Intractable Peacebuilding: Innovation and Perseverance in the Israeli-Palestinian Context




Lazarus, Ned

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School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution


“Advocates of Israeli-Palestinian peace face a season of soul-searching as the second decade since the Oslo Accords passes without the key deliverable: the final status treaty originally scheduled for signing in the twentieth century. The present research coincided with the rise and fall of another round of peace negotiations, led this time by US Secretary of State John Kerry. Initiated to modest fanfare in August 2013, the ‘Kerry Process’ ended in deadlock nine months later, with no publicly visible progress or prospects for renewal. This failure has, for the moment, vindicated the skepticism of Israeli and Palestinian publics regarding the prospects of a negotiated peace, while setting the stage for fifty days of fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, a rising tide of intercommunal violence and speculation about a third Palestinian intifada, or mass uprising. Journalists have responded with a predictable proliferation of autopsies of the peace process, most concentrating exclusively on violent attacks and futile negotiations.In the Israeli-Palestinian context, Track Two and Three peace efforts are perennially overshadowed in the public eye by action – or the lack thereof – on Track One. In July 2014, for example, Haaretz convened an incongruously-timed ‘Conference on Peace’ in the opening days of ‘Operation Protective Edge.’ The event, which earned public attention primarily for being evacuated due to rocket fire, featured but a lone voice from civil society among a legion of parliamentarians, pundits and plutocrats. Yet while official final status talks have occurred in fragments, comprising a handful of the twenty lost years since Oslo, a core of determined grassroots and civil society peacebuilders have been at work on the ground, day in and day out, through the traumatic rupture of the second intifada and the diplomatic stagnation that has followed in its wake. These Israelis and Palestinians have not waited for peace to trickle down from above; they have built organizations, networks and programs steadily over time, revised methods and strategies to incorporate critical feedback and to adapt to abrupt shifts in context; they have both innovated and persevered. Too often, grassroots and civil society peacebuilding is evaluated through the lens of current affairs in the official peace process. Occasionally portrayed as promising during interludes of Track One negotiation, ‘people-to-people’ work is frequently framed as futile during periods of violent escalation or the ‘new normal’ of prolonged stalemate.5 Such blanket assessments typically make scant effort to convey the complexity or diversity of the actual Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding field, and little if any reference to empirical research. This paper aims to challenge this Track One-centric framing by highlighting the contemporary work of four veteran organizations, all of which have continued throughout the tumultuous times initiated by the interim agreements. Two are jointly-led Israeli-Palestinian initiatives: Friends of the Earth Middle East (FOEME) and the Parents Circle Families Forum (PCFF).6 The others focus on Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel: The Abraham Fund Initiatives (TAFI) and Hand-in-Hand: Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel (HiH). After years in the field, their names may be familiar; the cutting-edge aspects of their current work, however, merit further attention. This report will highlight specific projects and overall organizational strategies that can provide models for inspiration and potential adaptation for peacebuilders in other global contexts of unresolved conflict.”



Israeli-Palestinian Conflict