David Makovsky, director of Project on the Middle East Peace Process, visited the Hibben Center Wednesday to talk to UNM students in a talk entitled, "Seeking Justice: Strengthening the Prospects for Middle East Peace."
He is the Ziegler distinguished fellow at The Washington Institute in addition to being an adjunct professor in Middle East studies at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and recently concluded a stint as a senior advisor on Secretary of State John Kerry's peace team, seeking a historic peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. The Daily Lobo caught up with Makovsky to ask a few questions about his mission and its relevancy.
What message would you like to get out to students interested in this conflict?
"The importance of coexistence. We've had some big efforts of the U.S. to try and solve the whole conflict. For reasons that I don't think were faults of our own or whatever, but it didn't work.
I think we need to be creative, out of the box, and trying to find ways to bring these parties to agree on some things even if they can't agree on everything. I hope the student community is able to look for ways that would enhance the idea of coexistence and not look at divisive steps that will rip people apart. Things that would bring people together and to support the pursuit of peace."
What do you think is the solution for finding peace between these two countries?
"There's no doubt if you had, on the Palestinian side, a sense that Israel is here to stay and we don't think there's any room for violence to solve a conflict, but it has to be resolved peacefully. I think that might have an impact.
In terms of Israelis looking at everything through a security prison, their concern is that the Palestinians really don't accept them. They (Palestinians) don't want them in the Middle East and therefore, while I think the Israelis want to give the Palestinians the dignity they deserve, they are worried that by giving up land they are becoming more vulnerable and not more secure.
So they (Israelis) feel that they have to always remain militarily strong and be vigilant to guard against this."
What is the root cause of all this animosity?
"You're trying to reconcile two entities, Israelis and Palestinians. There was never a Palestinian state in the past but you're trying to find a way that both sides can live in dignity.
I mean, that's my main message, we got to find a way for both sides to live in dignity and therefore the two state solution is hopefully a way to reconcile that but there are differences on how each side wants the two state solution to conclude.
The five key issues are: What are the borders of the two states, what are the security arrangements of the two states, what to do about Jerusalem itself, what to do about Palestinian refugees and the fifth issue is, do you have a mutual recognition where you accept the character of the other state."
How can the U.S. help foster peace?
"We might need to rethink a little bit about what is possible. We've tried three times to hit the home-run ball and solve the whole thing: in 2000 Bill Clinton, 2007 Condoleezza Rice at Annapolis and now the effort I was a part of with Secretary Kerry. I think it was a noble effort and I don't regret being part of it at all. But having tried three times, and knowing that these leaders are incapable of going five for five on these core issues that I've talked about, I think we need to think out of the box about other alternatives that would give people a hope that something could change.
I worry about twenty-somethings, the millennial generation, here and I worry about it over there. They have not seen positive results in this up and down rollercoaster, I've at least seen the ups. All they know is, in their lifetime, there has been frustration.
My view is maybe we need to think differently, even if we have to lower our sights a bit, we should think about it, but we need to show skeptics on both sides. If people think everything is paralyzed they're not going to believe a speech. I think the U.S. has to take that into account and say, 'look, with these leaders you're not going to get the grand deal.'"
If there's any silver lining or message that others can take from these conflicts, what is that?
"I think there's a determined effort by the political leaders to avoid this morphing into a religious conflict, once you turn it into a religious conflict it becomes about absolutes and you'll never solve it.
I think the leaders are trying to say 'this is a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, it's not between Jews and Muslims, if it comes between Islam and Judaism then forget it, it's lost. Keep it in bounds, on the political level. You've seen that you can have cooperation amid competition. There's a certain element here of trying to keep the conflict in bounds."