Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 37 - 39)



  Q37  Chairman: Mr Mekelberg and Dr Khalidi, we are very pleased to see you. What I would like to do would be to ask you if you would like to introduce yourselves, just briefly, to the Committee and if you have brief, initial statements, if you would make those before we go on with our questions: Mr Mekelberg?

  Mr Mekelberg: Yossi Mekelberg. I am Associate Fellow at Chatham House on the Middle East Programme and I am also, with my students here, Head of the International Relations Department at Regent's College.

  Q38  Chairman: Have you got a short statement you would like to make or would you like to go straight to the questions?

  Mr Mekelberg: I think, straight to the questions.

  Q39  Chairman: Dr Khalidi?

  Dr Khalidi: I am Ahmad Khalidi. I am a Palestinian from an old Jerusalemite family. I am a Senior Associate Member at St Antony's College, Oxford. I live and work in this country. I have been active in Palestinian peace-making and writing and observing the Middle East for three and a half decades. I would like to make a short statement, if I may. Surveying the wreckage of the Middle East as it is today, based on my 35 years of experience of the Middle East, there are three points I would like to highlight today. The first has to do with the use of force. Force, as we know, is a very blunt instrument, to use a cliché; nonetheless, it is true that, particularly in the Middle East, the use of force in many guises has been very counterproductive. Force is blunt, and in the case of the Arab-Israeli conflict, as demonstrated by the war in the Lebanon in the summer, I think the Israeli use of excessive force has only demonstrated to us how, rather than being instrumental, this is counterproductive and elicits a response which is based on revenge and retaliation. The second element which has to do with force is that when it comes from an external power and tries to reshape the region almost invariably it fails; we have the example of Afghanistan and Iraq. Force, and particularly when it is used by the West, is seen to be biased, pro-Israeli, self-serving and, in the case of the United States, oil-seeking. To cast a pearl of wisdom in your direction, My Lord Chairman, force gets you many places but nowhere ain't one of them. Very often you end up using force and finding yourself in a position which really you did not want to be in. The second point I would like to make has to do with the politics of exclusion. In the Middle East there are natural forces, forces of nationalism, Islamism, local regionalism, pan-Arabism, but they are part of the natural fabric of the area. If you are trying to exclude these forces from the political process, if you try to crush them, if indeed you try to use force against them, you will not succeed; they have to be incorporated into the process. You need to engage, contain and then constrain these forces; these are the fundamentals of dealing with the area and avoiding the politics of exclusion. Finally, on the issue of peace-making, we have potentially, and I will get back to this later, an alignment of forces that just might be opening up for a new attempt at peace-making in the area. My pearl of wisdom here is that unless the outside world is determined to help and determined to make this succeed it is better not to try than to try and fail, it is better not to try at all than to try and fail again. We saw the cost of failure in 2000; another failure this time would have an even higher cost. Unless the international community is really determined, including of course the United States and the EU, to bring about an effective peace process which ends this conflict, it is better, in my opinion, to scale down the prospects of the peace process rather than enlarge them, because failure has a very, very high cost.

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