Fair Policy, Fair Discussion

July 22, 2010

An Arab-Israeli Dialogue for Peace

Several generations have now grown up with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Central to that reality has been the start and stop of Arab-Israeli peace talks, which always seem to take one step forward and then three back.  But in some areas of the world, most recently on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., talks between Arabs and Israelis are continually moving forward with the same message: peace.

Yesterday I attended a discussion hosted by Americans for Peace Now (APN), which featured Ori Nir of APN and Hussein Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine. While their speeches, comments, and answers to questions were certainly insightful, the most striking lesson that I left the brown bag lunch with was the plain and simple fact that an Arab and an Israeli could talk with one another and agree upon the most basic desire for anyone involved in the Middle East: peace in Israel/Palestine.

Now, at first that sounds rather silly to come out of such a discussion focusing on this basic and fairly self-evident thought.  However, from my short time working on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and especially how it is approached in the United States, I have found that many people deeply involved in the issue have lost sight of that basic fact.  We all want the same thing.  Jewish Israelis, Arabs, American Jews and Arab-Israelis all deeply desire peace.  The main problem of the specific terms of peace still appears insurmountable at times, but the end goal is a common one.

At the talk, which was open by invitation to interns on Capitol Hill in hopes of inspiring the younger generation to work towards a comprehensive peace, of course the standard topics of two-state versus one-state solution, Hamas, the future of Fatah, Palestinian state-building efforts, the effect of the American government, etc. were all touched upon.  Listening to the complexity of the issue unravel before you, the probability of a successful two-state solution not only seems far off but shrouded in complicating factors and misleading stereotypes held by all sides.  But unlike most talks on this issue that I have attended, I came away from this one optimistic and uplifted by the image of an Israeli and an Arab both speaking passionately about the need for peace – the need not only just for the Palestinians and Israelis, but for all Americans, all Arabs, and the world to realize this peace.

Peace can and must come to pass in this conflict, which has continued throughout not just my lifetime but my parents’ lifetimes as well.  Such a peace can only succeed if all parties stop focusing on what the other side is doing wrong and instead recognize that they are not the only party with dear interests at stake.  I am entirely aware that my statements now are highly idealistic and that peace is complicated by many factors, not least of which is the imbalance of power between Israel and the Palestinians.  But without reminding ourselves to think of all the interests involved in the issue and the common-held desire to see peace within our lifetimes, I believe that a true, successful peace will be lost.



  1. Peace is so much desired that the word itself can be used as a smokescreen to cover a continuous process of land acquisition by one side and loss of that land by another.

    Would you say that there is “peace” in the occupied territories at present? There are no armies in battle, no formal “hostilities” with active front lines.

    Termites, who tunnel within a piece of wood until there is no body to the wood behind the surface, can do their work without disturbance, yet the wood is lost as surely as if it had been set aflame.

    The most skillful conqueror will constantly speak of peace and the need to defend himself. The United States perfected the method in the 19th century and all that remains of Native-American lands that covered the continent are isolated reservations and thousands of interesting place-names.

    Comment by Clif Brown — July 22, 2010 @ 1:05 pm | Reply

    • I agree, Clif, that many holding and not holding leadership positions proclaim they desire peace while at the same time promoting actions which undermine peace. However, I believe that if the desire for peace exists within substantial segments of the Jewish-Israeli, American Jewish, Arab and Palestinian communities then we should never lose hope. Yes their visions of peace are radically different and provide almost insurmountable blocks. But I think that recognizing the common basic desire for peace is essential to re-invigorating real potential for peace and discrediting defensive stances on both sides.

      Comment by quinnconnors — July 22, 2010 @ 1:37 pm | Reply

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