US President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat are shown here at Camp David in the US in July 2000. Photo: Stephen Jaffe/AFP/Getty Images.
US President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat are shown here at Camp David in the US in July 2000. Photo: Stephen Jaffe/AFP/Getty Images.
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Summary

  • A quarter of a century ago, the Palestinians gained acceptance as an independent negotiating partner with Israel. The Oslo process, which secured that acceptance, did not bring about a permanent settlement of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. It was followed by numerous further attempts, including the Camp David negotiations in 2000, the Abbas–Olmert talks of 2007–08 and the Kerry initiative of 2013–14. These efforts have employed several different approaches and have involved varying degrees of engagement on the part of the international community.
  • The purpose of this paper is to examine these endeavours and identify lessons that would be useful for those intending to try again. Some of these lessons concern leadership. For peace efforts to have a chance of succeeding, the experience of the past 25 years suggests that leaders on both sides must not only engage directly with one another but also show a combination of boldness, commitment to peace and fine political judgment. For their part, Israeli leaders must recognize that the conflict with the Palestinians cannot be wished away.
  • Other lessons concern the way in which a peace process is structured, in particular the vulnerability of an incremental approach. Trying to resolve the conflict in one go could be more productive.
  • An examination of past endeavours also clearly shows that the involvement of the international community is a necessary (albeit insufficient) condition for success in any peace process. The Arab states have a particular role to play in this regard: the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 retains its potential but requires more energetic promotion if this potential is to be realized.