The Arab – Israeli Conflict: Peace Building

 

 

 

 

 

The Arab – Israeli Conflict: Peace Building

 

 

 

 

Learning Institution

Introduction

The process of truth and reconciliation has been prevalent for a long period of time. The process has acquired a major part of most countries after the cold war. Theoretical and praxis-based studies about contemporary conflict resolution recognizes that hearts and minds are affected by war and violence. Just as the villages and towns that have been burnt down, they are in dire need of remaking (Bar-Siman-Tov, 2013: 1). Hence the process of truth and reconciliation relies, partly, on helping enemies to get rid of their violence and estrangement. Truth and reconciliation in today’s world is applied at varied levels. It goes from small groups to huge groups that take the part to healing communities. Societies emerging from violent conflict or oppressive regime often find it difficult t recover, build a future, and prevent themselves from falling into the conflict trap (Committee, 2011: par 4)[1].The core pillars of transitional justice are truth seeking, prosecution, reparations and institutional reforms (Committee, 2011: par 11).

There is a lot of discussion on truth and reconciliation on the path acquired to healing as well as lessons learned. Some authors say that the process used in varied nations is the same from the small communities to the big nations. On the other hand, reconciliation is seen by other authors as being different[2]. It has the possibility to take varied forms leading to varied lessons to be learnt as a result. This paper focusses on this debate on the path used in truth and reconciliation and lessons acquired; be it political or otherwise and the impact acquired (Kaufman, 2012: par 5)[3]. This issues are focused with regard to the Arab – Israel conflict.

Background to Truth and Reconciliation

Reconciliation has to be well understood by the players so as to acquire a better understanding in the argument. According to Montville is a method for recognition and contrition from the players and offer forgiveness to the victims. He argues that those that have suffered in their hands will not suffer again in the coming times. Fisher states that reconciliation cannot happen unless there is genuine dialogue from the main players. Hence, the lessons learnt ought to be on the will and desire of the players and offer a sense of healing to the victims.

Arab-Israeli Conflict

Why the Arab –Israeli conflict? Well, for starters, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the longest running conflicts in the modern era (Yehoshua, 2011: par 8). The conflict has been active for about 130 years[4]. Second, this is not a remote conflict in a godforsaken place, but one constantly at the center of international awareness (Yehoshua, 2011: par 4). That means it is one of the most extensively dealt with conflicts in the world. (Yehoshua, 2011: par 9). Close to 50 years has been invested in attempts at conflict resolution between the two countries but the conflict still contains an inner cpre that stubbornly refuses to surrender to peace (Yehoshua, 2011: par 5). As the conflict is cyclical rather than linear, opportunities for peace have been present over time but a lack of seizing the moment and both parties agreeing to compromise in many areas has caused it to subsist[5].

This conflict is unprecedented in human history and some historians have posited that this may be the reason why it has never been resolved. There is no precedent for a nation that lost its sovereignty 2000 years ago, was scattered among the nations and later decided for internal and external reasons to return to its ancient homeland and re-establish sovereignty there (Yehoshua, 2011: par 9). They did not want to expel the Palestinians, and certainly not to destroy them, but neither did they want to integrate them into Jewish society as other nations did with the local residents. As such, this conflict is unique as it is not based on a question of territory but on one of national identity of the entire homeland. The demographic boundaries of the two sides are not clear (Yehoshua, 2011: par 5) since it is unclear whether the conflict involves all the arab nations and Jews within and those scattered in the diaspora or it just involves the palestinian arabs and the Jews currently settled in the lands they regard as rightly theirs.

In November 2012, Israel launched an offensive attack in response to Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel. Critics of Israeli policies have equated the status of Paestinian in the West bank to the experiences of Black Africans during the apartheid in South Africa. The creation of controlled settlements for Plaestinians is seen as a form of racial segregation[6]. A possible parallel in the United States is the post-civil war period that began in 1865 when the ‘Jim Crow’ laws were put in place to enforce racial segregation (Provini, 2012: par 8).

All around Israel, the area is in upheaval (Press, 2013: par 6). Egypt is in a state of unrest, the United States has threatened to institute attacks against Syria in reaction to the regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons[7]. In Syria, a bloody civil war that has killed more than 100,000 rages on (Press, 2013: par 3). Syria’s Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, possesses thousnads of rockets and missiles that could be used against Israel if a U.S. strike sparks a wider conflagration (Press, 2013: par 2).

Whatever the arguments of who has the right to the holy land, the course of history has drawn Palestinians and Israelis irreversibly together in the same land (Reddy, n.d.). The central issue is how the various groupings of people – 6 million Israelis, of whom 1 million are Arab israelis; 3 million Palestinians and 4 million refugees – cann find a formula to coexist and allow justice to be served (Reddy, n.d.). Surveys have shown that a clear majority of both poulations favor some kind of territorial compromise (Reddy, n.d.)[8].

A number of characteristics of a truth commission suggest this is a suitable mechanism for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Truth commissions provide victims with a public voice and bring the victims’ experiences of suffering to the attention of the broader public by gathering their testimonies and publishing the results[9]. The mutual recognition of victimization that is a key to any just resolution of the conflict could be accomplished through a truth commission (Summers, 2003: par 6). Truth commissions can actually assist victims of past traumas and abuses resolve and heal their traumas.

Finally, because there is no one standard model of a truth commission, populations affected by violence can design a truth commission in a manner responsive to local cultures and traditions (Summers, 2003: par 3). In this manner, thornier issues such as retributive justice, naming the guilty, and reparations are not forced upon the populations, but dealt with in a manner best suited to reconciliation (Summers, 2003: par 5).

Peace Solutions

The South Africa Truth and Reconciliation commission has become a model for other societies seeking to rebuild their ethical order in order have peace and justice[10]. Although it is predicated on what happens after the conflict, after the political negotiations are over, this model is also perhaps the most relevant to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Golan-Agnon, 2010: par 4).

Proponents of pragmatic ways to end the conflict such as Josef Avesar have attempted to create bodies that contribute to an end to the conflict. This spirit resulted in the establishment of an Israeli-Palestinian Confederation[11]. This idea was implemented from the grassroots using the internet as a platform to recruit candidates for a ‘virtual parliament’ (Ali, 2012: par 8). In 6 years, the Confederation has managed to get over 700 Israelis and Palestinians (including in Gaza) to run in a virtual election (Ali, 2012: par 5). Those who dismiss this as a gimmick should note that even a willingness to run in an election of this kind poses peril to the candidates but they are willing to do it nevertheless because for them, this will encourage the move beyond stagnation of one-state/two-state fixes.

The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel has attempted t use a different approach to promote peace. By creating an epistemic community on fields such as environmental science (Ali, 2012: par 5), they believe that this will help foster peace. However, a noted challenge they encountered was to recruit West Bank Jewish settlers to study with Palestinians[12]. The willingness of the Arava Institute to challenge Israeli law concerning the lack of access of Palestinians to educational institutions in Israel is an important example of their bold willingness to engage on these matters (Ali, 2012: par 4).

The use of trade as a bridge to peace is also a solution. An initiative created to further this end is the Annual Israeli-Jordanian Business meeting. The Sheikh Hussein Israeli-Jordanian business meeting, organized between the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and the Israel-Jordan Chamber of commerce, has become an institution bringing together business people as well as politicians and diplomats (Institute for curriculum studies, 2012)[13].

A two-state solution is what all peace talks are geared towards. This would allow both the Jews and Palestinians to live in their own countries. Palestine would then consist of the West Bank, Gaza Strict abs East Jerusalem (Knell, 2013: par 7). In recent months, Mr. Netanyahu’s government has announced plans to construct thousands of new settler homes, including in the sensitive ‘El’ are that would separate East Jerusalem from the West Bank (Knell, 2013: par 4). Should this project get accomplished, even the UN has said that they would represent an almost fatal blow to the chance of a two-state solution[14].

The best hope for Israel is not a fence or more deadly weapons, which may only bring respite in the short term (Reddy, n.d.). Ultimately, it is only a peace agreement with Palestinians that will bring security to Israel (Reddy, n.d.)[15].

 

 

 

The one-state solution

In recent years, more Israeli leftists and Palestinian thinkers have made their ideological case for a single bi-national state giving equal citizenship and rights to all residents of Israel and the Palestinian territories (Knell, 2013: par 4). Aware that a one-state solution would undermine the Jewish identity of Israel, frustrated Palestinian officials increasingly warn that they may abandon their quest for statehood and push for that instead (Knell, 2013: par 9)[16].

The three-state solution

This connotes the separation of the Palestinian territories, or the three-state solution. Some Israeli analysts suggested that with Hamas governing Gaza – the coastal territory should be stabilized and treated as a state separate from the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority controls Palestinian areas (Knell 2013)[17].

Human rights framework incorporated in conflict resolution strategies

Human rights principles can provide the Palestinians with new ideas for unilateral initiatives, such as struggling for the right of freedom of movement now; calling for elections and struggling nonviolently for the right to conduct them under the scrutiny of the international community[18]. They are demanding that Israel not forestall any longer the exercise of their citizen’s rights, by allowing them to become citizens of the occupying state and, eventually, decide by referendum whether to secede or to become part of a multinational secular state (Kaufman, 2012: par 5).

In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we find negotiations to be more of a Middle Eastern bazaar than a logical dialogue using recognition of entitlements and equal rights as the departing point (Kaufman, 2012: par 5). So far, military victories have not resulted in compliance. It is necessary to create solutions that safeguard the human rights of all citizens in the areas where the conflict is prevalent.

Reconciliation builds on overcoming the scars of past injustices and victimhood (Kaufman, 2012: par 5). When members of the ‘victimizing’ community express acknowledgement of the victims’ suffering, the process can move forward (Kaufman, 2012: par 3). However, in the case of the Arab-Israeli conflict, both parties see themselves as victims and are therefore unwilling to acknowledge that their actions have in any way victimized the other party[19]. This has made it difficult to steer the peace process and end the conflict.

Based on the South African experience, the following propositions can be applied to steer the two conflicting parties to peace. A sustained non-violent struggle, good leadership that is focused on ending the age old conflict, a progressive constitution that protects and upholds fundamental human rights while protecting the sovereignty of a country and winning the Palestinian struggle in the US. The US is one of Israel’s greatest supports in the conflict. They invest millions of dollars in Israel every year and continue to fund their military.

Challenges that Hamper Peace

  1. Jerusalem

East Jerusalem is one area of contention. Should the two-state talks become successful, Israel wants the whole of Jerusalem to be its capital. However, since the area houses a great deal of Arab history, Palestine would want East Jerusalem as a capital city.

  1. Settlements

Currently, there are 270,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank (Fillmon, 2007: par 4). For religious, political, and security reasons, a large number of Israeli settlements exist in the West Bank and East Jerusalem (Fillmon, 2007: par 7). The Palestiniands view these settlements as a direct afront to the idea of a future Palestinian state[20].

 

  1. Security Barrier

To prevent further suicide bombings, Israel is bulinding a wall separating it from the West Bank. However, the Palestinians view this barrier as one that goes beyond the set border of 199 miles.

  1. Movement

The Israeli’s limit the movement of palestinians in the West Bank (Fillmon, 2007: par 4). Not only is this regarded as a form of racial segregation by a number of internation al bodies but the Palestinians see it as a restriction that limits jobs, healthcare, education and other vital amenities[21].

  1. Security and Terrorism

The Israeli perspective is that terrosrist organizations like Hamas (which controls the Gaza strip) and Hezbollah (based in Lebanon and who was at was with Israel in the Summer of 2006) continue to fire rockets into Israel and commit other acts of terror (Fillmon, 2007: par 9). Such organizations are predominantly Palestinian and as such the Israeli government views their actions as those propagated by Palestine against Israel. However, the Palestinian government has denounced terrorism and regards the stereotype that Israel has in a hostile manner. Majority of Palestinians are not terrorists.

  1. Right of return

Israel fears that if palestinians living in Arab nations return to Israel to reclaim land, it can mean the end of Israel as a Jewish State[22]. However, Palestinians believe that as refugees they should be allowed to return to their or their family’s land in Israel (Fillmon, 2007: par 5).

 

 

 

Conclusion

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wants Israel to halt its Jewish settlement activity before he will consider resuming talks, but Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made no move to stop settlement (Provini, 2012: par 5).

Ultimately, the political elites of both nations have not been socialized, on the whole, into the language and use of human rights as universal principles (Kaufman, 2012: par 5). In Israel, rather than confronting the settlers and the political leaders behind them, many political leaders have deferred any decisive policy of withdrawal from the Occupied Territories, ignoring the long-term consequences for the transformation of their country into a binational state (Kaufman, 2012: par 5). On the Palestinian side, survival in their positions seems to be the prevailing preoccupation of the leadership[23].

While we recognize the importance of foreign powers in the conflict (nowadays, chiefly the United States), these outside powers have usually been unable to prevent war or impose peace (Hassassian, 2012: 78). The U.S. was at times able to stop armed struggle and channel such efforts into diplomacy (Hassassian, 2012: 9)[24]. Yet both in the case of the 1977-79 Begin-Sadat negotiations (Camp David I) and the 1993 Oslo peace process between Palestinians and Israelis, the main initiative was bilateral, and only later did the White House play a key role (Hassassian, 2012: 34).

Peace building is a generational struggle and a responsibility that incrementally falls on us all (Ali 2012)[25]. Ultimately, peace will rest on individuals from one group forming new relationships with individuals from the other group that will lead to change in the political arrangements between Israelis and Palestinians[26] (Bekdash, 2009: 35).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

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Bar-Siman-Tov, Yaacov. “The Arab—Israeli Conflict: Learning Conflict Resolution.” 2012        Journal Citation Reports, 2013: 1.

Bekdash, Hania. Reconciliation: Lessons for Peace and Justice in Palestine. Internship         Programme Research, The Palestine Center, 2009.

Coleman, Flynn. The Prospects of a Truth Commission for Burma, from Lessons Learned in           Chile and Argentina. 2013. http://www.humanrights.asia/resources/journals-        magazines/article2/0206/the-prospects-of-a-truth-commission-for-burma-from-lessons-       learned-in-chile-and-argentina (accessed September 14, 2013).

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Fillmon, MaryLynne. “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A lesson in Perspective.” Arizona.edu.    2007. http://cmes.arizona.edu/sites/cmes.arizona.edu/files/The%20Israeli-        Palestinian%20Conflict%20A%20Lesson%20in%20Perspective.pdf.

Golan-Agnon, Daphna. “Between Human rights and Hope – What Israelis might learn from the   truth and reconciliation.” International review of Victimology, Vol 17, 2010: 31-48.

Hassassian, Edward Kaufman and Manuel. “Understanding the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict:         Lessons from an Unusual Classroo.” Palestine-Israel Journal, 2012.

Kaufman, Por Mohammed Abu-Nimer and Edward (Edy). “Bridging ConflictTransformation     and Human Rights: Lessons from the Israeli- Palestinian Peace Process.” CIDAM. February 11, 2012.             https://sites.google.com/a/cidam.mx/www/opnion/bridgingconflicttransformationandhum            anrightslessonsfromtheisraeli-palestinianpeaceprocess (accessed September 13, 2013).

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Prof. Sami Adwan, Prof. Dan Bar-On. Establishing a “Localized” Process for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission In Israel and Palestine To Address Refugee Issues at the          Heart of the Conflict. http://vispo.com/PRIME/truthandreconciliation.htm (accessed    September 14, 2013).

Provini, Celine. “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Through Children’s Eyes.” EducationWorld.     November 19, 2012. http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/israeli-palestinian-      conflict-through-childrens-eyes.shtml (accessed September 12, 2013).

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[1] Committee, American Friends Service. “Transitional Justice Mechanisms Report.” American Friends Service Committee. August 2011. https://afsc.org/document/transitional-justice-mechanisms-report (accessed September 14, 2013).

[2] Bar-Siman-Tov, Yaacov. “The Arab—Israeli Conflict: Learning Conflict Resolution.” 2012 Journal Citation Reports, 2013: 1.

[3] Kaufman, Por Mohammed Abu-Nimer and Edward (Edy). “Bridging ConflictTransformation and Human Rights: Lessons from the Israeli- Palestinian Peace Process.” CIDAM. February 11, 2012. https://sites.google.com/a/cidam.mx/www/opnion/bridgingconflicttransformationandhumanrightslessonsfromtheisraeli-palestinianpeaceprocess (accessed September 13, 2013).

[4] Yehoshua, A.B. “Why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict refuses to be resolved.” Hareetz. April 26, 2011. http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/why-the-israeli-palestinian-conflict-refuses-to-be-resolved-1.358095 (accessed September 13, 2013).

 

[5] Yehoshua, A.B. “Why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict refuses to be resolved.” Hareetz. April 26, 2011. http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/features/why-the-israeli-palestinian-conflict-refuses-to-be-resolved-1.358095 (accessed September 13, 2013).

 

[6] Provini, Celine. “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Through Children’s Eyes.” EducationWorld. November 19, 2012. http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/israeli-palestinian-conflict-through-childrens-eyes.shtml (accessed September 12, 2013).

[7] Press, Associated. “Israelis celebrate Jewish New Year, amid turmoil brewing on its borders.” Washington Post. September 11, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/israelis-celebrate-jewish-new-year-amid-turmoil-brewing-on-its-borders/2013/09/04/0054c07c-1583-11e3-961c-f22d3aaf19ab_story.html (accessed September 13, 2013).

[8] Reddy, Jairam. The Palestine-Israel Conflict: Lessons From South Africa’s Democratic Transition. Accord-Chapter 1, Durban: Conflict Trends.

[9] Summers, Elana. Truth and Reconciliation. January 2003. http://peacemagazine.org/archive/v19n1p13.htm (accessed September 14, 2013).

[10] Golan-Agnon, Daphna. “Between Human rights and Hope – What Israelis might learn from the truth and reconciliation.” International review of Victimology, Vol 17, 2010: 31-48.

[11] Ali, Saleem. “A Pragmatic Way to Resolve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” National Geographic. October 4, 2012. http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/10/04/israeli-palestinian-conflict/ (accessed September 12, 2013).

 

[12] Ali, Saleem. “A Pragmatic Way to Resolve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” National Geographic. October 4, 2012. http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/10/04/israeli-palestinian-conflict/ (accessed September 12, 2013).

 

[13] Institute for curriculum studies. A Historical Perspective on the Arab-Israeli Conflict and Peace Process. A curriculim for modern world history teachers, Institute for curriculum studies, 2012.

[14] Knell, Yolande. “Reconsidering the two-state solution.” BBC News. March 21, 2013. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-21850739 (accessed September 13, 2013).

[15] Reddy, Jairam. The Palestine-Israel Conflict: Lessons From South Africa’s Democratic Transition. Accord-Chapter 1, Durban: Conflict Trends.

 

[16] Knell, Yolande. “Reconsidering the two-state solution.” BBC News. March 21, 2013. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-21850739 (accessed September 13, 2013).

 

[17] Knell, Yolande. “Reconsidering the two-state solution.” BBC News. March 21, 2013. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-21850739 (accessed September 13, 2013).

[18] Kaufman, Por Mohammed Abu-Nimer and Edward (Edy). “Bridging ConflictTransformation and Human Rights: Lessons from the Israeli- Palestinian Peace Process.” CIDAM. February 11, 2012. https://sites.google.com/a/cidam.mx/www/opnion/bridgingconflicttransformationandhumanrightslessonsfromtheisraeli-palestinianpeaceprocess (accessed September 13, 2013).

 

[19] Kaufman, Por Mohammed Abu-Nimer and Edward (Edy). “Bridging ConflictTransformation and Human Rights: Lessons from the Israeli- Palestinian Peace Process.” CIDAM. February 11, 2012. https://sites.google.com/a/cidam.mx/www/opnion/bridgingconflicttransformationandhumanrightslessonsfromtheisraeli-palestinianpeaceprocess (accessed September 13, 2013).

 

[20] Fillmon, MaryLynne. “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A lesson in Perspective.” Arizona.edu. 2007. http://cmes.arizona.edu/sites/cmes.arizona.edu/files/The%20Israeli-Palestinian%20Conflict%20A%20Lesson%20in%20Perspective.pdf.

[21] Fillmon, MaryLynne. “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A lesson in Perspective.” Arizona.edu. 2007. http://cmes.arizona.edu/sites/cmes.arizona.edu/files/The%20Israeli-Palestinian%20Conflict%20A%20Lesson%20in%20Perspective.pdf.

 

[22] Fillmon, MaryLynne. “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A lesson in Perspective.” Arizona.edu. 2007. http://cmes.arizona.edu/sites/cmes.arizona.edu/files/The%20Israeli-Palestinian%20Conflict%20A%20Lesson%20in%20Perspective.pdf.

 

[23] Kaufman, Por Mohammed Abu-Nimer and Edward (Edy). “Bridging ConflictTransformation and Human Rights: Lessons from the Israeli- Palestinian Peace Process.” CIDAM. February 11, 2012. https://sites.google.com/a/cidam.mx/www/opnion/bridgingconflicttransformationandhumanrightslessonsfromtheisraeli-palestinianpeaceprocess (accessed September 13, 2013).

[24] Hassassian, Edward Kaufman and Manuel. “Understanding the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict: Lessons from an Unusual Classroo.” Palestine-Israel Journal, 2012.

[25] Ali, Saleem. “A Pragmatic Way to Resolve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” National Geographic. October 4, 2012. http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/10/04/israeli-palestinian-conflict/ (accessed September 12, 2013).

[26] Bekdash, Hania. Reconciliation: Lessons for Peace and Justice in Palestine. Internship Programme Research, The Palestine Center, 2009.