Is the Middle East peace process really the “biggest threat to peace”?

George Will is wrong to dismiss talks as an excuse to extort Israel.

In the right-wing Washington Post, George F Will today posits the absurd argument that "the biggest threat to [Middle East] peace might be the peace process -- or, more precisely, the illusion that there is one". This illusion, he writes, masks a reality of Palestinians "extorting concessions from Israel" in the name of an imaginary "momentum".

What makes Will's assertion so untenable is his blinkered insistence on Israel's right to expand its settlements in East Jerusalem: a position that is at odds with international law (under which the area is designated as occupied territory) and insensitive to the critical tensions that have stifled past efforts towards stability in the region.

Will grumbles that "Palestinian officials are demanding that the moratorium [on building] be extended as the price of their willingness to continue direct talks with Israel", but surely this is an understandable request. Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future state, and the continued illegal settlement of the region by Israel is bound to be a sore point. Whether the settlement activity is justifiable or not, it would only undermine any hope of reaching a diplomatic solution were it to continue (as it most certainly will).

Will writes that "no Israeli government of any political hue has ever endorsed a ban on construction in Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, where about 40 per cent of the capital's Jewish population lives". But the international community does not recognise Israel's right to expand its territories, even into largely Jewish neighborhoods. The state's demolition-happy attitude to the Palestinians living there, meanwhile, speaks of an ingrained attitude of entitlement among Israeli officials that will do more harm to the chances of stability than the "mirage" of the peace process.

Concessions must come from both sides. But Will is deluded if he thinks that Israel refraining from aggressive acts of settlement on disputed land constitutes a concession at all -- it is, in fact, its duty.

Yo Zushi is a sub-editor of the New Statesman. His work as a musician is released by Eidola Records.

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Goodbye, Sam Allardyce: a grim portrait of national service

In being brought down by a newspaper sting, the former England manager joins a hall of infamy. 

It took the best part of 17 years for Glenn Hoddle’s reputation to recover from losing the England job.

Between leaving his job as manager in February 1999 and re-surfacing as a television pundit on ITV during the 2014 World Cup, Hoddle was English football’s great pariah. Thanks to his belief in faith healer Eileen Drewery and a string of unconventional and unacceptable views on reincarnation, he found himself in exile following in a newspaper interview during qualification for England’s Euro 2000 campaign.

But just as Hoddle is now cautiously being welcomed back to the bosom of English football, current incumbent Sam Allardyce has felt the axe fall. After less than two months in charge of the national side and with only a single game under his belt, the former Bolton Wanderers manager was caught up in a sting operation by the Daily Telegraph — allegedly offering guidance on how to circumvent his employer’s rules on third-party player ownership.

The rewards for guiding an English team to major international success promise to be spectacular. As a result, the price for any failure — either moral or performance-related — is extreme.

Hoddle’s successor – the endearing Kevin Keegan – resigned tearfully in a toilet at Wembley after a tumultuous 18-month spell in charge. His replacement, the laconic Sven-Göran Eriksson, provided moments of on-field excitement paired with incredible incidents of personal indiscretion. His tangle with "fake sheikh" Mazher Mahmood in the run up to the 2006 World Cup – an incident with haunting parallels to Allardyce’s current predicament – led to a mutual separation that summer.

Steve McClaren was hapless, if also incredibly unfortunate, and was dispatched from the top job in little over a year. Fabio Capello – who inspired so much optimism throughout his first two years in charge – proved himself incapable of lifting the hex on English major tournament fortunes.

The Italian’s star was falling from the moment he put his name to the oddly timed Capello Index in 2010, although his sustained backing of then captain John Terry over a string of personal misdemeanours would prove to be the misjudgement that ultimately forced his exit. As Allardyce has found out, the FA has become increasingly hard on lapses in moral judgement.

English football is suffused with a strange mix of entitlement and crushing self-doubt. After a decade that has given us a Wimbledon champion, several Ashes triumphs, two Tour de France winners and eye-watering Olympic success, a breakthrough in this area has never felt further away.

In replacing Capello, Roy Hodgson — the man mocked by Allardyce during his hours supping pints with Telegraph reporters — had hoped to put a rubber stamp on a highly respectable coaching career with a spell managing his own country. But this summer’s farcical defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016 put his previous career in a much harsher light.    

Allardyce was a mix of the best and worst of each of his predecessors. He was as gaffe-prone as Steve McClaren, yet as committed to football science and innovation as Hodgson or Capello. He also carried the affability of Keegan and the bulldog spirit of Terry Venables — the last man to make great strides for England at a major tournament.  

And as a result, his fall is the most heartbreaking of the lot. The unfairly decried charlatan of modern football is the same man who built a deeply underrated dynasty at Bolton before keeping Blackburn, West Ham and Sunderland afloat in the most competitive league in Europe.

And it was this hard apprenticeship that convinced the FA to defy the trendy naysayers and appoint him.

“I think we make mistakes when we are down here and our spirit has to come back and learn,” Hoddle mused at the beginning of his ill-fated 1999 interview. As the FA and Allardyce consider their exit strategy from this latest sorry mess, it’s difficult to be sure what either party will have learned.

The FA, desperately short of options could theoretically turn again to a reborn Hoddle. Allardyce, on the other hand, faces his own long exile. 

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