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Palestine - lots of talking but little listening

By David Singer - posted Thursday, 11 March 2010

A bombshell was lobbed into an International Meeting in support of Israeli- Palestinian Peace organised by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean Union (PAM) and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) of the United Nations in Malta on February 12 and 13, 2010.

Yet the explosion passed over the heads of those present without scarcely a ripple.

The meeting was attended by a number of Member delegations of PAM, parliamentarians from other national and regional assemblies, government officials, experts including Israeli and Palestinians, UN Member States and observers, intergovernmental and civil society organisations. In all there were 35 countries, 13 Inter-Governmental Organisations, 14 Civil Society Organisations and Academic Institutions, totalling around 200 participants.


Israel Parliamentarians were not officially represented at the Conference. The two members of the Israeli Knesset were reported by the Malta Times to have pulled out of the conference after they objected to comments by Palestinian officials about the situation in Gaza and the building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The bombshell nevertheless was delivered by one of the two Israelis present at the conference - Dr Alon Liel.

Described in the official transcript of the proceedings (PDF 355KB) as “Lecturer of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem” Dr Liel told the Conference (as recorded in the transcript):

… he was not representing the Israeli Government, adding that, unfortunately, there was no member of the Israeli Government at the present Meeting. He said that many in Israel felt that the peace process had crashed to the extent that the two-State solution looked impossible at the moment, adding, “You need an unbelievable earthquake, 8 on the Richter scale, on the political map of Israel, to bridge the gap between Israel and the Palestinians”. The talks between Palestinians and Mr Olmert were over. Even if the Americans managed to arrange proximity talks and enter a hotel and sit in one room, with the existing political map in Israel, “the gap is unbridgeable”. He acknowledged that with a broken heart, but did not see the possibility of a Palestinian State being created in the foreseeable future. And he was not even speaking of Jerusalem or refugees, but about borders only, he said.

Dr Liel’s modest qualifications as recorded in the transcript belied his extensive diplomatic experience and public service which includes:

  • November 2000 - April 2001: Director General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
  • 1997-1999: Foreign Affairs advisor to Ehud Barak, Chairman of the Labor Party;
  • 1992-94: Israeli Ambassador to South Africa (Non-resident Ambassador to Mozambique and Zimbabwe);
  • 1990-1992: Consul General of Israel to the Southeastern United States (based in Atlanta, Georgia);
  • 1988-1989: Foreign Ministry Spokesman; Member of Israeli delegation to the United Nations General Assembly; Member of the Israeli negotiating team at the Taba talks with Egypt;President of the Israel-Syria Peace Society.

Only two people present at the Conference seemed to have absorbed the import of Dr Liel’s statement.

One - a representative from Tunis - said he had been optimistic at the start of the Meeting, but he was very pessimistic now after having listened to Dr Liel.

The other was the Palestine Authority’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who was reported as saying:

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About the Author

David Singer is an Australian Lawyer, a Foundation Member of the International Analyst Network and Convenor of Jordan is Palestine International - an organisation calling for sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza to be allocated between Israel and Jordan as the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine. Previous articles written by him can be found at

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