To understand the origins, definitions and texture of the people-to-people (P2P) phenomenon in the 1990s, it must be contextualized within the larger conflict resolution effort represented by the Oslo Accords. The century-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been widely analyzed as having characteristics of a "protracted conflict." Such conflicts usually occur within states between communities or ethnic groups, and are long, violent, costly and "resolution resistant." They involve deep-rooted identity issues (national, religious, ethnic or any combination of the three), are central to the lives and myths of the peoples involved and are perceived as being "zero-sum."
In theoretical literature, several models have been developed for resolution of protracted conflicts. The widely accepted view is that due to their length, costliness and centrality, protracted conflicts cannot be resolved simply by signing political agreements that address their formal aspects. Therefore, while such formal, "transactional" negotiations are key in addressing disputed technical and political aspects in such conflicts, there is an equally important need for a parallel "transformational" process to address deeper ontological (i.e. identity-based and identity-driven) components of the conflict and, in the process, to legitimize the "other side" as a partner.1
Thus many researchers who analyze resolution of protracted conflicts emphasize the need to address their psycho-social elements. These include the prejudice, fear, and dehumanization and delegitimization of the other, contrasted with each side's own positive image and feeling of victimhood.2 Together, these social beliefs create the negative psychological conflict repertoire3 that, while helping societies cope with the conflict, also make it that much harder to resolve.
"Transactional" negotiations, which focus on resolving practical, legal and technical aspects of the conflict, are contingent primarily on political will and sociopolitical constellations and, as such, can move forward relatively rapidly. However, societies on both sides can find themselves "left behind" such progress while holding on to historical grievances, long-held beliefs and mutual recriminations. Transformational efforts aim to solidify and sustain transactional diplomacy by promoting Daniel Bar-Tal's and Yona Teichman's four processes of change:
* Legitimization: the belief that the other group has the same right to exist as "our group";
* Equalization: treating the rival as an equal partner contrary, to previous belief in the superiority of "our side";
* Differentiation: acknowledging the heterogeneity and "many faces" of the other group; and
* Personalization: viewing the other side "not as a depersonalized entity, but as made up of individuals with ordinary human characteristics."4
Optimally, strategic processes to resolve protracted conflicts contain both transactional and transformational elements in order not just to resolve the conflict, but to mitigate the inherently asymmetrical relationships it includes and exacerbates. While governments are primarily responsible for the "transactional" formal negotiations, they have an additional responsibility to "act transformationally" so as to alter the disabling environment created by the conflict. Civil society can, and should, also contribute to the process by promoting "bottom-up" transformative efforts. P2P can be viewed as one element of such efforts.
The 1993 Oslo Accords were the first formal Israeli-Palestinian effort to engage directly in the resolution of this protracted conflict. P2P's fate in the 1990s was, therefore, contingent upon the strategy and implementation of Oslo's overarching framework.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict originated at least a century ago, long before Israel's occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel's victory in the 1967 war created an additional layer in the win-lose "negative interdependence" of Israeli and Palestinian identities5-that of the occupier/occupied relationship. As a result of the occupation, the interface between the two sides intensified, and daily friction became more acute.
Over the course of the conflict, Israeli and Palestinian societies developed an array of societal beliefs and parallel "conflict repertoires" that helped each cope with the ongoing harshness and everyday difficulties resulting from the conflict. At the same time, throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, internal and international processes moved the two societies gradually towards greater pragmatism, a grudging mutual acceptance and a tentative recognition of the need to negotiate. Although this gradual movement was greatly facilitated by back-channel dialogue and various encounters between key members of both societies, the September 1993 Declaration of Principles (DOP) and subsequent formal peace process came as a shock and historical breakthrough for both societies.
Oslo challenged long-held perceptions, beliefs and identities. For the negotiators, the mutual recognition accompanying the DOP was intended to replace the deep-rooted, mutual negation and negative interdependence of the two sides. In addition, it put forward a process for resolving the occupier/occupied relations.

Pre-Oslo Interactions

Interaction among Israeli and Palestinian civil-society members and organizations is not a post-Oslo phenomenon. Informal meetings and dialogue occurred in a variety of ways and by different bodies throughout the 1970s and 1980s - often at the risk of the participants' positions, reputations and very lives. In hindsight, these contacts are recognized as the vanguard that paved the way to the Madrid Conference in 1991 and the (first unofficial and then official) Oslo talks in 1993.6
Initially, Israeli-Palestinian dialogue was proscribed by a mutual taboo. On the Israeli side there was a restriction (which was legislated into an official ban on contacts between 1986-1992) against "speaking with terrorist organizations"; while on the Palestinian side, speaking to representatives of the "Zionist entity" was considered treason.
Nevertheless, by the 1980s, the sheer proximity of Israel and the Palestinian population made direct dialogue more common. Once the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) formally adopted a two-state platform in 1988, growing circles within the Israeli political establishment responded.
While in the 1990s P2P was clearly an extension of such previous dialogues, it was also new because of the different framework created by the Oslo process. For the first time, Oslo created formal legitimacy for mutual recognition and the framework of a peace process.

What Is P2P?

In a sense, the people-to-people field defies definition. There is no single definition accepted by all stakeholders - politicians, activists, donors, participants and researchers. There was no one actor that "created" or "led" the P2P phenomenon; rather, actors involved in doing it, analyzing it or funding it developed their own respective understandings and definitions. These varied according to the scope of activities they include, the time span they cover and the interests and agendas of the actors.
The actual term "people-to-people" was first mentioned in Article 8 of Annex VI of the September 1995 Interim Agreement (known as Oslo II).7 Article 8 created the only formalized P2P program, backed by Norwegian sponsorship and including the participation of Israeli government and Palestinian Authority actors. Subsequently, the term P2P became the "code" name for all Israeli-Palestinian civil-society cooperation efforts. In this sense, P2P is indeed a phenomenon of the "Oslo years."
We define "people-to-people" as any and all post-Oslo (i.e. 1993) Israeli-Palestinian civil-society cooperation and dialogue efforts that were not primarily business (for-profit) or humanitarian (aid) in nature. In our analysis, the basic premise of P2P encounters is the logic of mutual recognition. While the specific goals as well as methodologies of these encounters varied widely, what made P2P a unique peace-building activity was its primary methodology of bringing Israelis and Palestinians together in direct contact, dialogue and cooperation. Theoretically, these efforts can be seen as trying to promote Bar-Tal's and Teichman's four processes of legitimization, equalization, differentiation and personalization.8
To better understand the scope of P2P activities, they can be viewed from two perspectives: The first analyzes the "technical" aspect, including methodologies and activities promoted under the P2P heading. The second, more complex perspective illuminates the motivations and agendas of the various players and participants involved.

The 'P2P Matrix'

From a technical perspective, the P2P field can be seen as a multidimensional matrix within which activities and projects fall:
a) Who:
i. Types of organizations involved included professional (health, education, sports, environment etc.), humanitarian and political/peace organizations. The latter were usually specifically aimed at dialogue, while the former included dialogue as one component among their other activities. Generally, the planners and coordinators were either a pair - an Israeli and a Palestinian organization - or a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization.
ii. Populations involved included youth, professionals, women, traditional peace supporters, religious people, refugees, security personnel, bereaved families, etc. Sometimes a project was specifically aimed at one population (e.g., training of physicians or dialogue among teachers), while at other times, populations were mixed in projects with a wider focus (e.g., political action).
iii. Social strata of cooperating populations varied. Some projects specifically targeted policy-makers or opinion leaders (politicians, intellectuals or journalists) who could have a "ripple effect" over broader circles. Other projects specifically targeted the grass-roots level.
b) What:
i. Organizational focus: In their 1999 analysis, Lee Perlman and Raviv Schwartz divided Israeli organizations involved in P2P into three categories according to the focus of their activities - policy development, service provision and classical peace groups - but stressed that these were not mutually exclusive definitions.9 This seems to be true for Palestinian organizations as well. In addition, while some organizations focused on a specific type of activity (e.g., dialogue, protest activities, professional cooperation), others incorporated a wide variety of activities.
ii. Spheres/content of activity: The content of P2P activities could be divided in various ways. For example, in their paper analyzing P2P activities, a research team of the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) used the following criteria: track two activities, professional meetings, professional training, formal education activities, cultural activities, capacity- building, institution-building and service provision, environmental cooperation, women's issues, shared identity issues, grass-roots dialogue groups, political struggle, solidarity and advocacy.10
c) How:
i. Methodologies: A wide variety of methodologies was employed. P2P included short- and long-term projects, large conferences and intimate meetings and seminars, one-day events, seminars lasting a few days and projects lasting years, training sessions, round-table dialogues, field activities (e.g., demonstrations), etc.
ii. Public relations: Projects varied from strictly behind-the-scenes, discreet projects (especially but not only track two activities), to widely publicized cooperation among journalists or mass media events aimed at broad outreach into both communities.
d) How many: The number of participants in any given project varied from a couple of scientists collaborating on research, through seminars involving a few people, to conferences and political solidarity events involving hundreds of participants.
Each activity can thus be located according to the various elements of the matrix - the type of organizations involved, the type of constituencies targeted, the focus of activity, the kinds of methodologies selected and so forth.

Agendas for P2P

P2P programs were motivated by different agendas. It is commonly assumed that a dissonance existed mainly between Israeli and Palestinian agendas, but a more nuanced analysis demonstrates that agendas also differed among organizations on either side, and that they also changed over time.
In general, three agendas can be distinguished:
1. Joint political activities: This logic viewed dialogue as a strictly political tool for work against the occupation and promotion of the peace process, for protest against specific issues (e.g., settlements, house demolitions) and in general, for mobilization of the two populations around a political agenda. Track two activities to support and advance formal negotiations also fall under this heading.
2. Professional cooperation activities: This logic viewed dialogue as a capacity-building and network-creating tool that could reduce asymmetry between the sides, support Palestinian state-building efforts and create professional links for the future.
3. Dialogue as part of a peace/reconciliation process: This logic included longer-term work towards peace and reconciliation via identity dialogue and interfaith dialogue encounters. Projects under this heading dealt with history, identity, trauma, tolerance, non-violence etc.
Obviously, these agendas were not mutually exclusive and many P2P activities reflected a combination thereof. However, these agendas also clashed on several levels. The basic clash was over the fundamental legitimacy of post-Oslo Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. The question was this: Was dialogue still legitimate only as part of the anti-occupation struggle for Palestinian liberation (in line with the "traditional" PLO "dialogue offensive" that saw dialogue as a tool for convincing the Israeli public and decision-makers of the legitimacy of Palestinian rights)? Or, post-Oslo, should the definition of "legitimate dialogue" be widened to include other issues such as state-building, democracy, non-violence or even reconciliation?
Those supporting the first position criticized post-Oslo dialogue that was "apolitical-", "identity-" and "reconciliation-" oriented as "normalization" that legitimized Israel and provided a fig leaf for the continuation of the occupation. Those advocating the second position claimed that dialogue should be neither contingent on political agreement between the sides nor held hostage to the peace process; i.e., that dialogue couldn't be deferred until such time as the occupation ended. Having said this, it's also clear that while Palestinians involved in P2P were motivated largely by the more political and collectivist agenda, Israelis were motivated largely by a more individualistic, "post-conflict" and "apolitical" agenda.
All in all, the P2P phenomenon bloomed during the Oslo years (between September 1993 and October 2000). Compared with previous years, an impressive number of projects was initiated and implemented (about 500 such projects involving over 100 organizations, according to a partial database compiled by the authors). An estimated total equaling U.S .$20-30 million was donated for such activities by numerous governmental actors, foundations and private donors and tens of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians met, dialogued and cooperated. At the same time, the limited P2P activities that did take place were a fraction of what needed to happen if the reality of conflict and relations between the two societies were to be substantially challenged.11

1 Aaron David Miller, former U.S. State Department official and later president of Seeds of Peace, used these notions of "transactional" vs. "transformational" aspects in an interview with us, in March 2004. See discussion of resolving protracted conflicts, for example in Whittaker, David J. Conflict and Reconciliation in the Contemporary World, London & New York: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, 1999; Kelman, Herbert. "Reconciliation As Identity Change: A Social-Psychological Perspective," in Bar-Siman-Tov, Yaakov (ed.), From Conflict Resolution to Reconciliation, New York, Oxford University Press, 2004; Schwerin, Edward W. Mediation, Citizen Empowerment, and Transformational Politics. Westport, Connecticut and London, Praeger Publishers, 1995.
2 Josef Montville, for example, claims that a central component of protracted conflicts is a feeling of "victimhood" on both sides, which includes "a history of loss, violence and trauma… a feeling that violence was unjustifiable… and …fear that the aggressor might attack again." Montville, Josef V., "The Healing Function in Political Conflict Resolution," in Sandole, Dennis J., and Hugo van der Merwe (eds.), Conflict Resolution Theory and Practice. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1993, p. 115.
3 As defined and discussed at length by Bar-Tal, Daniel and Yona Teichman in Stereotypes and Prejudice in Conflict. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005, pp. 61-67.
4 Ibid., pp. 391-393
5 As defined by Herbert Kelman who claims that in the Israeli-Palestinian case, the definition of each side's national identity is based on the negation of the national identity of the other. See Kelman Herbert C., "The Interdependence of Israeli and Palestinian National Identities: The Role of the Other in Existential Conflicts." Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 55, No. 3, fall 1999, pp. 581-680.
6 Ashrawi refers to these various dialogue efforts that took place around the world in workshops, seminars and conferences "rehearsal negotiations" and writes: "…We met, debated, agreed and argued how to untie and resolve the Gordian knot of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We approached it from different angles and with a variety of tools, knowing full well that we were the advance team carrying out preliminary explorations and trial runs in preparations for the real event." in Ashrawi, Hanan. This Side of Peace. New York: Touchstone,1995, p. 62. For in-depth analyses of pre-Oslo Israeli-Palestinian contacts, see for example Abbas, Mahmoud (Abu Mazen). Through Secret Channels. UK: Garnet Publishing Ltd., 1995, Chapters 2-5; Herman, Tamar. "The Sour Taste of Success: The Israeli Peace Movement 1967-1998" in Gidron, Benjamin, Stanley N. Katz & Yehezkel Hasenfeld. Mobilizing for Peace: Conflict Resolution in Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine and South Africa. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 97-104; Agha, Hussein, Shai Feldman, Ahmad Khalidi, and Zeev Schiff. Track II Diplomacy: Lessons from the Middle East. The Cambridge Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2003, Chapter 2; Hirschfeld, Yair. Oslo: A Formula for Peace- From Negotiations to Implementation. Tel Aviv: Yitzhak Rabin Center for Israel Studies and Am Oved, 2000 (Hebrew), chapter 1; Beilin, Yossi, Touching Peace. Yedioth Ahronoth, Chemed Books, Tel Aviv, 1997 (Hebrew), chapter 1. In an interesting publication by the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) called "Notes on Palestinian-Israeli Meetings in the Occupied Territories (1967-1987)," Mahdi Abdul Hadi summarized: "The meetings began as a small, unknown vehicle standing before a long dark tunnel. Some twenty years later, however, they have become a recognized bus running regularly along a fixed route and in all directions." PASSIA, 1987.
7 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Annex VI "Protocol Concerning Israeli-Palestinian Cooperation Programs", Article 8 "The People-to-People Program."
8 Importantly, from our point of view, the term P2P applies also to Israeli-Palestinian civil society interactions among those critical of the Oslo process and to groups that were critical of the so-called "Oslo peace industry" and thus tried to distance themselves from this terminology. We use P2P as a neutral analytical term.
9 Perlman, Lee & Raviv Schwartz, "Preliminary Stocktaking of Israeli Organizations Engaged in Palestinian-Israeli People-to-People Activity," paper prepared for the Helsinki Workshop, November 1999, Appendix B, p. 13
10 "YES PM - Years of Experience in Strategies for Peace-Making: Looking at Israeli-Palestinian People-to-People Activities," 1993-2002, Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), December 2002, pp. 15-17.
11 See discussion of "the legitimization strategy that did not happen and the P2P that did," in Herzog, Shira and Avivit Hai. The Power of Possibility: The Role of P2P in the Current Israeli-Palestinian Reality. Tel-Aviv: Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung and the Economic Cooperation Foundation, 2005.