Special Virtual Issue: Palestine in the Transition
Table of Contents
Transcript: 2016 IPS-USA Panel Proceedings
14 October 2016
The 2016 U.S. Presidential Campaign: Changing Discourse on Palestine
Journal of Palestine Studies 46, no. 1 (Autumn 2016), pp. 34–49
Obama’s Legacy on Israel/Palestine
Journal of Palestine Studies 46, no. 1 (Autumn 2016), pp. 50–64
The Ownership of the U.S. Embassy Site in Jerusalem
Journal of Palestine Studies 29, no. 4 (Autumn 2000), pp. 80–101
IPS Statement on Relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem
14 December 2016
The IPS-USA annual panel took place on October 14 and was moderated by Rashid Khalidi, editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies. It featured panelists Tareq Baconi, visiting scholar at Columbia University’s Middle East Institute; Toby Jones, associate professor of history at Rutgers University; Bassam Haddad, director of the Middle East Studies Program at George Mason University; and IPS Senior Fellow Mouin Rabbani.
The question “Does anyone still care about Palestine?” was particularly timely, not only because of Secretary of State John Kerry’s recently failed effort to revive Israeli-Palestinian talks, but in light of the rapidly changing geopolitical landscape in the Middle East, and the likely implications of policy changes by the upcoming U.S. administration.
Baconi made the case that Israel’s recent gas finds in the Eastern Mediterranean highlight the demotion of the question of Palestine in regional and international affairs in two intertwined contexts: the United States’ promotion of economic peace; and the growing energy demands of Israel’s neighbors, such as Jordan. Ultimately, he argued, while economic peace may provide some benefits, albeit at the risk of further reducing interest in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict head-on, it could never replace the Palestinian call for sovereignty and independence.
Jones assessed the role of Saudi Arabia, highlighting the extent to which the kingdom is no longer “performing a commitment” to Palestine, as he put it, after having done so throughout the second half of the last century when it was politically convenient to do so. In his words, “There has been no more enthusiastic abandonment of the Palestinian cause than by Saudi Arabia.” With its growing anxiety about Iran’s influence, Saudi Arabia is now gravitating towards Israel, making Palestine “an easy sacrifice,” he concluded.
Haddad examined the impact of the Syrian conflict on Israel-Palestine and argued that while the question of Palestine has not come to the fore in the Syrian case, it is likely to be of critical concern to all regional and international actors as exit formulas from the Syrian crisis begin to take shape.
Rabbani wrapped up the conversation with an historical look at the panel’s central question, and concluded that Palestinians have retained the capacity to keep Palestine important throughout repeated crises. “We’ve been here before,” he said, pointing to the Palestinian experience in Lebanon during the early 1980s and the subsequent events culminating in the First Intifada. As much is true today, he added, to the extent that Palestinians will be able to achieve a unified voice.
In her essay, Phyllis Bennis examines shifts in American public interest in Palestine during the 2016 presidential campaign. She finds that demographic segments of growing importance, especially within the Democratic Party, are becoming more critical of Israeli policies and more sympathetic to Palestinian claims. In assessing Obama’s legacy, Josh Ruebner similarly concludes that the incoming administration will have to confront the demise of any realistic hope for a two-state solution and learn to navigate a growing movement in support of Palestinian rights within significant sectors of the American electorate.
Finally, as alarm grows regarding President-Elect Trump’s intent to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, this issue features a special report by renowned historian Walid Khalidi on the ownership of the proposed embassy site in Jerusalem. Khalidi demonstrates that the site being considered for the embassy relocation is private property seized from Palestinian owners, including the waqf property of several families. He points out that such a move would violate U.S. and international law, and would gravely undermine the American role in the Middle East, especially since it contradicts and repudiates the commitments and assurances of all previous U.S. administrations since 1967.