Israelis need to see the Palestinian public engaged in peace.Polls show us daily that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians want a peaceful solution to the conflict. There is a feeling of exhaustion, and of overdoing it. The price of peace between Israelis and Palestinians is clear enough, and the historic solution will probably be similar to the unsigned Taba agreements of February 2001.
The Israeli majority and the Palestinian majority understand that there have to be two states that will live peacefully with each other, and that there must be an agreement and a way to get there that is acceptable to both sides. Now the Quartet’s road map, and the meetings of the leaders, are again raising hopes that the implementation of peace is possible
Twice in the past we have been at this juncture, once during Yitzhak Rabin’s term as prime minister of Israel, and the second during Ehud Barak’s term. Twice we almost touched peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and twice we failed.
Among the most dominant reasons was the fact that the leaders ran faster than their constituencies and did not involve the ordinary Palestinian and ordinary Israeli in the process. People felt that their leadership was betraying them, that their concerns were not being taken into account, and that the other side could not be trusted. These were used as reasons or excuses for leaders not to have enough courage to complete the job.
When Binyamin Netanyahu was prime minister he completely relied on those arguments, as well as reciprocity, to justify his case, and was not pressured by Israelis to act otherwise.
In peace-building it is not enough to draft diplomatic agreements between leaders; a reconciliation process needs to happen among the peoples in conflict. This should not be a preventive element for diplomatic efforts, but rather a complementary effort. It is widely known as “track-two” diplomacy.
Much rethinking of the shared responsibility for the current ugly reality needs to happen as well. Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) initiated a very powerful process. The silent majorities on both sides need to be engaged for it to succeed.
I spent a weekend in Ramallah meeting with a number of Palestinian leaders, including Dr. Hani al-Hassan, head of the Palestinian National Security Agency the same man who was a candidate to become Palestinian prime minister, and who was one of the founders of the PLO back in the early 60s. I wanted to learn about the level of commitment Palestinians have to the current peace process, and to urge them to engage the Palestinian masses in a campaign to support the peace process. I had similar meetings with Israeli leaders and urged them to do the same.
I must say that I was already stunned at the beginning of the meeting. Al-Hassan started by saying that “We need to examine what went wrong. We came here after accepting the fact that we need to create a state side by side with the state of Israel. This is our national agenda, and it is different from the religious agenda. Our choice is to live in peace.”
This language is rarely heard by Israelis, who always wonder: Where is the Palestinian peace movement?
I presented this question to al-Hassan, and his reply was that the Palestinian Authority represents the Palestinian peace movement. I tried to explain that Israelis need to see the Palestinian public engaged in this effort in order to help reinstate trust.
Needless to say, the Palestinians need to also see the Israeli public engaged in pro-peace activities to close the circle.
The diplomatic efforts can probably give a framework for borders, Jerusalem, refugees, economic agreements, water arrangements, etc. But this can only bring about a cease-fire. Peace needs to include the acceptance of ordinary people, and that can only happen if they are engaged in the process.
In addition to the security measures that Israelis need to see implemented by the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians have a duty to extend their goodwill as a nation toward the average Israeli. This needs a mechanism to expose it, and not only to have the goodwill hidden in their hearts.
Palestinians need to end Israel’s occupation, but also need to see real measures that will convince them that this is not one more attempt to absorb international pressure while intending to deflect the process at the end of the road.
A clear Israeli public voice heard by Palestinians will assist in building the much-needed trust of the Palestinians in this third juncture of peace-making.
(Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post)