Liveblog: Breaking the Impasse

Ian Bremmer
President, Eurasia Group
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Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20137:17 pm

and that’s all from me for today. i’ve really appreciated the opportunity to liveblog sessions of the wef regional summit! it’s been very exciting…

thanks and i hope you’ve enjoyed!

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20137:11 pm

while at times kerry’s address felt like a ‘i know we’re the underdogs’ locker room motivational speech, it was laced with some compelling, tangible emphasis on private sector improvements that can credibly be driven… and which make today’s proposal very interesting. and kerry’s acknowledgments about how intractable the conflict is were well-received (“middle east peace famously reputed to be diplomatic quicksand.”)

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20137:10 pm

some very inspiring words and candid accounts of the israel-palestine dynamic as it stands today– from all three of today’s major speakers. it was really wonderful to see them all on the same stage, and engaging in a dialogue together.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20137:03 pm

kerry: “think of all that can change. that’s what really should motivate us…”
and from that launching point, kerry is discussing a world post-israel/palestine peace. i don’t think anyone would deny it’s a grand vision, but kerry should perhaps heed his own advice from earlier in his speech: ‘all eyes must be on the road from here to ahead.’ because it’s a tough road indeed.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:54 pm

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:54 pm

kerry: ‘middle east peace famously reputed to be diplomatic quicksand.’

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:53 pm

kerry speaking of how the united arab emirates trumps the other regional players in terms of tourist arrivals… perhaps this says less about the inefficiencies/flaws in other countries’ strategies as it speaks to the uae’s success. plus, it is not as surprising in the context of the following: the united arab emirates is a country where the foreign population makes up 90% of the total.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:51 pm

kerry has touched on egyptian tourism.

international tourist arrivals to egypt:

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:49 pm

kerry very much striving to ground his speech in the credible, “shovel ready” facets of the initiative we’re discussing today. certainly a winning strategy amidst criticism that such speeches may just be rhetoric. kerry: “is this a fantasy? i don’t think so. because there are already great examples of investment and entrepreneurship that are working in the west bank.”

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:45 pm

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:43 pm

kerry: “goals that are more transformative than incremental.”

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:43 pm

kerry: “the burden doesn’t just lie within palaces and parliaments…. a huge role for business…. the private sector can promote change.”

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:42 pm

“countries like libya, egypt, and tunisia…need to aggressively reemerge into the global economic community.” these north african states are increasingly being propped up by an unlikely benefactor– qatar.

qatar’s desire to ignore traditional powers in the region and to pursue a soft diplomacy approach in the wake of the arab spring, as well as its longtime ties to pro-muslim brotherhood figures, have made it easier to economically assist the struggling north african region. and most critically, they have the cash to spend–with few direct economic and political strings–at a time when few others (even the imf) are prepared to make strong commitments. all of which is turning qatar from a marginal gas state to one of the geopolitical powerhouses in the region. that’s most clear in egypt–under hosni mubarak, egypt’s relations with qatar experienced decades of acrimony; today doha has become the new egyptian muslim brotherhood-led government’s closest ally. that’s nearly as true in tunisia. across north africa, qatar’s investments are less about earning a good return, then expanding and developing its relations with prospective allies beyond the gulf cooperation council…

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:38 pm

kerry: “if we make the wrong choices, or no choices at all…”

very important to acknowledge the impact that abstention can have in geopolitics.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:38 pm

kerry: “we are staring down a dangerous path, with a capacity to harden divisions, increase instability…. as most here are very aware, this will be a path that will be haunted by violent extremists…”

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:35 pm

john kerry calling the ‘arab spring’ the ‘arab awakening’ is perhaps in line with the lofty goals/visions that we’ve seen from israel/palestine’s leaders today. but it is a depiction of a perceived future trajectory. today, even ‘the arab spring’ feels like too rosy of a label– i would opt for ‘arab summer’– growing tensions, and very much in flux.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:33 pm

kerry is referring to the ‘arab spring’ repeatedly as the ‘arab awakening’

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:30 pm

on jordan– more than three of them could fit into the state where john kerry was born… (colorado)

and a jordanian bright spot and blind spot:

bright: jordan is 79% urbanized.
grim: in jordan, the labor participation rate for women ages 15+ (2011) is just 16% (compared to 51% worldwide).

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:27 pm

kerry: ‘it’s a great pleasure to be in this remarkable country of jordan.’

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:26 pm

john kerry: “i have an agreement up here that you can both come up and sign if you want. [applause]. we’ll get there…”

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:24 pm

so a strong speech from abbas, but the aforementioned constituency/legitimacy issues regarding hamas must be acknowledged.

similar appraisal for peres’ speech– lofty, emotional, and hopeful– but we cannot ignore the political architecture back in israel: netanyahu presides over a government that has been shifting decidedly to the right for more than a decade, with a growing marginalization of left-wing parties, and a public disenchantment with the peace process. the center-right leadership is increasingly uncompromising.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:21 pm

peres to abbas: “i didn’t answer your arguments and i’ll tell you why. when we started with the plo, the situation was worse. i listened to both sides and felt nothing can happen. so all of these differences, they are moving. let’s sit together. you’d be surprised how much can be achieved in open and direct and organized meetings. we have a joint point that all of us have to see together, and change it into a peace.”

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:19 pm

peres to kerry: “i know that all sides can count on your determination.”

undoubtedly so- – kerry is highly capable, and the middle east is an area of particular focus/expertise for him. but if kerry’s determination was actually a key determinant in israel-palestine peace negotiations, i’d be a lot more optimistic. the key drivers here do not come from the united states.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:16 pm

“we must depart from skepticism.” “war is not inevitable–peace is inevitable.”

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:15 pm

peres: “president abbas– you are our partner and we are yours.”

“we can and should make the breakthrough.”

“history will judge us not by process but by outcomes.”

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:10 pm

shimon peres has begun speaking

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:10 pm

there is an unspoken wrinkle here that makes abbas’ calls for peace more difficult. his fatah party isn’t viewed as the sole credible leadership in palestine by many palestinians. hamas’ popularity is growing, particularly among younger palestinians– a demographic momentum that will drive the two sides farther apart over time. abbas/fatah cannot speak for palestine entire at a summit such as this– and hamas has every incentive to undermine any possible deal that would come out of a diplomatic process from which it’s excluded.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20136:05 pm

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20135:57 pm

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20135:49 pm

mahmoud abbas has begun speaking after a reading of the ‘breaking the impasse’ declaration.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20135:47 pm

“the status quo is unsustainable and dangerous.”
i believe the status quo is one of those two things. it seems to find sustenance through every iteration of the israel-palestine conflict.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20135:45 pm

“we are deeply concerned that the lack of efforts on the political front will reinforce the status quo.”

unfortunately, i remain deeply convinced that that will remain the case for the foreseeable future.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20135:42 pm

a lot of discussion of the long, painful history of the israel-palestine conflict. here are some maps that show changes over time:


Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20135:39 pm

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20135:34 pm

“this is not a normal day in the israel-palestine conflict”

“jordan….the most hospitable of countries”
nearly 500,000 syrians certainly appreciate jordan’s hospitality.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20135:32 pm

vardi’s final word: “PEACE!” a decidedly hip-hop flourish to cap his warm and well-received words…

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20135:28 pm

vardi is delivering a thank you to the wef for its role in ‘breaking the impasse’ progress– much deserved appreciation.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20135:26 pm

israeli tech entrepreneur yossi vardi speaking out on a rosier future… “a long road” away.

“after a year of intensive work, we are presenting to you a community of over 300 people, israelis, palestinians, and international leaders… this can be done… the civil community can contribute.”

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20135:20 pm

klaus schwab opening our final panel– “devoted mainly to the israeli-palestinian conflict.”
“a call for action…prepared over the last 15 months.”

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20135:16 pm

looks like we are underway. the hall applauding our speakers as they approach the stage.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20135:16 pm

the wef has been driving some impressive headlines here in jordan. here is israel/palestine business leaders pushing for peace:

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20135:09 pm

a very sound treatise for exhibiting patience as we wait for our wef panel to arrive!

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20135:08 pm

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20135:05 pm

kerry et al have kept us waiting 30+ minutes. perhaps it’s karmic retribution for vladimir putin leaving kerry waiting for 3 hours earlier this month in moscow?

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20135:02 pm

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20134:54 pm

announced ten minutes until panel begins.

here is an interesting statistical index on all things israel/palestine from the economist (a few months stale, but still worth a look while we wait)–

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20134:48 pm

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20134:48 pm

as we’re waiting for the panel to kick off, here is a fascinating resource from the wef– a detailed mena competitiveness report:
definitely worth a look.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20134:40 pm

looks like we may have a surprise guest:

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20134:37 pm

a very strong panel – should make for interesting debate.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20134:36 pm

i love the paradox of this wef summit: “live from dead sea, jordan.”

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20134:30 pm

the panel is starting up shortly. very much looking forward to hearing from john kerry. it will be interesting to see which intractable crisis he will focus on most– israel/palestine or syria. i suspect the former, even though the latter is the more alarmingly urgent issue from a geopolitical and humanitarian perspective.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20134:27 pm

qatar was hardly mentioned in the syria summit that i liveblogged earlier. given its meager population– just under 2m people– perhaps it’s understandable that it doesn’t receive outsized attention… after all, there are at least 50 chinese cities with larger populations than the entire country. but the rising role of qatar as a regional powerbroker is extremely interesting to me. the gulf cooperation council is expanding, but qatar is much more willing to go it alone, and they’ve got the cash to back it up.

qatar’s al jazeera broadcasting station is also used as a foreign policy instrument throughout the region.
top 5 mena markets by al jazeera penetration:
kuwait 69%
iran 60%
lebanon 59%
oman 59%
libya 55%

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20134:20 pm

we’ve seen some fascinating panels here today. a talk this morning about the youth bulge in the region was particularly interesting.

take, for example, jordan, our host country where 37% of the population is under 15 years of age.

an extreme example is iraq, which suffers even more acutely from demographic challenges than many other countries in the region. 43% of the population is under the age of 15… only 3% is over 65 years of age.

there are a few examples, though, of countries at the polar end of the spectrum. while 26% of the world’s population is under 15 years old, the u.a.e. clocks in at 17%. qatar has just 14% of citizens under the age of 15.

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20134:13 pm

here is the wef’s shout out for my last liveblog session, earlier this morning, on syria:

you can read it here:

Ian Bremmer Ian Bremmer May 26, 20134:10 pm

the ‘breaking the impasse’ panel starting up shortly– very much looking forward to liveblogging it.

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