Is Israeli-Palestinian Peace Possible? A Proposal for Moving Forward1
Prof. Johan Galtung, Transcend, a Peace Development Network; founder of the Peace Research Institute, Oslo; recipient of the 1987 Right Livelihood Award
Zahra Khalidi, PIJ Editorial Board member and fundraiser
“There is only one road to security, and that’s peace with your neighbors, and not peace by pieces.”
[T]here is a theorem under triple-C conditions that “deep culture” will take over. … The three C conditions are crisis, complexity and striving for consensus. … I recognize three deep cultures in Israel and in Palestine, and I will try to describe them for you. And although I shall appoint some catalysts for the deep culture in Israel, I see deep culture as something more permanent, because it is usually not confronted, exactly because it is unconscious. So let us call them “hard Zionism,” “soft-Zionism” and standard political state system. … If this state system leads to negotiations, it will try to get the best deal possible. Exactly the nature of this deal will be a left-right wing spectrum.
And let me now try the Palestinian side. I recognize three different ones: Islamic, I might add the word fundamentalist; Ottoman-British and state system. By “Islamic,” I mean the Ummah … and that community is not a state system.
… Do these deep cultures exclude each other? No, you can have all three in one people, but they can vary in significance. Is there a relationship between the Israeli deep culture and the Palestinian deep culture? Obviously, one may engender the other. But not in the sense that it’s imitated but in the sense, particularly, that the Israelis sense a danger of peace, they will find refuge in hard Zionism, and you can turn that argument around. If you now combine three [and] three, you get nine combinations … and I will conclude that eight of them are non-starters, and number nine, that is not a non-starter; state system combined with state system is problematic. It’s also problematic because the other eight are in the background, and because the other eight represent views that have to be taken into consideration. Every peace deal will have to deal with all of this. There is no way in which one can wish away hard Zionism and let us call it Islamic fundamentalism. If you try to organize something called an Oslo process, by inviting only Labor from Israel and only the PLO fro the Palestinian side, you are doomed to fail from day one, because the parties you don’t invite will say, “Aha, we are not invited, you will be hearing form us.”
… So I am saying that the logical meeting point is the two-state solution. And you all celebrate it. I am only pointing to the shortcomings. So the question is what the way out of the shortcomings is. Having concluded that all the other possibilities are non-starters, they being non-starters, there is all reason to go ahead with maximum diligence in corner number nine. And in connection to the Geneva initiative, a treaty-level articulation of this down to the nitty-gritty, I myself again concluded the moment I head about it: No chance. The state they are talking about is not a normal state. The right of return sounds flimsy. Arafat’s general formula about numbers we can discuss is very helpful, but the right appears to me non-negotiable. But let’s nevertheless imagine that those objections have been met. So what do we add to that?
… [In South Africa] in the 1980s it looked impossible. … Well, a couple of things happened, but let me point to one thing, that threw a head in one side and a head on the other side with compatible deep cultures. The condition is heads, proper leaders with compatible deep cultures. You have hard Zionism on top of Israel today. What you have on top of Palestine we can discuss. The probability that that should happen, the compatibility is not very high.
… Let me now preface the Middle Eastern Community with two things: I do not see a Middle East Community as standing in the way of an Ummah. I can see the five Arab countries wholeheartedly joining the Ummah and at the same time finding a Middle Eastern Community a practical arrangement. One does not stand in the way of the other. I can also, with little bit of hesitation, find the possibility of Israel being a member of the EU and at the same time being a member of the Middle Eastern Community.
… So we have a vision of open borders for persons, goods and ideas. I would not include the right of settlement, and I would not include the right of investment, and I would be very sensitive to tricky Israeli ways of using Middle East economic cooperation, be very sensitive to that. There were these considerations and there still are in the European Community, and there should be. There is also the fact of social dumping.
… There is only one road to security, and that’s peace with your neighbors, and not peace by pieces.