Where hawks and doves fly together

Past peace process negotiators have lamented that, while pursuing an elusive conflict-ending treaty, too little attention was paid to grass roots activities. But it is not too late.

A MAN holds up a flag during a peace rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square  (photo credit: REUTERS)
A MAN holds up a flag during a peace rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hawks and doves usually don’t fly together. We often fail to see eye to eye on the world below and skies above. We have differing perspectives on the history and current status of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and perhaps its ultimate resolution.
But sometimes our viewpoints converge. We believe in peace and security for both Palestinians and Israelis. To get there, we recognize on the need to develop a Palestinian governance and economic infrastructure in the West Bank and Gaza capable of sustaining a future state living in peace, security and good neighborly relations next to Israel. And we believe government-to-government, civil society and people-to-people initiatives that foster cooperation and bolster trust between Israelis and Palestinians ought to be supported and expanded.
We have chosen slightly different flight paths but are mutually committed to reach the same destination.
Martin believes that both the Israeli government and Palestinian leaders share responsibility for the failure to achieve a comprehensive, conflict-ending peace agreement as envisioned by the Oslo Accords.
It is vital now, in his judgment, to preserve conditions that will enable the Palestinians to establish a viable state of their own in the future.
This will necessitate a serious alteration in Israel’s current settlement policy in the West Bank, which not only makes an equitable division of the land between the Jordan River and Sea more complicated, but also undermines the perception of Israel’s commitment to the two-state solution among Palestinians and much of the international community. The Arab Peace Initiative (API), while not perfect, provides an important foundation for launching a process that could lead to peace not just with the Palestinians, but also with the wider Arab world.
Dan places greater responsibility on the Palestinian Authority for the failure to achieve peace, particularly its incitement against Israelis and Jews that is taught in schools, preached in mosques and broadcast in PA-controlled media. However, he concurs that the Oslo Accords should continue to be the governing diplomatic framework that must enable the PA to establish a viable sovereignty. Dan would suggest that these conditions have been preserved since the signing of the April 2004 exchange of letters between US president George W. Bush and prime minister Ariel Sharon in which Israel conceded some of its legal and historical rights to settle throughout Judea and Samaria, limiting construction to inside the building lines of existing Jewish communities in those territories.
And yes, the API can serve as an important diplomatic framework for peace with the wider Arab world and the Palestinians. However, it must exclude prior conditions such as a return to the indefensible June 4, 1967 lines and the so-called Palestinian right of return of refugees into Israel.
Beyond these differences, we both share a conviction that any sustainable process toward a final peace agreement must be accompanied by mutual goodwill, cooperation and trust building reflected by the establishment of shared initiatives from health to high-tech. As a mature state with a successful economy, Israel has much to contribute to the well-being of the Palestinian people. Without downplaying the importance of the diplomatic horizon toward two states, we hope that Israel and the PA can find ways of enhancing their cooperation in such areas as the environment, water and urban planning.
The responsibility of making “peace” between peoples also is, or can be in the hands of the peoples themselves. There is a Palestinian “anti-normalization” campaign that seeks to cut off contact with Israelis. And the pernicious global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls for the boycott of Israeli products and institutions, has captured the headlines.
The recent wave of violence, the so-called “knife intifada,” is creating a tense and toxic environment.
Despite it all, there are Israelis and Palestinians continuing to work, without fanfare, toward reconciliation, mutual understanding and an enhanced quality of life for both peoples.
One coalition group trying to increase the budgets of people- to-people NGOs is the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP). It has been promoting the creation of a $200 million international fund, which would come from the United States, the European Union, the rest of the international community (including the Arab states) and the private sector.
This fund is inspired by the successful International Fund for Ireland (IFI), which over the past 20 years has provided $1.5 billion and contributed dramatically to the reduction of conflict and instability in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
In partnership with Forbes Magazine, ALLMEP on April 7 convened a community fair in Jerusalem with over 300 professionals and participants in people-to-people programs organized by dozens of NGOs. Examples of these efforts include: • Kids4Peace, operating from Jerusalem, is a global movement of Jewish, Christian and Muslim youth dedicated to ending conflict and inspiring hope in divided societies.
The organization is dedicated to bringing together Israeli and Palestinian children and their families to “break down stereotypes and foster supportive, mature friendships.”
• Middle East Education Through Technology (MEET) is also a Jerusalem- based program in which Israeli and Palestinian high school students come together to learn computer science and business from an international team of staff and volunteers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
• The Arava Institute brings together leaders from Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and around the world to address regional and global environmental challenges.
Tens of thousands are currently engaged in people-to-people programs organized by such NGOs, many of which operate on shoestring budgets and have long waiting lists. These programs have a ripple effect, touching not only the direct participants but their families and communities as well. They often have a stabilizing influence, reducing violence and the hatred that gives rise to it. A substantial international fund would enable these NGOs to scale up and extend the impact.
Past peace process negotiators such as Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk have lamented that, while pursuing an elusive conflict-ending treaty, too little attention was paid to grass roots activities. But it’s not too late.
Hawks and doves can continue to respectfully debate and disagree about political issues. At the same time, let us come together to support a more robust ongoing effort to anchor any future agreement between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in a genuine and lasting peace between the peoples.
Martin J. Raffel is former senior vice president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA); Dan Diker is a fellow and project director of the program to counter political warfare and BDS at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA). He previously served as secretary general of the World Jewish Congress.
The opinions expressed above are exclusively those of the authors.