Ve Gar Ze'ev im Ze'ev: Ha Mitnachalim Ve Ha Palistinaim
by Joseph Alpher
Israel: Hakibbutz Hameuchad Publishing House Ltd. , 2001. 141 pp. 70 shekels, paper.
Reviewed by Asaf Romirowsky
Middle East Quarterly
In his dramatically titled book (And the Wolf Shall Dwell with the Wolf, The Settlers and the Palestinians), Alpher describes back-door but high-level discussions that he set up and mediated between Palestinians and Israelis living on the West Bank and in Gaza. These meetings began before Oslo and stopped shortly after Rabin's assassination in 1995. They were conducted confidentially, with great efforts made to insure no leaks to the public; that said, the talks finally came to an end due to a leak to the media. Alpher's ability to create this forum, given the political realities, was admirable.
The goal, Alpher explains, was to humanize the enemy in each other's eyes on a one-on-one basis. This meant creating an environment in which the two sides could meet without political pressure. He reports that mutual understanding was reached in several areas but only in small-scale talks. Each time an additional player was added, things grew more complicated. Not surprisingly, the primary obstacle facing Palestinians often concerned the building of support within their own communities. Also, whereas the Israelis agreed to listen to a Palestinian explain his views, the Palestinians were reluctant to respond in kind. Working out an agreement, in other words, was socially acceptable among Israelis but not among Arabs.
This startling fact exposes the misnomer calling the left in Israel the "peace camp," for nearly all Israelis, even those living on the West Bank and in Gaza, were committed to negotiations. (What concessions should be made is the point on which they differ. ) In Palestinian society, however, there truly is an anti-peace camp. This makes the gap so difficult to bridge. Alpher's experiment suggests two points: direct negotiations are a good idea, but when it comes to implementation, they cannot stand alone, abstracted from American intervention.
Related Topics: Arab-Israel conflict & diplomacy, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians | Asaf Romirowsky | Summer 2002 MEQ
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