UK Minister of State Bill Rammell MP addresses a crowd at the Alumni Center. Photo by Craig Bailey
May 6, 2009
U.K. Minister of State Bill Rammell MP struck an optimistic note during a talk last night on peace prospects between Palestinians and Israelis. The talk took place at Northeastern's Alumni Center at Columbus Place and was attended by about 60 people.
Citing the change in leadership at the White House and a new political landscape in the Middle East, Rammell said the times are right to foster a compromise between the two sides. He suggested a two-state compromise in the Gaza Strip that could help forge a peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians.
“We need to get this process started,” Rammell said. “We need to give the moderates something to vote for in upcoming Palestinian elections. I can’t tell you how important it is to grasp for that chance at peace now.”
Rammell warned that the conflict would continue to poison global politics if a compromise with the Gaza Strip cannot be found. He noted, “Israel can’t wait until the offer is perfect. That day will never come.”
Acknowledging those who say peaceful coexistence is unlikely, Rammell cited the successes of peace accords in Northern Ireland, and other “sea changes,” such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of apartheid in South Africa.
“People didn’t think those things were possible either. We need to hang onto those successes,” Rammell said, adding that compromise comes when those holding extreme views meet in the middle on solutions.
“One of the lessons I learned with Northern Ireland is that really big compromises come once you are in negotiations,” he said. “You won’t get the transformative changes up front.”
With Palestinian elections expected before the end of the year, the issue of statehood needs to be placed on the table, he said. “The risk, otherwise, is that they will vote for resistance.”
Rammell was elected to Parliament in 1997. As minister of state, he serves on behalf of the British government on issues including the Middle East, Iran, counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation, and counter-narcotics. He is also engaged with relations in the United States.
Rammell was the guest of Northeastern’s International Affairs Program and its Middle East Center for Peace, Culture, and Development. He commended President Aoun for “putting Northeastern squarely on the international map,” and for facilitating discussions about world issues that extend far beyond Columbus Place.
“I know in my bones that to get the peace we’re looking for, it will require a role for your country,” he said.