that Khalil's description of the skepticism and -- . So the result is that, and Kerry with all of his success in negotiating a deal with Iran, still is not the kind of architect that we saw Jim Baker operating at the global and regional level in the way that it has. So, yes, I think that, and again, the other role that we have, that I see us having, aside from analysis, analyzing the situation and my opening remarks gave you an analysis of how I see the situation. But I see our responsibilities as scholars to also think of ourselves as entrepreneurs. In this case entrepreneurs in a very, very, very bad economy. Okay. But the thing about entrepreneurs is that they don't have a luxury, even a very, in a very, very, very bad economy, to say, "Okay. You know, I'm going home. I'll come back in ten years." All right. Entrepreneurs look for little tiny cracks wherever they exist and I see a crack. The problem is I still don't see the architect that will exploit the crack. But I think Khalil disagrees with me even if there is a crack.
>> I'll talk [inaudible]. The reason I don't think there is a crack is because I think Mr. Netanyahu thinks the Arabs need him more than he needs them. And they have to come to him, and unconditionally. So I don't think Netanyahu feels he needs to give the Arabs anything for them to invite him to be part of this Concert that Shai has spoken about. But more seriously, he doesn't feel that there is any pressure from within, inside Israel, for him to make that kind of move. To the contrary, as Shai said, the Israelis do not trust the Palestinians. They don't believe there's a Palestinian partner so they don't think their Prime Minister is failing to pursue peace with the Palestinians. They don't think the problem is on the Israeli side. They think the problem is on the Palestinian side. And because of that Netanyahu's future is assured as their next Prime Minister. He wants to be the next Prime Minister. And as long as he doesn't make mistakes, and he can begin to make mistakes the minute he decides to pay a price for entering this Concert. Because he then immediately loses the right which means he will have a completely different government. And then that also raises questions about him being Prime Minister the next time around when there's actions the next time around. And the right might not trust him to lead them the next time. And, of course, the left is not going to trust him to lead them or the center. And so it is safer, if you are Netanyahu it is safer for you to do nothing. If the Arabs need you, fine they will work with them but without having to pay a price on the Palestinian file where his constituency would punish him severely if he is to try to do anything there. So, however, one can -- if you are able to change Netanyahu's calculus, if you are to actually convince him that his future as Prime Minister is threatened he might change his mind. He is a pragmatist after all. He is partly ideologue but I think pragmatism would most likely prevail if he feels that there is pressure. Where would that pressure come from? Not domestically. It's not going to come from the Israeli public, as I said. Is the U.S. administration, for example, a good place to look for pressure? After the Iran deal the U.S. putting further pressure on Netanyahu. Are you kidding? It's not going to happen. So I don't see Netanyahu being convinced that he needs to move on the Palestinian file. And I think he also probably believe, and I think Shai indicated that, that given all the turmoil in the region, it is time for Israel not to take risks, to stay put, do nothing, to keep control over the land and maintain the status quo as much as possible until things clarify which could take five, ten, twenty years. But in the -- during that time Israel should not take any risks. So I do not see change coming from that direction. I can see things changing on the Palestinian side if there is a potential for change. Assuming that what I just said about Netanyahu is inaccurate. Assuming I am absolutely wrong that Netanyahu -- about Netanyahu and the U.S. administration and about Netanyahu's being, Netanyahu being willing to make a deal with the Arabs and actually make concessions on the Palestinian question -- there is still the Palestinian issue. The Palestinians would not be ready if today for him if he is ready tomorrow. And so there has to be changes on the Palestinian side. The Palestinian Authority needs to regain legitimacy and cannot do that without reunifying the West Bank and Gaza, without going to elections. This is something that I think is doable. It's not going to be doable without a strong motivation to do that. And I think if there is a potential for progress in the peace process this could be that motivation. I think the U.S. -- I do not expect administration to put any kind of leverage on either the Palestinians or the Israelis to move on the peace process -- but the U.S. can do small things like promoting, articulating its own position. I think Obama can and should articulate the U.S. views with regard to how the U.S. see this conflict eventually resolved. Articulating position with regard to all the elements of the conflict, perhaps even taking one step further and going to the U.N. Security Council with that, with an outline, blueprints for the resolving the conflict, getting an international consensus with the Europeans, and the Russians, and the Chinese, and everyone endorsing it and perhaps even giving, getting some Arab, major Arab players, to endorse that vision. I doubt very much that the U.S. will do that but this is a suggestion that I think would make a difference, again assuming that on the Israeli side there would be receptivity. If Obama believes that Netanyahu is going to say absolutely not, he will not do it. He is not, I believe, at this point ready to confront Netanyahu in anything. There is the question of succession within the Palestinian Authority. I think Abbas has become too weak and lacking in legitimacy. And I think that the Palestinian side need to consider the question of succession and to work on that. And I think there is a possibility for Abbas to play a constructive role with the succession process. I think it is not going to be easy. It is going to be very, very difficult. The only Palestinian figure today that has the kind of consensus that would be required to endorse a grand design for a peace agreement with Israel is Marwan Barghouti. But he is the most popular Palestinian leader today. And he can win in any elections against any coalition against him including a very strong Hamas would still lose if Barghouti is leading the nationalist camp. And I think in this case any attempt to change the domestic set-up on the Palestinian side must include thinking about the role of Barghouti in that design.
>> Thank you. My name is [inaudible]. I'm a first year Masters candidate here at the Ford School. And we'll use the remainder of our time to take questions from the audience. So both of you touched upon the importance of the regional sphere of analysis in thinking about this conflict so I'm wondering if you can comment on the on the Saudi -- how the Saudi-Iranian rivalry alters the Arab-Israeli conflict moving forward?
>> Well, the short answer is it's complicated. It's complicated because on one hand, as I said, the perception of Iran as a threat provides a common denominator between Israel and some of the most important Sunni Arab countries, especially the countries that are Sunni that are still countries like Egypt, like Saudi Arabia, Jordan. It's complicated however by the fact, by the rise of ISIS. The rise of ISIS complicated things very much because ISIS is also a threat to the very same Sunni Arab countries. But it's also a threat to Iran. And so and -- which makes the whole issue of Syria much more complicated and it also is a complicating factor as far as Israel is concerned because now Israel has two different enemies, threats that are actually fighting one another. And so the maneuvering within this new environment is very complicated. And again, if you were taking what Khalil said accurately that this new regional environment is one that has so far been tolerable for Israel. It's been tolerable for Israel partly because on that realm, in this sphere which is the regional sphere, in contrast to my assessment about where the current policies of Israel is leading, and I, as you could gather from what I said, I don't think that the present policies of my country is leading in a positive direction for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but aside from that, Israel has actually maneuvered, I would say relatively successfully in these very turbulent waters of the region. It actually made very few mistakes. Netanyahu himself has actually made very few mistakes in both dealing with the threats from the Sinai, from the Egyptian direction, and also the threats in Syria. And these threats are very immediate. They are in very close proximity. The Syrian sphere alone in the last four years presented a menu of thousands of options for making monumentally big mistakes. And actually, Israel resisted the temptation to make mistakes and as a result of that is kind of largely stayed out and now it has to face a much more complicated new reality where ISIS presents a much bigger threat side by side with Iran, with a much greater degree of at least political, potentially military and political, involvement of Russia in the story and, and so on and so forth. So that's the reality. The reality is that Iran, on one hand, provides a certain glue, a certain potentially unifying factor in Israeli-Arab relations, Israel's relations with Sunni Arab countries as I mentioned earlier. But for the, I would say for at least in the near and maybe medium term, as long as the region has not found a way to deal with this new phenomenon called ISIS, the calculations of everyone is -- everyone of the central players -- is very, very complicated. And here again, what we see with respect to in a way designing or reconfiguring the region to deal with these new threats, you see once again the absence of an architect. There is no architect. You know, there are pieces of policies but that's not, that' not a strategy and the lack of strategy is because there is a lack of an architect. And so I think for the -- and that feeds into, again, what Khalil said which is, you know, right now the mood therefore is basically risk management. People are not thinking of solving anything. People are thinking of how to manage the risks. And as Khalil indicated correctly, the instinct of the Israeli government right now in the face of all these challenges, of everybody almost fighting everybody, is to hunker down and not do anything that involves the measure of risk. And unfortunately that's also a recipe for paralysis.
>> I don't have much to add to that except just to emphasize that I don't see the Saudi-Iranian conflict providing the kind of opportunity, window of opportunity, for Israel to be integrated in through the region, finding ways to deal with a common threat, and so on. Israel hopes that it can do that, as I said, without having to change its policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians. And at this moment I don't see the Saudis having any kind of leverage on the Israelis to do that. And I think, although the Americans have not been forthcoming for the Saudis, I think the Saudis continue to believe that they can still rely on the Americans rather than the Israelis, and that their relationship with Israel can remain underground, not above ground, and that with that kind of balance they would be able to manage the threat of Iran.
>> If we're looking for, you know, small things to disagree about I actually think that on one count I think Khalil is wrong. I don't think that Netanyahu is, that Netanyahu believes that these countries will come to Israel, as I said, they have come to, closer to Israel at a certain level. But I don't think it's the case that Khalil believes that -- that Netanyahu believes, sorry, that Netanyahu believes that you could have something that resembles more an alliance without Israel paying the entry fee. He's very realistic. So the issue is for -- is not that he is under some kind of illusion that, you know, that the Saudis and the others and so on don't really care and therefore that you could have this kind of alliance without Israel paying a price in what Khalil called the "Palestinian file." I don't think that that's the case. I think Netanyahu was very realistic about it. The problem with Netanyahu is different. The problem with Netanyahu is because of his reading of the Israeli domestic scene he's not willing to pay the entry fee. Not that he believes he can actually have an alliance without paying the entry fee because they will come to him and they'll say, "Oh, this is so important. The threat is so great. We're willing to have an alliance without you paying the entry fee." Is not going to happen. He knows it's not going to happen.
>> Thank you. Next question is: How would you assess the BDS movement, or the emergence of the BDS movement, which stands for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, as a tactical response on the part of Palestinians to the current impasse?
>> It is -- there is no doubt that the among Palestinians there is strong support for boycotting Israeli products. And we will see significant move in that direction next year I believe. The relations, Palestinian-Israeli relations, would be moving very closely to what the BDS movement is currently advocating. Within the circles of Palestinians who advocate a one-state solution there is much greater support, we find, for BDS than among Palestinians who advocate a two-state solution. The one-staters -- who are becoming a major political force in terms of at least their sheer numbers -- almost one-third of the Palestinians today advocate a one-state solution. And BDS is viewed by those as the most effective means. Until recently we now also have violence being added to the list. But there is a belief among the one-staters that a BDS movement, essentially doing what was done in the South African case, would be the most effective means of addressing the one-state reality that they believe is emerging and that is characterized by a great deal of apartheid policies. The two-staters, among Palestinians the two-staters, do not fully buy into that. There is a strong belief that a two-state solution would create two states that would interact with each other. That they would live in peace, security, and cooperation with extensive economic relationship, and with tremendous amount of cross-border relations, and joint ventures, and so on. And therefore the BDS is seen as a tactical tool but is not given a significant -- there isn't belief that it would be effective in addressing the major concerns of the Palestinians. Internationally I doubt very much that the BDS movement will have the kind of clout that happened in the South African case until the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis become similar to the conflict in South Africa. As long as the conflict remains one -- a struggle for independence and sovereignty for Palestinians I think the impact will be much more limited.
>> Thank you. Our next question is regarding recent news there is speculation that Israel may try to change the status quo, vis-a-vis, the Temple Mount. And so the question is, you know, if you can comment on Israel's effort to actually do that and how this affects the escalation of violence or how has it affected the escalation of violence thus far?
>> Well, I would say just two things. Number one, in terms of the rumors it has already affected. The rumors have played a major role in, and also explain why we see much more of the violence in Jerusalem than in the West Bank. Others, other elements have to do with -- . So Khalil mentioned the reaction of the Israeli defense forces and that's another explanation that has to do with that because the Israeli defense forces -- Khalil gave them a very high grades for not making major mistakes -- they're effective in the West Bank. The Israeli defense forces have no impact whatsoever in Jerusalem because Jerusalem is part of Israel and therefore all law enforcement in Jerusalem is done only by the police. And the police is not always as careful and as sophisticated as the defense forces. I think that what we've seen in the last few weeks is that Netanyahu understands the Israeli government and -- put it this way, Netanyahu, as Prime Minister, understands the toxic potential of any rumors that Israel intends to change the status quo in Jerusalem and has made every effort to, in the last two weeks, to send all the signals possible that Israel has no intention in changing the status quo. However, he has a problem. And the problem is that there are, that he relies on a very, very, very, very narrow coalition. He's not been willing, as Khalil explained, to take the risks that are involved in changing the nature of this coalition. He could. There are parties that are right now in opposition that would be willing to join the government if Netanyahu is willing to commit to change direction of policy towards, and accommodation with the Palestinians. None of these parties can afford, especially not the [inaudible], especially not labor, they cannot afford to join the government without a change in the direction of the policy. Netanyahu is afraid that they will double-cross him. But the reality is that because of that, because of his very, very narrow right-wing coalition every minister in this government believes that he can formulate policy and the result of that is that some ministers and some deputy ministers have said all kinds of things that have given some credence to this rumor that Israel is about to change the status quo in Jerusalem. And he's battling this but, again, is constrained by the domestic composition of Israeli politics at the moment.
>> Thank you. It looks like we have time for one more brief question. And so for the final question we'll focus in on Gaza. And the question is: Given that Hamas, Hamas has acted as an antagonist at various times to both Israel and the PA, can a peace agreement happen so long as Hamas controls Gaza?
>> The answer is of course, yes, you can have a peace agreement and Hamas will probably oppose it. And, might in fact, also use violence to try and sabotage any effort to reach one and if one is reached, to sabotage the implementation. However, if the peace agreement is accompanied by steps along the line of what I described, such as efforts to reconcile Fatah and Hamas, such as the reunification of the West Bank and Gaza, and the reintegration of Hamas into the Palestinian political process. I think this would go a long way in mitigating the consequences of such dynamics that I described earlier.
>> I would just add to that that the whole Israeli attitude towards Hamas and Gaza is another indication of how, just how more complicated this region has become because actually I think there is a majority of opinion today in the Israeli defense community that Israel shouldn't resist anything that would threaten Hamas's ability to continue to control Gaza because the Israeli -- there is a very strong view in the Israeli defense community that all the alternatives to Hamas in Gaza are worse. And that creates a limitation also in terms of how you deal with Hamas. So in a way that's another component of the so-called status quo that Khalil mentioned. I mean I personally have an aversion to the use of the word status quo because nothing is status in the Middle East. But it is true that Hamas is a component of, in this larger equation, is -- and you see this complicating factor because right now who would have believed that you would have a situation where you'd have an Egyptian government and leadership that has a more, let's say more negative and less pragmatic views with respect to Hamas than Israel. So all I can say is welcome to the new Middle East.
>> On that note, we've run out of time but I'd like everybody to join me in thanking Dr. Shikaki and Dr. Feldman for sharing their insights and expertise.