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Thursday, 1 October, 2009

Hani Zubida, an academic and social and political activist, argues that the key ingredients needed to kick start the peace process are good faith and a clean slate.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems to be at a halt. No negotiations are taking place, and even when there are 'talks' and meetings between the sides it seems like no one believes in the next step honest negotiations – the question is why? Can we do something to change this pattern?

I have to admit that I have been trying to solve this puzzle for a while, and meeting The Elders brought me to rethink the issue again. This time I wanted to concentrate on finding a solution not for the entire process, this time I wanted to focus only on how to kick start the process in good faith.

Thinking about the conflict resolution process in general, and specifically the Israeli Palestinian one, I reached the understanding that one needs to deconstruct the entire process. If we try this we find that there is a per-negotiation stage, which is usually led by international mediation; this part is almost a 'built-in' portion of every negotiation or conflict resolution process.

After this, we have the bilateral talks; this stage presents the two sides coming together in an attempt to find a formula that will help resolve the issues at hand. However, in this conflict we rarely get past the first stage, it seems that there are always issues that hinder the sides' ability to get to the negotiation part.

It is important to stress that I am not trying to 'pin' the blame on one side; I found that each side in this conflict is trying to impose problematic pre-conditions to the negotiations that serve as a barrier between the pre-negotiation and negotiation stage. Two examples: the Israeli side demands that the 'import-export' activity via the tunnels in Gaza come to a halt; the Palestinian Authority would like Israel to stop all settlement construction.

While it is, for various reasons, the position of each side that these terms are impossible to fulfill, each and every time they serve as an obstacle to the main item on the agenda: peace talks, and a true attempt at solving the problems.

I suggest that both sides abandon any pre-conditions they would like to impose on the other and concentrate on achieving a peace treaty. Good faith and a clean slate is what we need -  not impositions on the other side. While this might not solve the entire conflict, it will surely aid in starting a discourse that could have the possibility of ending it, and I think in the current situation this is much much more than what we have now.

Hani Zubida is a Professor at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy & Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. He was born in Baghdad, Iraq and raised in Israel. He has been a social and political activist for many years. Having defended his PhD at NYU in 2006, Hani currently teaches and researches extensively on the Israeli electoral system, social-mobility in Israeli society, Israeli democracy, its socio-economic and political realms, the Middle East peace process and voting behavior theories and analysis.

Read Hani's blog at: www.notes.co.il/hani (Hebrew)

Views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Elders or The Elders Foundation.

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