Video from the 2013 Palestine Center Annual Conference. Ali Abunimah and William Quandt, professor of politics at the University of Virginia, discussed the “peace process” and alternatives to it, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and the growing attention to the “one-state solution.”

Quandt served as a staff member on the National Security Council (1972-1974, 1977-1979) and was actively involved in the negotiations that led to the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty.

With regard to the current US-sponsored peace talks, we were asked to address whether the US would and could successfully propose a peace plan of its own.

“I can’t imagine that Secretary [of State John] Kerry has invested as much time and energy as he has unless he has in the back of his mind that at some point in the near future, the United States will put forward some kind of bridging proposals,” Quandt said.

Such proposals would most likely resemble the “Clinton parameters” for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territories Israel occupied in 1967.

Such proposals usually include an extremely limited right of return for refugees and Israeli annexation of large settlement blocs.

Quandt stressed that despite well-justified doubts and past experience, there was no other party that could do this other than the United States.

I argued that this approach was far past working, regardless of one’s views on the two-state solution.

While the Palestinian Authority would “eagerly grab at a few shreds of the West Bank and call it a state if the Israelis would offer it to them,” there was no prospect of this, I said.

“The Israelis are not looking for a deal along the 1967 lines or anything close to the 1967 lines,” I added. “Israel isn’t interested in borders. Israel is interested in expansion.”

Paraphrasing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dictum on Iran-US negotiations that “no deal is better than a bad deal,” I affirmed that:

for the Palestinians, no deal with Israel is better than a bad deal, because a bad deal would irrevocably cancel Palestinian rights. And now, the only thing protecting Palestinians from a bad deal is Israel’s intransigence.

I also noted – in a point Khalil elaborated on later drawing on his deep knowledge of US diplomatic history – that tensions between the United States and Israel over Iran would not necessarily translate into gains for Palestinians.

Rather, the US would most likely seek to appease Israeli anger with further indulgence as Israel colonizes more of the West Bank.

Quandt warned that the alternative to a diplomatic solution would be continued stagnation as Israel builds settlements. The question of Palestine could be relegated to a category which includes the Cyprus and Kashmir conflicts – intractable issues that attract few serious efforts aimed at resolving them.


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Ali Abunimah is the author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli Palestinian Impasse (2006), and co-founder and director of the widely...
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