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ICSR Atkin Conference Second Morning Panel: “Answering Israel’s Security Needs – Practical Solutions”

The second panel of the morning, ‘Answering Israel’s Security Needs: Practical Solutions’ was chaired by ICSR’s Co-Director Dr. John Bew. The panel included:

  • Brigadier General (ret.) Shlomo Brom – Director of the Programme on Israel-Palestine at the Institute for National Security Studies
  • Efraim Halevy – Former director of Mossad and Israeli Ambassador to the European Union
  • Dr. Ron Pundak – Director of the Peres Centre for Peace and a member of the official Israeli negotiating team during the Oslo negotiations
  • Brigadier General (ret.) Baruch Spiegel – Advisor tot eh Directory of the Board at the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic Dialogue and former senior advisor to the Israeli Minster of Defense

Dr. Pundak began by saying that he believed Israel and Israelis to be very preoccupied with notions surrounding the destruction of their country, and that this needed to change. He believed that eventually a lasting peace could be achieved, and this would ensure Israel’s security. Dr. Pundak also noted that Syria is a key player in the peace process and that there role was ‘pivotal’.

Shlomo Brom agreed that peace brings security, but also noted that security assessments must always be pessimistic, and Israeli’s must plan for two possible negative outcomes: the possibility of the establishment of a hostile Palestinian state; and the possibility that it may become a failed state on Israel’s borders. The only solution to preventing this, according to Brom, was to ensure a demilitarised Palestinian state. He finished by making two broad points: the last ten years have seen an increase in mutual mistrust between Israeli’s and Palestinians; and a two-state solution must be a ‘phased process’.

Spiegel warned that although peace is ‘an asset’ for security, without proper security peace is ‘impossible’. He suggested a bottom up approach whereby a guarantee of Israeli security, through the use of systems like the separation barrier, would help Israelis feel safe enough to think seriously about a lasting solution. The good relationship between Israeli authorities and Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, will, Spiegel noted, be a very important factor in any future peace agreement

Efraim Halevy concluded the panel discussion by asking what the current capabilities of the Palestinians were. He said that, thus far, the Palestinian Authority has not demonstrated very good political capabilities and has failed to create a working political system and structure. This, Mr. Halevy warned, left open the possibility that any future state could be taken over by extremists and be used as a launching pad to attack Israel again.