The International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace is designed to marshal a grassroots effort in support of peace between the two sides. While peace treaties are negotiated between governments, civil society is critical to building a constituency to support risk-taking on behalf of peace by leaders, and even more critical to making sure that any peace agreement holds together in the face of challenges and spoilers. The Fund, which two weeks ago received a $50 million earmark for fiscal year 2019 from the Senate Appropriations Committee, will assist in building joint economic and civil society ventures that can foster trust between Israelis and Palestinians and create a groundswell for positive change.
Why is it important?
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Is a Peace Deal Possible if Israelis and Palestinians Simply Don’t Trust Each Other?
Much has been written about Secretary of State John Kerry’s parting remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But while most of the analysis has focused on whether the speech was too harsh on Israel or how well Kerry defended the U.S. abstention in the United Nations, one theme of the speech has been overlooked: the idea that the two-state solution’s cause of death is not likely to be settlements or incitement, but rather the total lack of trust between Israelis and Palestinians. As Kerry said:
“In the end, I believe the negotiations did not fail because the gaps were too wide, but because the level of trust was too low. Both sides were concerned that any concessions would not be reciprocated and would come at too great a political cost. And the deep public skepticism only made it more difficult for them to be able to take risks.”
That line is important for multiple reasons. First, it underscores that the belief gap between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership today is so wide that even if they agree completely on all of the final status issues—borders, Jerusalem, refugees, security arrangements—they are incapable of making a deal. Second, the leaders on both sides will never take the necessary risks for an agreement without overwhelming public support. That is, while public trust and support may not be a sufficient condition for a just and lasting peace, it is a necessary one. And third, the innovation that is needed to get to a deal is not finding ever-new bridging formulas on the final status issues, of which the Kerry principles are just the latest iteration, but rather a focus on how to start traversing the incredulity gap that divides the people.
Israel Policy Exchange:
It’s Time to Establish An International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace
The Israel-Palestine conflict is not just a conflict between leaders, but it is also a conflict between the two peoples and their emotions. When making the distinction between conflicting conflicts and ethnic conflicts, political scientist Chaim Kaufman articulates, “Effective conflict resolution…requires addressing the emotional and symbolic processes that influence how tangible issues are perceived.” Thus, there will be no durable solution without considering the emotional grievances of both sides nor will either party be able to make the necessary concessions, even if they wanted to, without the overwhelming support of the public. Unfortunately, trust between Israelis and Palestinians is rather low.
In August 2016, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 54% of Palestinians believe Israel’s main goal is to take all the land from the River to the Sea, while 40% of Israeli Jews believe the Palestinians share the same goal. Even more disturbing, 76% of Palestinians are worried or very worried on a daily basis that they or their family could be hurt by an Israeli, while 71% of Israelis hold the same fear towards Palestinians.
Indeed, peace will not come as long as Israelis and Palestinians continue to fear and distrust each other. The way to build trust and a “culture of peace” between their respective societies is by humanizing each other through people-to-people dialogue.