How To Improve The Peace Process Between Israelis And Palestinians

or many years, peacekeepers have tried various peace-building initiatives regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and such efforts to sustain peace between the communities and effectively reach a peaceful, lasting resolution have failed numerous times. Efforts to overcome these barriers have been made between the communities on a local basis and initiatives such as sports activities, film projects and dialogues have certainly contributed to meaningful changes. Still, on a global and political level, peace-building efforts in Israel and Palestine have not had any convincing impact. Ultimately, this could be down to ineffective and irresponsible leadership which lacks a strong impetus to bring about peace.


Though some have called for a one-state solution with equal rights for all citizens, ideas based on federal, unitary or bi-national models may not work in practice or prove impractical in implementation. Yet there is merit in the proposition that Netanyahu and Abbas could allocate authority over particular functions to a supranational body with prerogative over the respective states. While the two-state solution is the most practical concept, it may in itself have an expiration date. Abbas and Netanyahu have to seriously consider this option because it may no longer be available if delayed. Nearly every sign points to the need for an urgent action. This includes the real situation on the ground - for instance, the expansion of Israeli settlements to the question of future development of the government of Israel, which has demonstrated a long-term drift of going towards a rather right wing viewpoint. Further issues include the pro-settlement movement and the economic and political problems which the Palestinian Authority faces, along with developments in public attitudes, like growing Palestinian cynicism towards the two-state approach.


It is no surprise that many public opinion polls suggest that Israelis and Palestinians have lost their trust in the pursuit of peace and now favour militaristic solutions. Studies show that to considerably change a conflict, peace-building proposals have to be sustainable. A plethora of research has showed positive changes in behavioural patterns soon after involvement in dialogue between two politically, religiously and socially opposed groups. A study carried out in Sri Lanka documented that those involved had increased levels of sympathy and understanding for the opposing group following dialogue.  Societal alterations materialise through collective acts. Although dialogue between the individuals within the communities can be meaningful, this doesn't always help society at large as it mainly has an impact only on those taking part. Leaders and policy makers are crucial in delivering peace since, without a multiplier effect in behavioural change, strong grassroots movements would become necessary to reach the masses. To influence a change on a global level, citizens need tools to extend the change to everyone and this is difficult to achieve without the impetus from leaders.


An important challenge is one concerning the unity between Israeli and Palestinian groups working for change. A cohesive peace movement has a greater influence and is more likely to have a stronger impact on decision-makers, uniting Palestinian and Israeli communities.

The peace movement in Israel and Palestine comprises a range of peace organisations that carry out various activities to encourage peace. However these actors do not share a common narrative of the conflict and such groups view the conflict from widely different angles. Conflicting interpretations of the situation certainly complicate and hinder mutual aid between peace builders and leaders. For instance, after the outbreak of the second intifada, these conflicting legitimate interests became very apparent between Israelis and Palestinians. As the figure of the casualties increased on the Palestinian side, there was an expectation that the Israeli peace groups would support their predicament. The Palestinian activists saw the lack of this as a betrayal, since they cooperated together and held similar views on peace. On the other hand, many Israelis supposed that the Palestinians dismissed an offer for peace and subsequently reacted with violence. These two diverging understandings demonstrate that, despite mutual efforts, both sides never fundamentally understood one another. The lack of support for the peace movements is largely caused by both communities having diverging interpretations of peace due to different needs as defined by their respective leaders. Indeed a contributing factor is Abbas and Netanyahu's separate definitions of peace. Each leader's perception of justice and security is entirely disparate, which fuels division creating further friction between the communities.


Surely it's time for leaders to make efforts in uniting the peace movements between the two respective societies, as well as between the Israelis and Palestinians in general. Netanyahu and Abbas have to demonstrate sufficient political will to deal with the foreseeable domestic pressure. They have to deal with the inevitable concessions, be they regarding security, justice, territory or economics. At the moment, the political establishments of Israel and Palestine are not dedicated to reaching a durable agreement. While the expansion of Israeli settlements is a hindrance to peace negotiations, it is plausible to recommend 'land swaps' and a substantial number of Israeli settlers could possibly be persuaded on this, by using economic incentives. This is certainly not a new concept, as demonstrated by the Land Boundary Agreement of 1974 regarding the Indian and Bangladeshi territories.  

For Netanyahu, the focus on Israeli security is crucial to make peace. This attitude may be seen as a barrier to the unification of the two communities. As long as the Israeli population feels threatened they are more inclined to agree to military action and inadvertently accept the abuse of human rights against the Palestinians, in search of safety and security. For Abbas and the Palestinians, justice and recognition for national rights is a requirement before any establishment of good relations with Israel. Leaders have to make efforts in uniting the peace movement within the two respective societies as well as between the Israelis and Palestinians. Netanyahu and Abbas have to demonstrate sufficient political will to deal with the foreseeable domestic pressure and deal with the inevitable concessions, including security or justice.

The seemingly impossible task is reconciling the disparate viewpoints regarding security for Israelis and freedom from martial law for Palestinians to achieve a unified approach to peace. The only resolution of the conflict, however, depends on leaders at all levels making it happen.