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BC Expert: Arbitration Only Viable Path in the Middle East

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Paulo Barrozo

Paulo Barrozo
Assistant Professor
Boston College Law School
(617) 552- 4388 (office)
617-792-9475 (cell)

Barrozo specializes in children's rights in domestic adoption and international adoption; rights of individuals with mental disabilities, international criminal law, and international law. He is currently writing a book called, Law as Moral Obligation. Barrozo is an active advocate for the rights of the neurodiverse and the un-parented, appearing before international bodies such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations. His writings have appeared in publications both in the United States and Brazil.


Finding peace in the Middle East has been the hope of nearly every administration since Nixon. But after decades of trying to break the logjam between the Israelis and Palestinians, thousands of deaths, multiple wars, and bitter hatred between the two sides, direct and mediated negotiations between the parties have proven not to be the solution.

“I think we should start to think about arbitration backed by multilateral sanctions,” says Boston College Law Assistant Professor Paulo Barrozo, an expert in international criminal law. “Think of a system whereby a small committee for instance, in light of all the applicable international laws, in light of the history, in light of the needs of each community, makes a determination as to where the boundary should fall, what would happen to refugees, if there would be any reparation, how cooperation would unfold going forward, and present that to both Israel and Palestine as a solution they should abide by.”

The political advantage to making arbitration work, says Barrozo, is the political cover such a process offers. 

“The political parties on each side would not have to take political ownership of making a settlement,” says Barrozo. “The settlement would be forced upon them. Right now, they cannot negotiate because each party is held hostage to extremist factions on each side, who are opposed to negotiation. Because of that, the political system has not been able to break free from those internal factions that keep them away from resolving the conflict. If a resolution is presented as the decision of an impartial body, backed by the global combination of aid, withholding of aid, and other smart sanctions and incentives, then the political costs for going along with the proposed solution would be much less than the cost of going along with a solution that would be negotiated between the parties. Both Israel and Palestine deserve to put this long conflict behind them; both owe it to their peoples and the world to put the conflict behind; and the world can help with an arbitration backed by sanction model.”

The key to making it work is the backing of the United States and the global community.

“I’m not saying it’s easy but it’s much more plausible, much more realistic that the United States would join the other countries of the world in withholding aid, applying some sanctions against both Israel and Palestine to force them to accept a fair solution designed by an impartial arbitrator,” says Barrozo.

“After all these decades, tens of thousands of deaths, a permanent state of insecurity on both sides, a  record of human rights violations the world cannot tolerate,  we’ve reached the stage in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict where we need to think differently. I think it’s a strategic mistake to continue to insist in direct or mediated negotiations as a way out of this. The parties are in a deadlock. They need help to break free from their predicament and that help has to come from an impartial arbitrator that would define the main issues of the table, and the international community has to back the decision by the arbitrator and that would make it politically possible for leaders of both Israel and Palestine to accept the determination, precisely because it’s coming from the outside, not from inside.

“This change of paradigm approach is more attuned to the facts on the ground, more realistic, and gives us a better chance – hard as it is in relative terms – of helping Israel and Palestine getting out of the situation than the current negotiation orthodoxy.” 


 Media Note: Contact information for additional Boston College faculty sources on a range of subjects is available at: /offices/pubaf/journalist/experts.html


Sean Hennessey
Associate Director
Office of News and Public Affairs
Boston College

(617) 552-3630 (office)
(617) 943-4323 (cell)