By Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub, published in the Guardian July 13, 2015
"Israelis want a lasting peace with the Palestinians, but are sceptical about the possibility of realising such a peace"
This month I return to Israel after four years as its Ambassador in the UK. I’ve been privileged to witness an extraordinary expansion in our bilateral cooperation, and I’ve also had many conversations about Israel and the prospects for peace. One troubling and recurrent theme has been that the main thing Britain can do to promote peace in the Middle East is to exert pressure on Israel.
On hearing this, I am reminded of the fable of the north wind and the sun. In their competition, the north wind fails to blow the cloak off a passing traveller no matter how hard it blows; yet the sun succeeds, by warming the traveller’s surroundings, and encouraging him to take off the cloak himself.
Recent years have yielded no shortage of wind. Resolutions and boycott campaigns have all attempted to force Israel’s hand. Yet the response by Israel’s people has been emphatic: twice re-electing the government these efforts have sought to censure.
Standard-bearers for the pressure camp routinely claim that a conciliatory approach only reinforces the status quo. But in fact, the Israeli people’s boldest steps towards peace have taken place when the international community has been most receptive to their concerns.
Israel’s historic peace treaty with Egypt was made possible by US guarantees on security and continued oil supply. Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon was premised on the UN’s commitment to deploy peacekeeping forces in the area and prevent terrorist aggression against Israel by Hezbollah. Its disengagement from Gaza followed international assurances that Hamas and other terror groups would be prevented from gaining access to arms via the Sinai.
If progress towards peace has stalled, it is not because the Israeli people have lost the will to make bold decisions. Polls consistently show a majority want a lasting peace with the Palestinians.
Yet those same polls show Israelis are also sceptical about the possibility of realising such a peace. In part this scepticism relates to the ability of the international community to live up to its assurances... Read more