“When I see Obama, I will tell him: one good speech is not enough to get a Nobel Peace Prize.” Martti Ahtisaari Following high-level meetings in Washington and London, the Elders held a public debate on the future of the two-state solution. Welcoming John Kerry’s efforts to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, they called for full support from both the US President and the international community.
After visiting Washington DC earlier this week, Martti Ahtisaari, Lakhdar Brahimi and Jimmy Carter were in London yesterday for further high-level meetings with government officials and policy experts on Middle East peace efforts.
Following a meeting with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, the three Elders spoke at a crowded Chatham House event on the theme: ‘Can the two-state solution be saved?’
Much of the discussion centred on current efforts by US Secretary of State John Kerry – whom the Elders met on Monday – to bring Israelis and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. The Elders praised Kerry’s determination and urged the international community to get behind him:
Both Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan Rice assured the Elders on Monday that President Obama fully supports “what might be the last chance to bring peace to Israel,” Jimmy Carter told the audience.
Responding to a question about whether the United States still in fact has leverage on the issue, Martti Ahtisaari said that Kerry’s efforts are “the only show in town”, urging Obama to live up to his Nobel prize and show strong leadership:
Marti Ahtisaari says Obama needs to act on Isr/Pal: "One good speech is not enough to win a Nobel peace prize" #CHEvents— Jonathan Freedland (@Freedland) July 24, 2013
The Elders also discussed the need for Palestinian reconciliation, while acknowledging the catch-22 faced by both parties – if Fatah forms a unity government with Hamas, it will face economic sanctions for associating with a group designated a terrorist organisation by the US and European Union.
For Martti Ahtisaari, isolating Hamas is counterproductive. “You have to talk to everybody if you want to find a solution,” he said. “Those who in past conflicts have been branded as terrorists are now serving as peace negotiators.”
However, having met with senior Hamas figures on many occasions with both The Carter Center and The Elders, Jimmy Carter assured the audience that this disunity should not preclude a peace agreement:
Jimmy Carter @ChathamHouse - Hamas told me that they would accept Fatah-Israel deal providing it is approved in a Palestinian referendum— Robin Niblett (@RobinNiblett) July 24, 2013
The discussion also touched on the role of the wider Arab region and Iran, Israel’s leadership, the Palestinian right to return, and more.
You can read the transcript of the main discussion, listen to the audio, or watch the video below. An audio recording of the Elders' Q&A with the audience is also available to Chatham House members.