Title

Dialogue Between Israelis and Palestinians: Obsolete Approach or Still Viable Technique in the Middle East Conflict Transformation Toolkit?

Publication Date

Fall 11-14-2012

Degree Name

MA in Conflict Transformation

First Advisor

Paula Green

Abstract

During the last thirty years of the 20th century, there was a proliferation of dialogues between Palestinians and Israelis. Participants in early unofficial dialogues sometimes became negotiators for official dialogues, or articulated positions which were later presented in public Track II negotiations such as the Geneva Accords. Nevertheless, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has not been transformed, and seems more intractable now than in many years. Given the optimism, effort, and analysis which have been invested in dialogue, this paper considers the question of whether dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians represents an obsolete approach or a still valuable technique in the Middle East conflict transformation toolkit.

Research was conducted through an extensive literature review followed by semi-structured individual interviews with Palestinian and Israeli activists who had had experience facilitating dialogue.

Based on this research, it appears that for many peace activists, dialogue remains an important component in a spectrum of peacebuilding activities. Almost all dialogue proponents recognize limitations which include asymmetrical power dynamics, language challenges, and cultural barriers. More significantly, there is a tendency to focus on transforming relationships between individuals without addressing the structural violence and the political backdrop with which the individuals struggle.

Notwithstanding dialogue’s shortcomings, some practitioners mourn its decline. Others, particularly Palestinians, resist all contact with Israelis, including dialogue, until power is equalized. A more hopeful trend is Israelis joining with Palestinians in their regular protests of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, suggesting a movement beyond dialogue to action.

Disciplines

Education | International and Comparative Education | Peace and Conflict Studies

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