This article explores an innovative approach to finding a solution to the existing and imminent violent struggles in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), particularly with regard to the issue of reconciliation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The article defines a scientific approach adopted by the Jena Center for Reconciliation Studies (JCRS), cited as the Hölderlin Perspective (Martin Leiner, Susan Flamig, 2012, p. 18). It illustrates the 
philosophical foundation for applying the Hölderlin Perspective, using Phronetic Social Science, to engage in reconciliation processes in the middle 
of conflicts. It also illustrates the German approach toward the Israeli Palestinian conflict and, lastly, presents some concrete, tangible results that 
have already been achieved as well as projects that are currently under way with regard to the MENA region.

The Philosophical and Theoretical Framework for the Reconciliation Process

An Approach to Reconciliation in the Middle of Conflict

Reconciliation studies are a scientific approach employed since the 1990s to draw conclusions from the relatively successful reconciliation processes of that period in South Africa, Rwanda, Northern Ireland, and other countries. Quite often, Germany’s reconciliation with countries such as France, Israel, and Poland after World War II is part of this research as well.

Reconciliation is a promising alternative to so-called intractable conflicts where conflict resolution through peace agreements failed because of the opposition of large segments of society, such as the Olso Accords for Israel/Palestine and the Annan Plan for the reunification of Cyprus. Reconciliation processes can be an alternative to conflict resolution measures that failed or just another way of achieving conflict resolution. Reconciliation studies work with a broad definition of reconciliation and conjugate many different aspects in different domains to construct peaceful 
relations and reconstruct broken relations. Reconciliation can be defined as “the restoration of relationships between individuals, groups and states after the violence, war, genocide, civil war, gross human rights violations like segregations (Apartheid) and enslavement (forced labor), or similar activities. Reconciliation as policy requires a long term strategy with many practices on multiple levels” (Leiner, 2016, p. 185). Reconciliation is more a process than the result of an ideal goal. The relationship between neighbors is called friendship; the relationship between enemies is defined as a reconciliation process, which evolves to restore broken ties and build a better perspective for the future between both who are evolving from such a relationship.

Reconciliation includes practices such as (1.) political and legal provisions; (2.) the creation of a common security architecture; (3.) apologies and symbolic acts to show friendship and create empathy; (4.) reparations; (5.) cooperation on economic, legal, ecological, and international issues, including mutual aid in cases of disaster; (6.) cooperation in civil society, such as city twinnings, youth and student exchanges; (7.) confrontation with history in general and especially for victims; (8.) humanization of the image of the other in the media and in schoolbooks; (9.) change of the discourse of leaders; (10.) individual trauma therapies; and (11.) international work. Many, though not all, of these practices are needed to achieve better relationships. To oppose spoilers, it is also important to follow reconciliation over many decades and to evaluate it through accompanying research. As these practices belong to different disciplines, reconciliation studies have become transdisciplinary.

Reconciliation creates social change leading to trustful and cooperative relationships between the citizens of the parties to the conflict. In the volume 
From Conflict Resolution to Reconciliation, Israeli researchers underlined that intractable conflicts cannot be resolved without such social change, which means: No solution without reconciliation. This is especially required when “societies involved in a conflict evolve widely shared beliefs, attitudes, motivations, and emotions that support adherence to the conflictive goals, maintain in the conflict, de-legitimize the opponent, and thus negate the possibility for peaceful resolution and prevent the development of peaceful relations” (Yaacov Bar-Siman Tov, 2004, p. 13).

We believe that reconciliation is the only way to transform the violent, intractable conflicts in the MENA region and especially in Israel and Palestine in a peaceful way. The alternative to reconciliation is the perpetuation of violence, high-security costs, and enmity or a decisive war with many people killed and displaced – a war which, like all wars, can draw in other countries and end in the destruction of the entire region. Therefore, we are convinced that the reconciliation approach should be applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as the other conflicts in the MENA region – and better today than tomorrow. The German experience with reconciliation after WorldWar II was of huge benefit to both Germany and other neighboring countries, providing manifold opportunities for economic growth and building a better future.

In this article, we want to focus on the question of how to implement a reconciliation policy. The evolution of reconciliation studies addressed the misplacement of reconciliation, which political theories had placed at the end of the process of peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding in order to make peace sustainable. To overcome that approach, at the Jena Center for Reconciliation Studies at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany, we developed the Hölderlin Perspective, which emphasizes reconciliation during conflicts. As Leiner explained in the book Latin America Between Conflict and Reconciliation, the Hölderlin Perspective was derived from the German poet Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843), who wrote in his novel Hyperion that “Versöhnung ist mitten im Streit und alles Getrennte findet sich wieder” (Leiner & Flämig, 2012, p. 16). In English, this sentence reads: “Reconciliation is in the middle of the strife, and all that was separated finds each other again” (p.16). Even when two parties are engaged in a violent conflict, violence and nothing but violence is never everywhere, at every moment, in the minds of every person. Such total wars may exist in the fantasies of Josef Goebbels or in the calculations of some security theories. In reality, however, there are always people who are not occupied with the conflict or are interacting with persons from the other side in a cooperative or at least nonviolent way. Additionally, there are individual persons and peace activists who do not want the violence to continue. The interaction between these people can lead to better, more trustful, and cooperative relations. Even activities such as military occupation can be organized in a way that results in what Austrian citizens wrote on a bridge in Innsbruck concerning the French occupation after World War II:“They came as occupiers, but they left as friends.” If occupation armies meet the needs of the population, construct infrastructures, respect human rights, and create justice and trust, the population starts to respect them.

These examples illustrate that reconciliation can be part of conflict transformation, which transforms adversarial relations into peaceful relations while the conflict is ongoing. Reconciliation is known to many scholars as requiring the support of the majority of society; however, from the aspect of the Hölderlin Perspective, reconciliation requires one to be in the middle of the conflict, and it can work even with a minority by gradually turning the minority into the majority.

Reconciliation studies aim at a holistic combination of a projected outcome and a process; the process often is the “reconciliation,” and the outcome is reconciled “peace.” The focus of reconciliation is to reach a stable and lasting peace, which can be accepted by all stakeholders as coherent enough with their concept of justice. This process provides mutual recognition and acceptance of the narrative of the other by accepting their interests and goals; providing mutual trust and recognition; developing cultural, economic, and political relations; and respecting the sensitivity of and showing consideration for the other parties’ needs and interests (Bar-Tal & Bennink, 2004, p. 15).

Applied Phronesis in the Middle of Conflicts (Applied Phronesis in the Hölderlin Perspective)

The philosophical aspect is to apply an Aristotelian philosophy (Phronesis), accredited to the work done by Flyvbjerg (Flyvbjerg, 2001), to the reconciliation process in the MENA region. The approach is to apply the Holderlin Perspective – reconciliation in the middle of conflict – using methods and strategies that bring the societies that are in a protracted conflict to thrive in a reconciliation process that leads to reaching the Phronesis level, which brings prudence and wisdom toward the conflict and shifts thoughts in the direction of reconciliation.

This figure illustrates the Theoretical Framework Foundation for the phenomenology.

Figure 1 The Theoretical Framework Foundation for Applied Phronesis in the Holderlin Perspective presented by Prof. Dr. Martin Leiner and Dr. Iyad AlDajani.

To explore this phenomenology, Flyvbjerg calls for the Phronimos, which are agents that start the interaction relationship between the two parts: the Episteme, and the Techne. Flyvbjerg introduces the relationship between power and knowledge: “Knowledge leads to power, and power leads to knowledge” (Flyvbjerg, 2001). Applying the power relationship to social science has an effect on social change. In this context, the Phronimos are participants calling for reconciliation in the middle of conflicts, which develops the power for social change. Different participants evolve by developing the knowledge, know-how, and how-to regarding the reconciliation process, developing at the end of the tunnel a base society that thrives in a reconciliation process toward peace in the middle of the conflict, bringing communities in conflict to resolve their disputes and find a better path to a better future for their children.

German Approach to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

German leaders have been dominant supporters of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a member of the UN Security Council, Germany supported Resolution 1397, which welcomed the diplomatic efforts of the Quartet in 2002 and was an advocate for the “Performance-based Road Map to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” drafted by the Quartet and released in 2003. While some Israelis leaders are skeptical of increased German support to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and research projects that influence strategic support for the Palestinians, most Israelis nevertheless appear to continue to view Germany as a strong and reliable partner that supports the Jewish state. At the same time, Germany is one of the main supporters of Palestinian statehood. It was the first country to open a representative office in the Palestinian territory and is considered the largest donor to the PA today. While Germany has faced varying degrees of Israeli pressure to take more measures to ensure that European funding to the Palestinians is not used to finance terrorist operations, Israeli officials have also expressed their support of German and European aid to the Palestinian people and, in specific instances, have even requested German aid (Belkin, 2007).

German leaders have announced their intention to work toward reviving the peace process and negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. To date, Germany plays a leading role in the EU and has displayed consistent involvement in, and commitment to getting the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiations table. As a result, both sides view Germany as an important and viable partner that supports the achievement of sustainable peace between the two.

According to the German Foreign Office, Germany has a longstanding commitment to developing a sustainable Palestinian economy and building Palestinian statehood. The German Government is one of the largest bilateral donors, with support focusing on the areas of water, economic development, public safety (police), governance, and education in developing Palestinian governmental institutions. Germany’s commitment to Palestinian statehood can be seen in its support for several centers that have dominant and sustainable projects to develop the governance and education structure in the Palestinian territories, such as the French-German Culture Center (, the Willy Brandt Center for cross-cultural exchanges (, the Palestinian-German Science Bridge PGSB (, GIZ Palestine ( 
worldwide/379.html), and many others.

Germany currently supports various scientific projects and is considered a dominant donor to cooperation projects between Israeli and Palestinian academics. In this context, German academics have begun to build structures of cooperation to make reconciliation as an approach to conflicts better known in the MENA region. Whereas the reconciliation approach is well established in academic studies in Israel, the concept is quite unknown and often misunderstood in the other countries of the region. Therefore, the AARMENA network is particularly important to foster reconciliation in all the conflicts in the MENA region, not only the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It might be described as an example of how reconciliation can become an increasingly important factor for peace in the region.

The Academic Alliance for Reconciliation in the Middle East and North Africa

This project marks the unique significance of the “Reconciliation in the Middle of Conflict” concept for our present time and recognizes the interdependence of political practice in not only understanding but, in fact, actualizing authority in interdisciplinary spheres. The Jena Center for Reconciliation Studies aims to achieve philosophical and theoretical foundations for reconciliation studies of the processes, measurements, and practices relevant to fostering best-possible relationships in contexts affected by violence, atrocities, genocides, wars, dictatorships, segregation, enslavement, and other crimes against humanity. In 2018, JCRS founded the Academic Alliance for Reconciliation Studies in the Middle East and North Africa (AARMENA).

AARMENA seeks to strengthen international academic cooperation to develop a knowledge-based society of scholars dealing with reconciliation studies in the middle of the conflict in the MENA region. It also seeks to expand the orientation toward dialogue, strengthen cooperation with the Islamic world, and develop ties among other universities in various places in the Middle East and North Africa, establishing AARMENA as an alliance for the advancement of reconciliation studies as interdisciplinary research. The AARMENA network includes many approaches and cooperates with a constantly growing number of universities.

The following universities are members of the AARMENA 2018 project: 
• The University of Jordan, Amman 
• Petra University, Amman 
• Arab American University, Jenin 
• Tanta University, Tanta 
• Assuit University, Assiut 
• Saint Joseph University, Lebanon 
• Al-Najjah University, Nablus 
• Cambridge Muslim College 
• Europa-Universitat 
• University of Groningen 
• Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt University 
• Al-Salam Institute 
• King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre For Interreligious And Intercultural Dialogue

Following are new members of AARMENA: 
• German-Jordanian University, Amman 
• Université Mohamed Lamine Debaghine, Sétif 2, Algeria 
• Qatar University, Qatar 
• Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem, Israel 
• Fayoum University, Fayoum 
• Al Istiqlal University, Jericho 
• The Libyan Women`s Platform for Peace 
• Al-Manar University, Tunis 
• Ez-Zitouna University, Tunis 
• Notre-Dame Univeristy, Beirut 
• Mohammad I University, Oujda, Morocco 
• Innsbruck University, Austria 
• Misurata University, Misrata, Libya

Following are AARMENA institutes that are also collaborating to develop cultural heritage, social inclusivity, and dialogue orientation workshops in the Islamic world: 
• Al-Salam Institute 
• International Center for Transitional Justice 
• The Libyan Women`s Platform for Peace 
• King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre For Interreligious And Intercultural Dialogue

AARMENA aims to establish itself as a leading organization that will foster sustainable reconciliation education in the higher institutes in the MENA region and become a driving force for academic development in interdisciplinary research and enduring reconciliation wherever it is needed. We are currently engaged in preparations for the AARMENA 2020 Symposium scheduled for August 2020. Some 30 Arab universities from the MENA region will participate to advocate for reconciliation education in institutions of higher education in the Arab world and to develop shared common knowledge of the reconciliation process within the context of the Middle East and North Africa, leading to the development of teaching programs, research, and joint publications on reconciliation studies and processes of reconciliation in the middle of conflicts. We are also promoting DAAD’s Dialogue with the Islamic World project, in which more than 28 universities are involved.


Reconciliation, literally means “repairing the damaged or broken bonds of unity and friendship between God and humanity and between human beings and their fellow beings on a personal and on a communal level” (Gathogo, 2012). Reconciliation as a term has different meanings and different metaphors; it is a means to an end, and the end is respect for human rights, overcoming violence, achieving freedom and prosperity, and enabling the pursuit of happiness for the communities or nations that are in conflict. Germany’s approach to reconciliation with its neighboring countries such as France and Poland after World War II made it a prosperous country with a society that thrived in the fields of science and economics. Therefore, perhaps the Israelis and Palestinians can use the German experience and thrive from their protracted conflict and develop a sustainable and bright future for their children and grandchildren. We call on Israelis and Palestinians to choose the road not taken and embrace reconciliation. In our view, that is the road that must be taken to see the light at the end of the tunnel.


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AlDajani, Iyad. (2019) “Internet Communication Technology for Reconciliation: Applied Phronesis in Internet Research Methodology,” Ph.D. Thesis , Friedrich Schiller University, Ann Arbor, p431 ProQuest,

Flyvbjerg, B. (2001) Making Social Science Matter, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

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