(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Comparing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Northern Ireland is "misleading and demonstrably false," Lord David Trimble, a 1998 Nobel Peace Laureate for his efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland, said last week.
He spoke at the launch in Parliament of his reportentitled "Misunderstanding Ulster," published by Conservative Friends of Israel.
The lessons of the Northern Ireland peace process had been misunderstood, Trimble said, adding that Israel "is not Ulster."
"The more I hear the lessons of Northern Ireland applied to the Middle East, the less I am sure that those lessons have been properly learned," he said.
The former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and ex-first minister of Northern Ireland said there had been a "selective reading" of the Northern Ireland conflict that was "misleading and demonstrably false." In many cases, he said, it was more about contemporary agendas in the Middle East than serious analysis of the recent history of Northern Ireland.
"Nowhere is the analogy applied more vigorously than in the case of the Israel-Palestinian conflict," Trimble said. "For those eager to inject a creative breakthrough there, the lessons from Northern Ireland are often cited as an inspiration. The foremost expression of this can be seen in the response of many to the growing status and influence of Hamas in recent years.
He called on the Middle East Quartet and international community to "stand firm" regarding Hamas ahead of the Annapolis conference next month.
"It is essential to recognize that Northern Ireland's peace process operated within a distinct context - and one scarcely repeated elsewhere... this narrative which has been transported - often uncritically - to the Middle East, is fundamentally misleading about the true achievements of the Northern Ireland peace process," Trimble said.
"If there is one lesson to learn from Northern Ireland's experience - contrary to what is often recommended in relation to dialogue with Hamas - it is that preconditions were crucial to ending the violence in producing a settlement," he added.
In the 24-page report, Trimble cites the near total collapse of the Northern Ireland peace process on "Bloody Friday" in 1972, when the IRA killed nine people and wounded 130 in a bombing, as evidence that weakening preconditions to dialogue made increased violence more likely.
He questioned whether players in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were seeking victory or accommodation. Whereas the majority in Israel wanted "accommodation," Hamas might still be on the lookout for "victories," he said.
Hamas doesn't want accommodation; rather, they have played into the hands of the most intransigent elements in the Middle East, Trimble said.