British ambassador to Israel: Peace is 'decades, even centuries away'


Peace in the Middle East is unlikely to happen for “decades, even centuries” according to Britain's ambassador to Israel.
David Quarrey said that despite pushing Israel and the Palestinians to work towards a peace agreement, the situation was at its worst, with no signs of improvements.

Speaking to British delegates from the Women's International Zionist Organization (WIZO), who were on a trip to Israel to see co-existence projects in the region, he said: “Unfortunately it [peace] is going from a really difficult situation, to even worse.

“But I still think it is important to keep trying as it is not good for Israel, or Palestinians, or indeed Britain, for things to be as stuck as they are at the moment.

“It is a bad situation and it is certainly not getting any better.”

The Foreign Office veteran said that he agreed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: there is potential to work with countries such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, to help fight extremism.

The Middle East is not going to be at peace for decades maybe centuries

However, Mr Quarrey said: “Where I disagree with him [Netanyahu] , is I don’t think Israel will be able to do that unless there is some real progress for the Palestinians.

“Whatever the King of Saudi Arabia thinks, the people there won’t buy it if they think the Palestinians are being side-lined.”

"Even if that is the only reason to do it. The Middle East is not going to be at peace for decades maybe centuries."

Mr Quarrey, who was previously a private secretary to Tony Blair during the Labour leader's time as Prime Minister, told the group of 14 delegates: “I think people are generally very pessimistic about the chances for peace.

“The most interesting meeting I’ve had in my role here was with members of the Northern Irish Assembly.

“The group was a mix of Ulster Unionists, Democratic Unionists and Sinn Féin, and they had all these war stories about whose relative had been killed by whom."

“They went on a trip round the territories, meeting everyone, and I gave them what I thought was a downbeat briefing and they said to me ‘you are the most enthusiastic person we have met all week.’

“They said in their view, neither population, Israeli or Palestinian, were anywhere near where they needed to be to make the compromises.”

The ambassador added “the occupation” was stopping positive stories about Israel and its diversity appearing in the media.

He said: “I think the story has changed with the occupation. I do think the thing underlying a lot of the coverage in the UK is the feeling that Israel has gone from being the underdog to the aggressor.

“It has affected the way a lot of people in the UK and international community perceive Israel and that is great shame.

“Until that [the occupation] changes, it just drowns out the amazing stories that Israel has to tell."

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