The Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy welcomed former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin as the speaker of this year’s Issam M. Fares Lecture. Villepin spoke on the prompt, “Can we still save the two-state solution?”
Addressing close to 200 people in Cohen Auditorium, Villepin advocated for increased global cooperation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and argued that recent transformations in the region provide a new context for thinking about future developments.
After introductions from University President Anthony Monaco, Dean of the Fletcher School James Stavridis and Fares Fares (LA ’92), son of Fares Center founder Issam Fares, Villepin began his discussion by providing context for the current situation in Israel-Palestine.
Villepin noted that, after 70 years, there is no clear solution in a situation fraught with historical and symbolic tensions. He views the ongoing conflict as a failure on the part of the international community, most prominently the United Nations. He also articulated that, consequently, the two-state solution is currently not viable.
Following this introductory overview, Villepin claimed that the situation is also seemingly unsolvable because other scenarios such as the one-state solution and the annexation of the West Bank by Jordan and Gaza by Egypt are improbable.
Villepin also said that complete Israeli annexation of the Palestinian Territories would lead to undesirable results. He noted that a state in which both Israelis and Palestinians live, but in which Palestinians lack equal rights, is not sustainable.
“History teaches us that there is no lasting way to impose apartheid. Whether in South Africa, whether here in the U.S. or in [French Algeria], it has become clear that that is not an option,” Villepin said.
In the midst of bleak prospects and a lack of solutions in the status quo, Villepin argued that we should focus on recent changes in the Middle East, such as the emergence of other conflicts, divisions, increasing economic prominence and modernization, when thinking about the future of the two-state solution and the peace process.
“Although the Israeli-Palestinian conflict used to be center-stage, it is not so much anymore, as it is now one of many others in the region … With new divisions emerging in the region, I think it is in the interest of all parties to find new agreements on the peace process,” Villepin told the Daily in an interview.
In light of these transformations, Villepin then discussed the severe risks that result from the acceleration of new conflicts and changes across the Middle East, referencing the Iran nuclear deal and the volatile situations in Iraq and Syria.
To avoid these pressure points, Villepin believes that leaders must avoid what he calls “diplomatic temptations.”
“I believe that our duty is to avoid war at all costs, and to do that we must avoid diplomatic temptations, particularly the temptation of the blame game prevalent in the Jared Kushner-led Middle East plan,” Villepin noted.
To conclude his lecture, Villepin argued that it is important to resist the status quo and start thinking of new ways to mitigate the situation in Israel-Palestine and rethink the prospect of the two-state solution.
“To go ahead, we need new tools. There is a need for a structure, a new process of dialogue where Israel-Palestine would only be one part. I believe in a more global and integrated process,” Villepin said.
After the main portion of the lecture, Stavridis and Villepin discussed the parallels between the situation of the Middle East with that in Europe, the roles China and Russia might play in the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other topics.
When asked in an interview about the impact Villepin hopes the lecture will have on the Tufts students and community as a whole, Villepin mentioned that he hopes students will “raise the good questions” when engaging this topic because, according to him, in the study of international relations, questions are more important than answers.
“Of course, each one of us has his or her own beliefs and understanding of who should take advantage. But at the end of the day, we need to compromise,” Villepin told the Daily. “And if you are asking the good questions, you will more easily find the common ground to make progress.”