by Ron Pundak
A retrospective evaluation of People-to-People (P2P)
raises the question of what we as the leaders and initiators of this activity could have done better.
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which contains the component known as P2P
, is multi-layered and multi-dimensional. One of the first things that must be said is that it is impossible to examine P2P
without looking at the results of the peace process, which is built on four pillars which arent necessarily equal in importance. However, without synchronization between the four, it is impossible to realize a peace agreement.
The first pillar is political agreements, which are the over-all framework that provides the foundation for the change from a state of war to a state of peace. The political framework also provides the dimension of legitimacy, recognition and readiness of each side to accept the self-determination of the other.
The Security Dimension
The second pillar is the security dimension. This contains not only security agreements and arrangements, but also, and perhaps primarily, the feelings of the individual and the collective about both personal and national security. In other words, the first pillar relates to the beginning of a rational change in consciousness, while the second pillar relates directly to the emotional dimension the sense of existence of the individual and the group.
Economic and Commercial Relations
The third pillar economic and commercial relations begins to link up with the P2P
aspect. International experience teaches us that there is no substitute for economic cooperation as a meaningful cornerstone for the strengthening and deepening of relations between states and societies, and as a tool for hastening the process of cross-border cooperation. Economies are based upon mutual interests and, thus, over and over again we are led to the conclusion that relations based upon a win-win formula work in favor of both sides, and can serve as a bridge beyond the suspicions and lack of trust between nations.
In the context of relations between Israel and the Palestinians, economics serves as a tool that relates to the P2P
doctrine, not only because the economic systems require the maintenance of daily interaction, both at the institutional and personal level, but also because of the immense gap between the two economies. This provides the basis for a dialogue with an added-value factor, the empowerment of the weaker economic system, in our case, the Palestinian economic system, while maintaining cooperation with civil society and institutional systems in Israel.
The fourth pillar, called People-to-People (P2P)
, is the component that creates links between people. It is what enables the individual and the collective to get to know the other, to encourage a process of re-humanization, to create a different consciousness beginning at the youngest ages, and to bring about a greater sense of empathy, cooperation and understanding between the sides. It is these factors that can ultimately lead to reconciliation, which is one of the most meaningful conditions for a true and stable peace.
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process that began with the signing of the Oslo Accords did not succeed in building four stable pillars, and it also did not succeed in achieving synchronization between the four dimensions. This is not the place to analyze why the process failed, and those who know my views are aware that I believe that both sides are to blame, but the Israeli side bears a great sense of the blame. However, at least one thing is clear and agreed upon: The two governments did almost nothing to promote and realize the fourth dimension, the dialogue which is so important between the two communities on either side of the Green Line, which divides Israel and the Palestinian areas.
There are those who would argue that it is not the task of a government to propel the communities to implement P2P
measures. However, I argue that support, encouragement, financial aid, and the granting of legitimacy to these measures must be an integral part of the peace process. Indeed, both sides understood the need for this, and identified its absence from the first agreement. Consequently, when the sides formulated the Interim Agreement, signed in September 1995, an independent chapter (Annex 6) entitled Protocol on Israeli-Palestinian Cooperation Programs, was inserted. Unfortunately, not only was it completely forgotten by the public, it was almost completely ignored by the governments obligated to it.
The text of the agreement is an impressive result of joint thinking, and clearly represents the wishes of those who believed in the importance of the P2P
processes as a facilitator of reconciliation and peace. On the other hand, the relation between the text of the document and the actions of the governments in this field is almost totally random. It is sufficient to read clause 1 of the Annex which defines the objectives, and to compare them to the reality in which we have lived since the agreement was signed:
1. The two sides are determined to establish dialogue and cooperation on the bases of equality, fairness and reciprocity within the context of the interim period, and to act together in order to ensure that peace, stability and cooperation between them are reinforced and sustained.
In striving to live in peaceful coexistence, the two sides will seek to design and implement various programs which will facilitate the efforts leading to full reconciliation based on the agreed political process, and make it possible for smooth implementation of a permanent settlement based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
2. To that end, the two sides agree to establish and maintain between them an extensive program of cooperation in fields of human activity including in economic, scientific, social and cultural fields, involving officials, institutions, and the private sector.
3. The two sides will act to meet common challenges which require a coordinated overall approach and, taking into account their respective distinguishing features, they will act with respect for the values and human dignity of the other side.
4. The two sides are committed to strengthening regional cooperation which takes into account the interests of each side, in particular within the framework of the multilateral Middle East peace talks.
, which deals with Cultural and Educational Cooperation, appears even more delusional, some ten years after the signing:
1. Cultural Cooperation
The two sides shall promote cultural cooperation and encourage the development of cooperation between their institutions or organizations in the fields of art, music, theater, literature, literary translations, publishing, cinema and film-making.
2. Media and Communication
The two sides shall promote and encourage direct cooperation between news agencies, newspapers, and radio and television stations. In addition, the two sides will cooperate with third countries in order to promote the exposure of the benefits of the peace process to the respective societies.
3. Educational Cooperation
a. The two sides shall promote cooperation by encouraging and facilitating exchanges in the field of education and by providing appropriate conditions for direct contacts between schools and educational institutions of both sides.
b. The two sides shall cooperate with the aim of raising the level of general education and professional training of their respective populations taking into consideration priorities to be determined by each side.
c. The cooperation shall focus, in particular, on the following areas:
(1) Cooperation among educational/training institutions;
(2) Exchanges of information between universities;
(3) Language training; and
(4) Other ways of promoting better mutual understanding of their respective cultures.
4. Sports and Youth
a. The two sides shall encourage cooperation in sports and physical culture, especially through the exchange of sports delegations and teams, as well as through the organizing of sports meetings and games.
b. The two sides shall encourage contacts and exchanges between youth organizations and shall promote exchanges of high school and university students.
The climax is reached in clause VIII
, which deals with what the two sides clearly defined as The People-To-People Program:
1. The two sides shall cooperate in enhancing the dialogue and relations between their peoples in accordance with the concepts developed in cooperation with the Kingdom of Norway.
2. The two sides shall cooperate in enhancing dialogue and relations between their peoples, as well as in gaining a wider exposure of the two publics to the peace process, its current situation and predicted results.
3. The two sides shall take steps to foster public debate and involvement, to remove barriers to interaction, and to increase the people-to-people exchange and interaction within all areas of cooperation described in this Annex and in accordance with the overall objectives and principles set out in this Annex.
Annex 6 Became a Document Devoid of Meaning
On the face of it, the text is extraordinarily positive, and was meant to build in-depth processes among, and between, the two societies, in important spheres of activity and dialogue, including through education, culture and so on. However, reading the text in the context of the present gloomy Israel-Palestine reality, it almost seems that both sides made efforts to disavow all that is written in Annex 6 of the agreement. This brings one to the conclusion, that just as the whole agreement was only partially implemented, or even less than so, this chapter became a document devoid of meaning. Furthermore, the moment these steps were ignored by the governments, they became hostage to the diplomats and politicians who even used the P2P
element as instruments in the arsenal aimed at harming and weakening the other side.
The obvious conclusion is that those who represent civil society dare not leave the implementation of in-depth P2P
processes to the diplomats and politicians. It is important that diplomatic agreements include meaningful clauses and annexes of the above type, but in parallel, it is imperative to establish a broad civil system pluralistic, strong and stable that is capable of performing even during times of crisis when the governments are indifferent to harming the process. This system needs to be administered and implemented by those who are really interested in promoting and nurturing the slow processes that are the essence of P2P
. In order to transform the idea into reality, there is, of course, the need to recruit international financial backers that are not affected by temporary political and diplomatic changes, and understand that the supreme long-term objective relates to mindsets and perceptions. This timeframe is much longer than the short-term mindset of politicians Israeli and Palestinian alike.
The Only Solution
The overwhelming majority of Palestinians and Israelis have long since come to the conclusion that the only path to a real solution to the national conflict before it turns into a religious or cultural conflict is mutual agreement on an arrangement that ensures security to both sides, based on two independent states sovereign, viable, ready to reconcile and forgive the wrongs of the past, and to end the national struggle by recognizing the legitimacy of the self-definition of each side.
Undoubtedly, civil society has the potential to act as a catalyst to advance these processes, and at the same time serves as a model for further cooperation, joint initiatives and other possibilities for mutual progress and development. In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such processes can only be achieved via the P2P