ORG Evidence on UK Policy Towards the Middle East Peace Process Emily Richardson 27 May 2017 Oxford Research Group (ORG) recently submitted evidence to a House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry into UK’s policy towards the Middle East Peace Process. This was published on 26 April 2017. ORG drew on its Middle East Programme’s extensive experience facilitating collective strategic thinking groups among the three major parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – Jewish Israelis, Palestinians in the occupied territories, and Palestinian citizens of Israel – to promote fresh thinking on the methodologies used for conflict resolution in the region. In its evidence, ORG provides insight into Palestinian and Israeli perspectives that could help shape UK policy by giving it a deeper understanding of how it is perceived and the impact this has on its potential role as a broker for peace. We promote a solution-oriented rather than interest-driven approach for third parties, and highlight that the current geopolitical context provides an opportunity for fresh, independent UK-government policy. Presenting ORG’s alternative conflict resolution model, which relies on strategic scenario mapping, we stress the need to engage with the plethora of options, rather than reducing the conversation to the oversimplified ‘one state v two state’ dichotomy, then to assess each not just for viability, but also plausibility and feasibility. Within this framework, we gain clarity on the incompatibility of the parties’ perspectives on the status quo as well as the stark asymmetry of the conflict. In light of this, we suggest incentives and challenges are needed from external forces, and explore possible smart strategic measures that could be taken to ripen conditions for resolution. These include: mediation to prevent another round of war; reviving the Arab Peace Initiative; committing to the consequences of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 through differentiation; considering recognition of a Palestinian state. As the conclusion to our evidence states: “ORG’s work demonstrates that alternative paths to resolution exist and there are areas where Palestinians and Israelis agree. The parties to the conflict need to be encouraged to explore them constructively by engaging in their own collective internal strategic thinking to assess which alternatives meet their minimum aspirations and identify solutions which are plausible, feasible and viable. The results of these discussions can inform external parties in devising smart strategic measures to ripen the conditions for resolution. From there, meaningful and effective negotiations can take place in search of a solution. There may be a role for the UK government to help the international community orchestrate a response that puts the right pressure on all parties to enter into this process.” While the dissolution of the British Parliament on 3 May has closed this inquiry before the Committee had prepared its report, ORG very much hopes that the incoming Parliament elected on 8 June 2017 will pick up on UK policy towards the Middle East Peace Process as a matter of urgency. Read our submission here. Image credit: UK Parliament About the author: Emily Richardson is the director of ORG’s Middle East Programme. Prior to joining ORG she worked for Quaker Peace and Social Witness as coordinator of a human rights programme focussed on Israel and Palestine. She also spent six years working for Control Risks, a corporate risk consultancy where she managed due diligence and business intelligence investigations across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Emily holds an MA in Peace Studies from Bradford University and a BA in Arabic from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). She has travelled extensively in the Middle East region, spending considerable time in Egypt, as part of her studies; Lebanon, coordinating an educational care centre for underprivileged children; and the West Bank, Palestine, as a human rights monitor. She is proficient in Arabic and is currently learning Hebrew.