London, October 17, 2011—OneVoice event brought Rt. Hon. David Miliband MP and Senator George Mitchell for a conversation on the Israel-Palestine conflict at London’s Chatham House on Monday.
Quotes from the event:
Sen. George Mitchell: Almost every Arab leader I know now would gladly accept the partition plan that was rejected in 1948 because the reality is that the offers made since then are fewer and less attractive. And I said to President Abbas and I said to Chairman Arafat many times—there is not a single shred of evidence that you can cite to me to suggest that the longer you wait, the offers are going to get better; they’re not. The 1948 partition plan is not now on the table and never again will be. So in my judgment, what they've got to do is to sit down and negotiate and get a deal that creates a state, and builds on it and that will resolve the settlements issue. Then they’ll know what’s Israel and what’s Palestine and anybody can build what they want in their own country. But the longer this goes on, the less optimistic one must be because the opportunities for both are going to decline. So for both sides, the answer is get in a room, sit down, and negotiate an agreement that will be less than 100 percent of what each wants, but much better than the alternative for both.
Rt. Hon. David Miliband: I think for the first time in a long time, the Palestinians have got some good tactics, but the tactics are not the same as a good strategy and let me explain why. I think it’s a plausible case that if the Palestinians hadn't pursued their UN process, we wouldn't even be talking about two-state solution here. We've got our hands full with the Arab Spring, economic melt-down around the world, and I think the Palestinian judgment in the first quarter of this year was we are going to get left out of this global conversation completely. In September 2010, President Obama said, ‘I look forward in a year’s time to having a Palestinian state at the UN,’ and they looked at this and thought we’re just not even going to be part of the conversation. And so I think it’s been a smart tactic to go to the UN, to mobilize opinion, to raise their concerns. But they've been wrong-footed by the allegation that going to the UN is somehow an alternative to a negotiating track.
Rt. Hon. David Miliband: Given the overwhelming international consensus, it is striking how little that is brought to bear on the feelings of the two parties. And so I would be very supportive of trying to think hard about how do you internationalize the effort as well as regionalize the solution. And I don’t think that’s an anti-American thing to say, I think it’s a recognition of the reality of America’s role in the world and the other pressures on it. Now that’s especially the case, given that history isn’t going to stop for the next 14 months while America decides who its next President is going to be. The Quartet is one nod towards internationalization, but of course it doesn't have an Arab partner of a serious kind.
Sen. George Mitchell: One reason why I think OneVoice is so valuable is that they are one, a very large one, but one of many organizations who are committed to it, and there are some extremely impressive and moving individuals and organizations working at the grassroots level in very difficult circumstances between Israelis and Palestinians helping each other, seeing each other in human terms, not as the ‘other’ or ‘them,’ which I think is essential to make peace. Diplomats and statesmen and elected officials or appointed officials can make peace, but it takes hold only in the hearts and minds of the people. And it’s essential that whatever happens here have enough endurance that at the first setback, which there are bound to be many, it doesn’t fall apart, and that comes only from the people.
WATCH: Sen. George Mitchell on BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show