Saturday, September 22, 2007

Getting to Yes, Roger Fisher and Willium Ury

In reading Fisher and Ury's Getting to Yes, Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, a classic in this field, I was struck by several negotiating principles and observations they mention which I believe are key to the peace process for Israel-Palestine, elements which have been missing or inadequately attended to. Following is one quotation I believe merits consideration.

"Give them a stake in the outcome by making sure they participate in the process. If they are not involved in the process, they are hardly likely to approve the product. It is that simple... If you want the other side to accept a disagreeable conclusion, it is crucial that you involve them in the process of reaching that conclusion... Even if the terms of an agreement seem favorable, the other side may reject them simply out of a suspicion born of their exclusion from the drafting process. Agreement becomes much easier if both parties feel ownership of the ideas. The whole process of negotiation becomes stronger as each side puts their imprimatur bit by bit on a developing solution... To involve the other side, get them involved early. Ask for their advice. Giving credit generously for ideas wherever possible will give them a personal stake in defending those ideas to others... Apart from the substantive merits, the feeling of participation in the process is perhaps the single most important factor in determining whether a negotiator accepts a proposal. In a sense the process is the product."

(this post to be continued..)

Roger Fisher teaches negotiation at Harvard Law School, where he is Williston Professor of Law Emeritus and director of the Harvard Negotiation Project. Willium Ury co-founded Harvard's Program on Negotiation, where he directs the Negotiation Network.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Geneva Initiative Mission Statement

After a century of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, the Geneva Initiative offers a real and mutually agreed upon possibility for ending the conflict between the two sides and obtaining a mutually acceptable peace that guarantees the vital national interests of both sides.

The Geneva Initiative provides realistic and achievable solutions on all issues, based on previous official negotiations, international resolutions, the Quartet Roadmap, Clinton Parameters, Bush Vision, and Arab Peace Initiative.

In addition to presenting a detailed blueprint for Israeli-Palestinian peace, the Initiative aims to bring that moment of peace closer, by showing the way and preparing public opinion and leadership to be accepting of the real compromises required to solve the conflict.

We affirm that it is in the best interest of Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate directly in order to reach a realistic, dignified, and sustainable 2-state solution in which both peoples can build a brighter future, as is embodied in the model Geneva Accord.

We hope to reinstill in the Israeli and Palestinian peoples the hope that it is possible to reach an agreement that will serve their respective national and personal interests and aspirations. We are committed to exposing each side's public to the message of the other – despite the technical and psychological barriers.

From the Geneva Initiative website. For details of the Geneva Initiative Proposal please visit the linked title above or the link shown in our Points of Light for Peacebuilding list.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

In Search of Meaning - Gila Svirsky

I’m about to say a good word about materialism, but first… If I had to capture the current Israeli mood in two words, they would be “national disenchantment”. This is the result of a buildup of events that would discourage even the most patriotic of citizens: · A long list of sex, power, and money scandals among our top political brass (president, prime minister, justice minister, finance minister, chief of police, head of tax authority, and more); · The meltdown of the myth of military invincibility during the recent Lebanon War; · The lack of success of any of our sports teams in international competitions (even our usually good basketball team). I could cite more, but these alone are sufficient.

One of the most revealing signs of the time was the phone call to his broker made by the former military Chief of Staff to sell off all his stock, moments after he and Olmert had made the decision to launch an all-out assault on Lebanon. While this act, too, was framed in public discourse as callous, self-centered, and materialistic, in private discourse many Israelis smirked and called it smart. Is it any wonder that Israelis have begun to notice that patriotism, integrity, and austerity are only words, and the name of the game is profitability?

The ongoing conflict with the Palestinians also no longer fills Israel with a sense of meaning (“we are fighting for our lives”), as our media fail to report the death and destruction that now take place behind the Separation Wall – out of sight, out of mind. A clear symptom of a breakdown in the patriotic ethos is that more and more young men and women are avoiding military service. These include both those who openly and courageously refuse to show up for the draft, as well as those who find excuses for not being able to serve, or manage to leave the service before their term is up. Indeed, recent data indicate that half the age-appropriate Israelis do not begin or complete a full term of service. And now we confront what Michael Walzer might say is the declining willingness of the citizen to make the ultimate sacrifice for his or her state.

Lack of zeal does not apply to one special group of Israelis: those messianic settlers who now disdain Israeli law and army in favor of their understanding of God’s Wishes. For these settlers, the holiness of the Land is now pit against the holiness of the State, and Land takes precedence. They have formed separatist groups, alienated from and hostile to Israeli society, scattered in settlements throughout the West Bank. To be clear, the settlers include moderates who would leave cooperatively in the event of a peace agreement, fanatics who would struggle to remain, and the small but growing group of messianists, who reject Israel entirely following the evacuation of Gaza. The relative size of these three groups is unknown.

What is clear is the broad consensus within Israel that a two-state solution is inevitable, and the sooner the better. The other issues are in contention – Jerusalem, the refugees, and the precise location of the borders of those states – but the principle of ending the occupation has prevailed. Ironically, at a time when the Israeli body politic and the moderate Arab states could come together on a deal, we in Israel have ended up with a prime minister with barely enough power to stay in office, let alone negotiate a peace agreement with our neighbors. We will be lucky if he is replaced by someone no worse. And thus disenchantment – a loss of patriotic fervor – is making way for simple western materialism. Perhaps it may come in time to save Israel from itself?

We Refuse to be Enemies- Dr. Sumaya Farhat-Naser and Gila Svirsky

Although the information has not yet reached the international media, we would like the world to know that women in Israel and Palestine are ready to make peace.

For almost two decades, women have been the most vibrant, daring, and progressive part of the peace movement on both sides of our divide. Palestinian and Israeli women have been meeting and negotiating with each other for years, even when the very act of speaking to each other was illegal in Israel and prohibited in Palestine.

These negotiations began in secret years ago in local homes and churches. Then we felt safer meeting in Basle, Berlin, Brussels, Bologna, and other European cities. Today, we meet openly when we can, often in symbolic venues, such as the Notre Dame Center on the border between Palestinian and Israeli Jerusalem.

While there have been dissension and debate, and while the context in which we have held our discussions has often been painful, we have always held aloft the common vision of peace. Were it left to us, we would long ago have had a peace agreement that settles the difficult issues between us.

We women advocate an end to the situation of occupier and occupied. We want to see Israel and Palestine as two separate states, side by side, with Jerusalem the shared capital of both. We want a just solution to end the suffering of the refugees. We believe that each nation has equal rights to statehood, independence, freedom, security, development, and a life of dignity.

And a crucial point of agreement: We condemn all forms of brutality, violence, and terrorism - whether by individuals, political groups, governments, or the military. We have had enough of the killing, on both sides. Too many Palestinian and Israeli children are now dead or orphaned or maimed for life, and too many of our own sons, fathers, and brothers have done that killing. For war victimizes not only the innocent, it also brutalizes the perpetrators.

Israeli and Palestinian women have engaged in educating our own peoples about the validity of both claims to this territory, and have sought to counteract the demonization in which both our societies engage. We have promoted dialogue between women, paid mutual condolence calls to the families of victims on both sides, been arrested for protesting what is outside our national consensus, and spoken out in a clear voice to demand a just solution.

And, apart from our public, organizational activity, we women also operate as secret agents. We are not just the mothers, teachers, nurses, and social workers of our societies. We are also secret agents serving up politics with dinner, teaching the lessons of nonviolence to every child in our classrooms, every patient in our care, every client we advise, every son and daughter that we love. We plant subversive ideas of peace in the minds of the young before the agents of war have even noticed. This is a long process, whose results are not visible overnight, but we believe in its ultimate efficacy.

The women's peace movement in Palestine and in Israel believes that the time has come to end the bloodshed. The time has come to lay down our weapons and our fears. We refuse to accept more warfare in our lives, our communities, our nations. We refuse to go along with the fear. We refuse to give in to the violence. We refuse to be enemies.

Dr. Sumaya Farhat-Naser, a Palestinian woman, is co-founder and former director of the Jerusalem Center for Women, a Palestinian organization committed to Middle East peace based on justice, human rights, and women’s rights. Gila Svirsky, a Jewish Israeli peace activist, co-founded the Coalition of Women for Peace, which brings together nine Israeli women’s peace organizations to advocate for a just peace with our neighbors and justice and equality within Israel.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Jews, Muslims, and Peace - Yehezkel Landau and Yahya Hendi

With ongoing violence sapping the spirits of Israelis and Palestinians, and with the Iraq war generating shock waves throughout the Middle East, we call on our fellow Jews and Muslims to join forces with concerned Christians to transcend this cycle of death and destruction. Jews and Muslims should be spiritual allies, not adversaries. Any student of comparative religion knows that Judaism and Islam are as close to one another as any two faith traditions can be. In both, the sacred texts prescribe communal norms, and the criterion for genuine faithfulness is the practice of justice and compassion. The Hebrew and Arabic languages, too, are amazingly close to one another. Muslim and Jewish scholars, at times both writing in Arabic, have nourished each other’s spiritualities for centuries. It is only in the past hundred years that the conflict over the Holy Land, whether called Israel or Palestine, has engendered competing nationalisms and the violation of basic human rights affirmed as sacred by all three faith traditions. The conflict has also undermined the historic cross-fertilization of these traditions.

The mixture of religion and nationalism is dangerously combustible. On a human, pragmatic level, two nations in a dispute over a land claimed by both should be able to compromise and share the territory. But when God’s will is invoked to absolutize one or the other claim, then compromise becomes sacrilege, and religious extremism generates grotesque ideologies of domination, death, and destruction.

In recent years, we have wept as our sacred traditions have been hijacked and contaminated in this way. Religious leaders who share our sorrow are sometimes intimidated into silence by the extremists, or else the political constraints of their public roles encourage self-censorship. Their reticence only compounds the tragedy.

One of the reasons the Oslo “peace process” failed is that it was a secular peace plan imposed by secular leaders on a Holy Land, where large minorities of Jews and Palestinians are motivated by deeply held religious convictions. There are festering wounds that require spiritual, not only political, remedies: the displacement and dispossession of Palestinians in 1948 and of Jews from Arab countries afterwards; a series of Arab-Israeli wars over half a century; a prolonged, unjust, and humiliating occupation of Palestinian territory since 1967; continuing violence against civilians; the reluctance of many to accept each other as neighbors; and the growth of hatred and suppression. All of these factors have sustained a chronic religious pathology.

Despite this crisis of the spirit, leaders of the various religious communities were not enlisted as partners in the struggle for peace. If the September, 1993, signing ceremony on the White House lawn had included an Israeli chief rabbi and a high-ranking Palestinian Muslim cleric, the message projected on that occasion, especially to the faithful, would have been very different. And if religious leaders from the three faiths had been brought together from the outset to help make peace possible, the diplomacy would have had a much greater chance of success.

Instead, Israeli and Palestinian leaders, with the endorsement of American and European diplomats, labeled Islamic militants and ultra-nationalist religious Jews as “enemies of peace”. The dynamic that ensued, with fervent Muslims and Jews feeling threatened by a “peace process” that excluded them, has contributed to the dreadful impasse in which we are all caught. Religious issues important to both sides were pushed aside and not properly addressed. These include sensitive issues like Jerusalem and the status of what Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims call the Haram Al-Shareef.

In a more conducive context of trust and good will, it might be possible for Jews, Christians, and Muslims to design a political framework for peaceful coexistence in a shared Jerusalem. Both nations could agree to offer up to God the sacred plateau at its heart, as extra-territorial space in terms of sovereignty and with the waqf Islamic trust continuing to administer the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock. This was the late King Hussein’s proposal, and it seems to us the fairest and most practical option. But, in the meantime, voices are heard on both sides delegitimizing each other’s attachments to this sacred site. This mutual denial adds poison to an already lethal atmosphere.

Part of the problem is that the notion of “political sovereignty” often eclipses the fundamental religious truth that only God is sovereign over Creation, and that we human beings are God’s regents or servant-partners in blessing and perfecting this world. This means that all political realms are under Divine judgment and that their power is relativized by God’s ultimate authority. The ramification for Israel and Palestine, under any agreement establishing two adjacent sovereignties, is that these two states should be understood as means for ensuring the rights and opportunities of people, not ends in themselves. A federation or confederation, perhaps including Jordan as well, might be a more effective framework for enabling the self-determination of each people and, simultaneously, serving the needs of all on the basis of equity and interdependence.

In fostering interreligious peacebuilding, a Christian mediation role is helpful on two counts: to encourage polarized Jews and Muslims to find common ground, and to inspire Western Christians to make amends for their own bloody history toward the other two Abrahamic communities. For Palestinian Christians, rooted in the land for centuries, reconciliation between their Muslim brethren and Israeli Jews is essential for their own economic and spiritual welfare.

The major burden, however, falls on the Jews and the Muslims themselves. Both communities, guided by wise leadership, need to overcome longstanding prejudices and resentments. Each tradition has sacred teachings that can be enlisted to build bridges of respect, reconciliation, and cooperation. Wise religious leadership consists of identifying those teachings and educating both peoples in that spirit.

There will be no political peace in the Middle East without a spiritual underpinning reconciling Jews and Muslims. At this critical moment in our history, with heartbreaking suffering and loss on all sides, we need to be inspired by the Divine light that shines forth from the holy Qur’an and the holy Torah. They both affirm life, not death. They both teach compassion, not callousness or hatred. They both call for a richly diverse human family under the sovereignty of the One God.

We both pray that--insh’Allah, b’ezrat Hashem, with God’s help--2003 will be a year of genuine peace and security for everyone everywhere, starting with our common homeland, Israel/Palestine.

is co-director of the Open House Center for Jewish-Arab Coexistence in Ramle, Israel, and Faculty Associate in Interfaith Relations at Hartford Seminary. Imam YAHYA HENDI is Muslim Chaplain at Georgetown University, spokesperson for the Islamic Jurisprudence Council of North America, and director of the Peace Office of the Muslim American Society.