The two-state solution remains an attractive option for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. This question was the subject of the second speakers’ panel at the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation’s (HCEF) 10th International Conference.

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On October 25, 2008. The panel was moderated by the President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, retired U.S. Ambassador Philip C. Wilcox, Jr., and featured Ori Nir, the spokesperson for the Jewish American group Americans for Peace Now, and Dr. Ziad Asali, President of the American Task Force for Palestine.

HCEF brought the two leaders together not only for their keen expertise on the political issues, but as an act of granting representatives of Israeli and Palestinian views a common podium, and a forum for reconciliation and dialogue.

A former journalist with the Israeli daily Haaretz, Nir led the discussion by outlining the hopes and challenges surrounding the two-state solution. Delivering a PowerPoint Presentation, he cited as encouraging dynamics the 1) ongoing negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, and between Israel and Syria; 2) the “albeit slow” economic improvement in the West Bank; 3) the improved security situation and cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian forces in the West Bank; 4) improved Palestinian governance under Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad; 5) the Israeli Kadima-led political coalition “that may be short lived, but looks at least willing at the moment”; 6) two U.S. Presidential candidates committed to peace, “at least on paper”; 7) and the Hamas-Fatah negotiations under Egyptian auspices.

Israeli-American speaker Ori Nir


Conversely, Nir outlined several “discouraging dynamics”: 1) the situation on the ground with Israeli settlements, outposts and roadblocks; 2) the situation in Gaza; 2) the leadership crisis on the Israeli side; 3) “and perhaps, but hopefully not, on the Palestinian side as well”, and 4) the problem of Israeli public opinion. Commenting on the latter, Nir said, “What we have in Israel is a temporary victory of the status quo… despite the negotiations, you have on the ground a festering yet manageable conflict, a paralyzed government on the Israeli side… and a public that is indifferent.”

Palestinian-American speaker Dr. Ziad Asali


Picking up on one of Nir’s key points, Asali began by saying, “Let me start out with a very problematic concept called the status quo…. The status quo is actually a disaster of every kind visited upon the Palestinians. It’s basically a continuation of occupation with all that it entails… If you cannot deliver, you are promoting the status quo – I do want that point to be remembered.”

Before turning to a robust question and answer period, Asali concluded his talk by saying “This brings us to what we can do here as American citizens and as members of a power structure that still is the only power structure standing in the world… the United States is not an honest broker, and has not been for a long time… The national interest of the United States is to have a state of Palestine alongside Israel… But the second thing that the United States has, is that it actually can [bring about a two-state solution]. It is the only party that has the kind of relation with Israel and with the Palestinians that would qualify it not just to facilitate, to help implement [the two-state solution]. This is what we need of the next U.S. President.”

(Left to right) Palestinian-American speaker Dr. Ziad Asali; Retired U.S. Ambassador Philip C. Wilcox, Jr.; Israeli-American speaker Ori Nir