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Ambassador Hassassian at Clare Politics Society, University of Cambridge

March 2, 2016, midnight

3rd February 2016

Last night, Ambassador Manuel Hassassian was the guest of Clare College Cambridge invited to speak by Clare Politics Society. He talked about the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the new era of the one-state reality as the possibility of a two-state solution is fading fast due to Israel’s continued colonization of Palestinian land.

The large student audience were eager to hear what the Ambassador thought of the current turmoil in occupied Palestine and were thoroughly engaged by what the Ambassador had to say about the situation as a diplomat and an academic.

At the beginning of his speech, the Ambassador reminded his audience that this coming May will see the centenary of the Sykes-Picot Agreement between Britain and France which carved up the Arab world between them, paving the way for the Balfour Declaration which led to the dispossession of the Palestinian people and will see its own centenary next year. Next year will also be the fiftieth anniversary of the Israel’s 1967 war by way of which it seized the rest of historic Palestine. H.E. said that although these were unpleasant anniversaries for the Palestinians, they create an opportunity to take stock of what is happening now in Palestine.

The Ambassador tried to give an overview of the many factors which have led to the current tragic situation for Palestinians and the current political stalemate. He talked about Netanyahu’s intransigent policies and the relentless settlement building and annexation of Palestinian land which amounted to apartheid and ethnic cleansing. As Israel grabs more and more land, the prospect of a two state solution are dwindling fast because, quite simply, there will be no land left for an independent Palestinian state. If only a one state reality is possible, what will this be like? For Israel, this will be a state where the Palestinians will be fragmented, encircled and controlled in a system of apartheid.

There seems to be real concern among the international community that something must be done, that this is a pivotal time. The French have put forward the idea of an International Peace Conference. The current UK Government have recently stated again that the settlements are an impediment to peace and only last week PM Cameron referred to the ‘shocking’ encirclement of ‘occupied East Jerusalem’ by settlements. Yet, Britain and the rest of Europe are not putting pressure on Israel to make peace and to stop their expansionist policies. Only today, the Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, who lives on an illegal settlement near Bethlehem, was a guest speaker at Parliament.

There is very little the Palestinian leadership can do in the face of this. They have done their best, since they obtained observer member status at the United Nation, to procure ascension to internal bodies and agreements and raise their case, as they have done with the international criminal court.

The Palestinian people themselves are facing a time of deep despair. What is happening now is a spontaneous revolt of Palestinian youth which is not being orchestrated by the Palestinian leadership nor any factions. It is quite simply, young people going out and resisting the occupation in any way they can because they have no hope, because they do not have jobs, because the economic conditions are worsening by the day and they see that no one is doing anything to protect them or give them even a prospect of a better future.

The Ambassador concluded that all he had spoken about must also be seen in context of the chaos raging in the whole Middle East. Even though, the failure to resolve the Palestinian question is just one factor contributing to the unfolding tragedy in the area, security in the entire region cannot be restored without a just peace for the Palestinians.

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