A wise man recently told the New York Times:
“To me, the big issue was not whether Kerry would drag them back to the table,” Mr. Horovitz said. “The question is how can they reach an agreement. I just don’t see viable parameters that both sides could agree upon, to my great sorrow.”
It is a valid question and history does not embrace a positive answer if we repeat it. If negotiations become a shouting match in which each side powerfully promotes its well known positions then there is little possibility for progress and the result of realizing a transcendent peace agreement. Believing that with all the existing traps laid around the beginning of the negotiating process and people busily working overtime to invent and strewn the field with even more represents a most rational conclusion. It is difficult to find a way out of the box unless you bring a knife or a pair of scissors. Expecting the unexpected in positive terms is almost like asking for dreams to come true.
There are many people, Israelis, Palestinians, Americans, European’s and internationals who have spent their lifetimes pursuing peace in the Middle East and around the globe who have learned many lessons from both their successes and their failures. I neither personally nor professionally come to this with that level of knowledge and commitment. But I have faith that the people I have met, men and women who have devoted their lives to peace can be utilized behind the scenes to help the principal’s deal with the extraordinary emotional issues that divide two leaders and their people. They can work to help set the stage for constructive statecraft at the negotiating table, to auger on the quiet diplomacy and organize the public involvement that will move people’s hearts and minds back to a sincere belief in peace and a willingness to actively support it.
This kind of hope has been largely missing in Israel as well as the West Bank since the failure of Camp David II and the explosion of the Second Intifada. Peace looked very far away and the only security was and is a Separation Wall and the restriction of travel and effective separation of two peoples who remain at war. It is time first to tear down that Wall figuratively by creating a national network of dialogues on the meaning of peace and how two people will learn to live as good neighbors in its aftermath. This National Conversation must be financed by the international community and formally endorsed by both President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu as a program to enhance communication, understanding and even to begin reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.
I believe that the Obama administration led by Secretary of State John Kerry recognizes the details that are cooked into the nature of the process and the problems both internal and external that are waiting like ticking bombs to upend it. It will take extraordinary statesmanship to keep the process of negotiations moving, factoring in American, Arab, European, United Nations and other supports at critical moments to allow the effort to continue in spite of all endeavors large and small to destroy it. It will take the most exceptional commitment by the leaders on both sides and their repeated endorsement of the negotiating process to a corps of politicians who have less certainty and maybe even more to gain individually from another failure. It will also take remarkable persistence by the negotiators to work through countless issues and the reality that each side entered the room with its own story and its own truth.
There is something to be said in working backwards from the shape of a peace accord that has been defined and redefined for over a generation. I believe that as the train leaves the station and people and nations stand waiting at the crossroads of history to jump on board that the nature of the negotiations can and will change as popular faith in the achievement of peace grows in Tel Aviv and Jaffa, and throughout the landscape of our Holy Land.
Larry Snider is President of ICMEP; The Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace an NGO based in suburban Philadelphia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The words here represent the beliefs of the author and should not be construed as the policy of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace.