Now that I've had some time to reflect on my time in Jordan, I'd like to try to put my hope for the future of Israeli-Palestinian peace into words.
I have gained wonderful insights from the impressive speakers which we had such as Jordanian diplomats who actually led the team of negotiators to the first Israeli-Jordanian peace talks and the Swedish Ambassador who works on EU operations in the Middle East. I have also heard accounts of Palestinians who were thrown out of Israel during the first intifada and rabbis who are working towards fostering interfaith relations. Every personal interaction that I have had, both formal and informal, has shaped my understanding of the conflict in some way. I would be arrogant to pretend that I am an expert after my 12 days in the Middle East, but I do believe that I have a clear perspective on the conflict and can articulate my informed opinion about it.
First, I believe that the way in which we view the conflict is not healthy. It is a topic that is very rarely spoken of in the US even though the US plays a major role in it. For many, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is either unknown or highly misunderstood. I believe that the controversial nature of the topic keeps it from becoming something that people discuss openly and seek to understand more fully. Even when posting pictures and Facebook statuses or writing this blog I had to be very careful about which words I used to describe certain places because I could immediately start a conflict with just my choice of words. It is my hope that this attitude changes and that healthy dialogues are able to be held more frequently.
Second, I feel that governments alone are ill equipped to solve this issue. Every government involved, the US, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, the PLO, etc., are all trying to figure out a way that they can gain the most out of the situation. This, inevitably, breeds inequality and leaves some in a better situation than others but doesn't allow for an ideal solution for anybody (prisoner's dilemma). I believe that there needs to be more input from international, grassroots organizations and unbiased intergovernmental organizations which understand and want what is best for a long term solution.
Third, there is a serious disconnect between Israelis and Palestinians, two peoples whose lands, cultures, and resources overlap in many ways. There is a dehumanization and separation on both sides that needs to end and genuine compassion and understanding needs to take its place.
Well, that is a very brief overview of my thoughts about the issue. Every person who I have ever talked with about this issue has a different answer when you ask them about the future of the conflict, so I tried to keep mine as simple as possible. It seems that true peace is not something that will be achieved anytime soon and that the long term outcome of the situation is going to be undesirable for both sides unless something changes at the ground level. I am optimistic that there is still a chance for long term peace and stability, but it will not be easy or quick and it won't come from unilateral or bilateral government actions.