On February 6, 2006, the Palestine-Israel Journal organized a roundtable discussion at the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem on the topic The Future of People-to-People (P2P). The participants were Janet Aviad, who was involved in the official P2P program as director of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (Keren Karev); Fadwa el-Sha'er, a P2P activist with the Arab Studies Society and P2P researcher with an MA in international relations; Shira Herzog, a P2P researcher and manager of a Canadian foundation; Fadwa Khader, Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) and women's P2P activities and joint activism against the separation wall; Signe Gilen, the Norwegian Representatives Office, Ramallah, on behalf of the donors/sponsors of P2P; and Hillel Schenker, co-editor the Palestine-Israel Journal. The moderators were Dr. Nadia Nasser-Najjab, a specialist in social psychology with a PhD devoted to an evaluation of P2P; and Lee Perlman, a lecturer at Tel Aviv University and a P2P practitioner and researcher. Gayle Meyers, Search for Common Ground was an observer.

Hillel Schenker: I'd like to welcome everyone on behalf of the PalestineIsrael Journal to this roundtable which is taking place just a week-and-a-half after the Palestinian elections. This is an excellent time to talk about the future of peopletopeople.

Nadia Nasser-Najjab: We would like to begin with the concept and definition of peopletopeople. The original framework of peopletopeople, as defined in the Oslo II agreement, was part of a broad cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis. The aim of the politicians when they signed that agreement was to guarantee cooperation between people - specifically on the grassroots level, nongovernmental organizations, with an element of official involvement. Peopletopeople was part of this whole operation, and Palestinians and Israelis are still involved in certain areas of the broader cooperation.
Originally, the concept of peopletopeople meant small projects, U.S. $20,000 each. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) was supposed to supervise those funds and projects. This program was meant to involve officials from the Israeli Foreign Ministry and from an office directed by Hassan Abu-Libdeh on the Palestinian side.
We want to raise questions related to problems with the concept of peopletopeople, and how that concept, as laid out in Oslo, caused obstacles in the implementation of peopletopeople.

Janet Aviad: I think the basic tension that the Oslo II Annex introduced to peopletopeople was the government sponsorship. When both of the governments were in favor of Oslo - i.e., the Labor government in Israel and the PLO-led government in Palestine - it meant you could achieve cooperation and peopletopeople could actually move forward. When the government changed - and in Israel it happened very fast after Oslo, with the election of the Likud government under Binyamin Netanyahu - there was great suspicion of peopletopeople, as well as a lack of coordination.
The Norwegiansponsored program insisted on the governments being involved as part of the hub which made the decisions and this conception is problematic. Processes could be determined by politics, as indicated previously with the Israeli example and now with a Palestinian case.
After the outbreak of the second intifada, the Palestinians issued an antipeopletopeople statement from then-Minister Hassan Asfour's office, which basically froze P2P activities.
Today there are activities, but not on the same level of involvement that existed in the mid and late 1990s until 2000. If peopletopeople activity ever picks up again to the level it had reached in 1994 and 1995, it should remain an NGO activity - without government sponsorship.
One of the pretensions of postOslo peopletopeople activity was that the latter would provide civil society support for the peace process defined by diplomacy. But this goal was not attained. People-to-people activities led to the development of personal relations and interesting projects. However, these were totally dependent on positive political processes. When they did not happen, the programs and peopletopeople NGO infrastructures were destroyed.
Until the two peoples exist on a more symmetrical basis, where one is not the occupier and the other not the occupied, a true peopletopeople relationship - which implies equality - cannot exist. I recall a discussion with the Norwegians when we first discussed the value of people-to-people activities. They said it's like Germany and France after World War II when dialogues between high-school kids helped to destroy one-hundred-year-old stereotypes. The difference is that there the war had ended, and our war remains. What is required is a major rethinking of the assumptions of peopletopeople activity.

Nadia Nasser-Najjab: I interviewed Hassan Abu-Libdeh, and he told me that originally, before Oslo 2000, Palestinians were talking about something of a more political nature.

Janet Aviad: As I recall the expectations - and I'm thinking of Peace Now's peopletopeople activities with the Orient House or with Palestinians in the Hands Around Jerusalem action in 1989, those were political activities of two organizations whose goal was to break down the barriers and to work together in order to advance the peace process. There was a political goal based on the mutual interests of people in the opposition in Israel - the peace movement - and Palestinians opposed to Israeli government policy. After Oslo, when we were supposed to be meeting as equals in nonpolitical activities, it was different

Nadia Nasser-Najjab: Don't you agree that peopletopeople, the term itself, started to apply not only to this Norwegianrelated program, but also to any meeting in a closed room with drinks and food? Anything that was not in the street started to be called peopletopeople

Janet Aviad: Yes. There also arose an industry of peopletopeople activities, where people started to make money. This introduced another set of problems.

Lee Perlman: Are there any other comments on our search for a definition and in terms of the goals that Janet was expressing, the different types of goals, both postOslo and preOslo?

Nadia Nasser-Najjab: You started implementing such activities at the Orient House. What was the definition of peopletopeople that you had in mind as a Palestinian?

Fadwa el-Sha'er: First of all, to build a bridge between the two peoples for the future, to decrease the violence of the occupation for the Palestinian people, and to find the people from both sides to build a new generation

Nadia Nasser-Najjab: To help the new Palestinian generation become aware of their political rights, to draw them away from violence and to develop relations with the Israelis. They wanted to convince the young generation in Israel that, while they were not responsible for the occupation, they have to end it. So the goal was political?

Fadwa el-Sha'er: Yes. But thinking about the future, it was also meant to affect the social and economic spheres. However the first objective was political. Before we would start to work with each other on any project, we would ask for an agreement - Israelis to accept the rights of Palestinians relating to several issues, and Palestinians to accept Oslo.

Signe Gilen: From the Norwegian perspective, we had a facilitator role. The two sides decided in the Oslo II agreement to ask Norway to facilitate their program.

Lee Perlman: Could you elaborate on the logic behind that from the Norwegian point of view, the attempt to institutionalize P2P activities?

Signe Gilen: The political leaders from the two sides had been negotiating both through open and secret channels. At the time of Oslo II, my understanding is that they recognized that the wider public had not been engaged, and that they depended on popular support in order to go forward with final-status negotiations and implement changes. The Israeli side wanted to take the issue to a national referendum. One idea was to use the momentum of the peace process to mobilize the consensus. The P2P was in all aspects an official program. If you read the whole P2P Annex, it's a very broadauthority for cooperation in all fields of society - the economy, battling crime, the environment, culture and science. It related more to public institutions than to civil society as such. The first test was the Israeli election in 1996, and the change of government. The whole scope shifted somehow - from participants like the police and the public schools to a more NGOdriven mechanism. But the official program was still guided by the governments. It was not an independent or alternative grass-root initiative.

Janet Aviad: The Norwegiansponsored program was an official program theoretically with both authorities, the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). The reasons for this are understandable. But I believe that this approach suffers from a basic weakness - it depends on the elections. As soon as the Israeli election took place, we didn't have cooperation on the Israeli side anymore. There were also specific events, like the Goldstein massacre in Hebron, which led to tensions on the decisionmaking level of the people-to-people hub. The governmental representatives were not synchronized with the NGOs. Except for the initial period of post-Oslo enthusiasm, the Israeli and Palestinian governments did not maintain the same level of dedication and commitment as the NGOs.

Hillel Schenker: Shira, since you studied this, could you talk about the relationship between the official and nonofficial concepts of peopletopeople?

Shira Herzog: From my perspective, peopletopeople generally - but especially the Norwegian program - reflected the strengths and the weaknesses of the Oslo political process. Because the weaknesses of the Oslo process were greater than its strengths, P2P ended up being held hostage to it. In terms of the IsraeliPalestinian conflict, the fact that Annex VI in Oslo was devoted to civil cooperation on all levels, including small peopletopeople, was right. You couldn't have the kind of process that Oslo aimed to be, at least on paper, without incorporating that element of trying to build mid and bottomup level support for a political process. By definition, the original process was very elitist and narrow, because it started out with secret negotiations, creating what the leadership wanted, without any serious effort at consensusbuilding. Therefore, to include bottom-up work in the governmenttogovernment negotiating process was essential because conflicts of this type cannot be "resolved" - and I use that word very carefully - simply by a negotiated agreement. What Oslo did was actually to legitimize all the other efforts because it was a document of mutual recognition, and this was its strength. It even made it easier for those people who had a clear political agenda in dialogue work. It's important to remember that meetings with Israelis were always part of the Palestinians' political strategy of dealing with the occupation.
The weakness was that the political process quickly ended up existing in a completely different framework than that in which it had originally been conceived. Implicit in Oslo were certain expectations. On the Palestinian side it was for a fairly quick end to the occupation (of 1967) and for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. On the Israeli side, it wasn't so clear, but the basic expectation was no more violence, no more terrorism. We all know that those expectations were not met on either side. Everything in the political process started foundering. People-to-people got caught up in that, especially the official program.
My definition of P2P goes beyond the official program. It does not include official negotiations, forprofit activities or strictly humanitarianaid activities where it's one side giving to the other. It's the encounters that I've been looking at. And all of those ended up getting caught in that net where the weaknesses of the political process became greater than its strengths.

Lee Perlman: You're also talking about the limitations of the ethos of the Oslo agreement, which was constructive ambiguity. That ambiguity was intentional.
From what's been written by diplomats on both sides, this was a function of a desire to move the process along and to make a dramatic change within and in the interface between both societies. This wellintended ambiguity - an accepted term in diplomacy - played a role, in concept and in implementation, of creating a dissonance and seeming internal contradiction.

Nadia Nasser-Najjab: But in addition, at one point in Oslo I believe that was the desire of the donors, and that appealed to the Israelis. The Palestinians agreed to the ambiguity in order to get the funding, but internally it was implicit that their aim would be different when it came to implementation.

Shira Herzog: In what way?

Nadia Nasser-Najjab: I was one of those who applied to the donors. I wrote a very nice proposal about bridging the gap and coexistence. But once we implemented the projects, we wanted to talk about occupation.

Lee Perlman: About refugees. About everything connected to the conflict.

Nadia Nasser-Najjab: Yes. And that is when the problems arise. The point when we get the funds and begin implementing is when the differences start to appear among the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Fadwa el-Sha'er: This is the main obstacle, especially when we write proposals to Europeans and others.

Shira Herzog: This relates to Janet's third point about asymmetry. The question you posed was the relationship to Oslo and what was in the agreement, the framework. Another way to talk about it is what happened in the meetings, the process. For example, did the donors create the correct process? And then there's the question of the overall impact. What's left from all of these different activities? These are different kinds of questions. It's important to make the distinction.
In conflicts like the one we live in here, it is impossible to create trust without a clear statement of where it is going politically, because of this big asymmetry that Janet talked about. And we just heard examples of how this political agenda was or was not expressed in the language of proposals. But even with the asymmetry and conflict in agendas, you can create professional cooperation. There were some mutual interests, let's say in the field of medicine.

Janet Aviad: That's the best example.
Shira Herzog: Looking at the last few years, even in the fields of agriculture or the environment, there are sometimes mutual interests. The Palestinians are investing in their future, which they want to have without occupation. And when it comes to professionals on the Israeli side, most of them don't have a problem with cooperation. No one's asking them about their political views about the future. You can do that kind of cooperation, and it certainly helps to build trust because it humanizes the other side. But you can't talk about building trust without resolving the issue of the political agenda.

Fadwa Khader: You're right.

Shira Herzog: This means that the ambiguity in Oslo perhaps made it a little easier to do things, like professional cooperation, because it created a legitimate framework of mutual recognition. That's the strength.
But, and this is important, what it couldn't do was allow for trustbuilding - on the individual level, yes, but not on a wider level - because of the political ambiguity. Therefore, it's not black and white, it's gray. I have different conclusions about different components of P2P.

Nadia Nasser-Najjab: Absolutely, there were some projects - such as health projects that were successful and built up some trust. The problem is that this remained confined to those involved in them. We have a problem with a lack of confidence in peopletopeople, especially on the Palestinian side -I assume on the Israeli side as well. Palestinians are very cynical about peopletopeople; those who work in it try not to mention it.

Shira Herzog: Are you talking about now?

Nadia Nasser-Najjab: Then and now. When I talk about peopletopeople, I immediately go on the defensive. I start out by saying that we need to raise awareness amongst the Israelis about the occupation, that the occupation still exists. We start out with justifications.

Lee Perlman: Fadwa, looking back, what were some of the perceptions of those involved in this very wide array of peopletopeople activities by those who were not directly involved?
How did Palestinians perceive their neighbors who were involved; and how did the Israelis who were not involved but heard about it, perceive those who were involved? I'm talking specifically about the time range of 19931994 until 2000. What were the perceptions within the two societies of people who were not involved?

Fadwa Khader: I have been involved in various activities in the women's peace movement representing the Palestinian People's Party, women activists in Jerusalem and elsewhere, and have been on joint Palestinian and Israeli committees against the separation wall. I live in ARam, and we were leading the whole issue side by side with the Israeli peace movement. We are not separate from our community, and you are not separate from your community either.
There are some really fundamental issues for the Palestinians - ending the occupation, Jerusalem, the refugees. We shouldn't forget that those are the principles. We are still under occupation; this is very important and has to be taken into consideration. The people will judge us. It is not as easy as you think.

Janet Aviad: I think what you are saying is a major point in discussing the problems of peopletopeople from Oslo onward, in contrast to preOslo peopletopeople which was highly political and which worked very well.

Shira Herzog: This is exactly the point. On paper, the effort was legitimized, but because of the way the process developed, it ended up in some ways jeopardizing and limiting the efforts. People faced more difficulties on the Palestinian side within their society.
On the Israeli side, as the governments changed and there was governmental instability, the NGOs, and even the peace movement, were confused. Are we in opposition to a Labor government? Are we in opposition to a Likud government? Where do we fit in? So the community of P2P was weakened within their respective communities because they weren't getting any backing from the top. There was ambivalence.
With regard to the different agendas, my observation of the Palestinian side over the past ten years is that there has been a clear and consistent political agenda. It has not changed to this day.
On the Israeli side there were ambiguous statements all the time, even now. So where did a program that was meant to build trust between the peoples fit into an ambiguous statement?
And even though Palestinians had a consistent political statement about statehood, they had ambiguous interpretations of implementation - of what it meant in terms of the expectation of no violence by the Israeli side. The perception of the broader community naturally flows from that. People asked: What difference are you making? And those involved were quickly marginalized and, in some cases, became very vulnerable.

Nadia Nasser-Najjab: Money also played a part. Some became involved because they needed the money.

Fadwa el-Sha'er: Since the outset, peopletopeople started off in the wrong way. The people on both sides had different agendas and, basically, they started to work individually. Some of them were institutional, but most of them were individual. This killed the peopletopeople project.
Individuals would have a proposal funded by the EU and the Norwegians, and they would start to work. The key point is how to convince Palestinians that we need peopletopeople projects. But most of the people talked about the money. This also destroyed the program.
Most of the people involved in P2P on both sides, are relatively weak. On the Palestinian side, the people did not follow me or work with me. People came to the Palestinian leaders, and they said, I forbid Fadwa to come to these meetings. Why? Because I am strong and this is what I want to work in. You need the people from the community. When there was a demonstration at the ARam checkpoint, I convinced 1,000-2,000 people to come. The leaders did not convince anyone. This is important.

Nadia Nasser-Najjab: You're talking about credibility.

Fadwa el-Sha'er: I remember one meeting in Jerusalem about two years ago. The people from the Israeli side were asked how to influence people on their side to do something about the checkpoints. All the Israelis were afraid to come to the checkpoints. This was the start of the Palestinians turning back, not working in joint projects. If you want to evaluate what really happened in these projects, you have to do it with transparency. If you want to work for the future, it is important to understand the specifics of these projects. People started forbidding their own side from participating in these activities, because of the many problems and the negative results.

Nadia Nasser-Najjab: People have told me the same thing; that some individuals were getting money and actually doing nothing with it. They just brought three or four Palestinians and Israelis together and claimed there was a peopletopeople meeting.
Whether this is documented or not doesn't matter. The problem is that this is how Palestinians perceive peopletopeople. There was no coordination among donors. The same person might get funded from two or three sources for the same program, until the Norwegians began examining whether there was any duplication.
Lee Perlman: When we discuss the peopletopeople industry, we are not only talking about the financial dimension. From my experience and research, there certainly was a standard - or an awareness, at least - that we're also talking about a professional type of intervention in the different types of projects.
Probably, this agenda of professionalization was set primarily by the Israelis and the donors. It was based on a lot of different kinds of academic assumptions about conflict resolution. But my sense of what you're saying, Fadwa, is that, even with professionalization, there was something stronger than that, which was a pretense that peopletopeople was being practiced by people with legitimacy within their societies.
If I understood you, you were saying that there really wasn't that support and legitimacy. What is the importance of more evaluation or more professionalization if the people involved do not have the social or political legitimacy of their society?
How does that jibe with what you're talking about, Janet, that there was authentic peopletopeople up to the first intifada?
What do you make of the impulse to have more credibility, more accountability, towards ourselves, towards academic and professional and intellectual standards, while the grassroots players on both sides tended not to have that legitimacy?

Fadwa el-Sha'er: There were professional people involved from the universities. But the people who wrote the proposals, applied for the funding and were working and meeting with you and me and others did not have a relationship with the students or with the teachers in high schools and the lower grades.
In addition, some of the Palestinian NGOs that were working with these projects were not registered, were not legal. When an NGO is registered, it is supervised by a special PA ministry, but when it is not registered, it is very damaging. This is the worst thing because the people get disillusioned very quickly. When I tried to convince people of the importance of these projects, nobody would listen. If you do one project wrong, it damages the whole concept. Our society is a conservative one, so the people are easily influenced. They elected Hamas because of what took place within the various factions - corruption and so on.

Janet Aviad: Professionalization, transparency and even the financial problems are always issues, but not the basic issue. This whole discussion has led to one conclusion, which is that there were different agendas built into the peopletopeople program. With regard to the Palestinian political agenda - which is completely legitimate - there was a continuation for the Palestinians from preOslo to postOslo in terms of the expectation of cooperation with Israelis. Those are still the Palestinian demands with regard to the occupation. But that has not been the Israeli demand from Oslo on. It was the preOslo Israeli understanding.
Once P2P became institutionalized, Israelis became engaged in kinds of benevolent activity they thought would expand into rightwing circles. The basic goal was not peopletopeople among peaceniks, but to expand to the right. But the right would never agree to this political agenda. Therefore, it couldn't work.

Fadwa el-Sha'er: This is important.

Janet Aviad: It's not that the intentions weren't good, especially of the donors and of those who participated. But P2P activities were flawed because of the fundamental problem of different agendas. It couldn't go right because of the different goals of the two sides and the different goals of the donors.
Whenever we had a meeting and gave out the grants, they first went to those who were active in the preOslo period, and had institutionalized themselves as people- to-people NGOs. The Norwegians felt that the range was too narrow. We should reach out to Shas, to the National Religious Party, to the Russians. But those are people who did not agree with the Palestinians' goals in any way. So it was driven to fail because of that.
There are peopletopeople activities that have succeeded. The key to the success of the professionals - like the doctors-to-doctors or the Peres Center programs - is that the work is purely professional and nationbuilding activities. In other words, the Palestinians understand that, if they have good hospitals, it's better for them. So they send doctors to work with doctors. That's politically neutral and is a nation-building activity. That can go on today, but on a small scale.

Hillel Schenker: Throughout this whole period we also had Israeli nonofficial NGOs that were active, such as Peace Now, Ta'ayyush, Rabbis for Human Rights or Physicians for Human Rights.

Janet Aviad: That's continuing preOslo activities.

Hillel Schenker: All of them agreed with the Palestinian goal of ending the occupation.

Janet Aviad: You can't have that sponsored by Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

Lee Perlman: Many of those political and humanitarian organizations felt that the attempt to do outreach in both societies came at their expense
Are we back in a preOslo situation right now? Have we come full circle in terms of peopletopeople?
We should devote some time to the lessons learned from the shared experience. Can they help us in understanding where we are now with the recent election of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the disengagement and other developments?

Signe Gilen: When we talk about the donors, we should recall that it was basically the Norwegians, the Canadians, the EU and the U.S. who have been involved. I want to comment on the questions of money and the notion of P2P as a business. The official program gave up to U.S. $10,000 to each organization. Not big money to mismanage, and my impression is that P2P activities did not exploit the funds for personal benefit.
One of the basic problems, when you think about the criticism by different academics, is that maybe they expected too much of individuals and small organizations in terms of what impact they could have on the overall peace process. Those who hoped that peopletopeople activities would produce political change overestimated the potential of those initiatives. I think many of the people who were engaged in these kinds of activities really tried to affect their society in a positive way. But how can you succeed if you have limited access to the political level and to financial resources?
Maybe the peace camp on both sides didn't have enough resources for mobilizing against those who wanted to destroy the process. That's also an issue. So when we talk about money, it could also be that there was too little money for the needs.

Shira Herzog: Something else that is very important to understand is the political changes that happened in Palestinian society with the advent of Oslo, which created a Palestinian Authority. One of the issues that arose is the relationship between the Authority, as a governing body, and civil-society organizations, the NGOs. How did Palestinian civil society - which before Oslo had essentially been autonomous, representative of the people and connected to different political factions in the PLO - sort out its relationship with the PA? And how did P2P also become a casualty of this process? Were NGOs doing P2P, or was it the PA? There was the whole controversy about the PA Ministry for NGOs.
So, this was multi-leveled. There were questions about where civil-society organizations fit into the new internal Palestinian political reality, while at the same time there was no progress on the ground towards ending the occupation. P2P, which was primarily outreach to the Israelis, was never disconnected from what was going on internally.
A comment about today: If we talk about preOslo, it's very easy to use slogans. But we're not preOslo. We're in 2006. We can learn from the past, but to suggest that we have come full circle to the contacts in the 1980s is not true. We are in a totally different situation.
In the absence of a clearly defined Palestinian government, we don't even know where we are. This is going to take some time. We also don't know yet what the face of the Israeli government is going to be.
If we want to talk about the value of people meeting and continued professional cooperation, or the value of joint resistance activities, I'm absolutely in favor. No one can say that it's not a good thing for people to meet. But if we want to talk about a framework where donors are going to figure out their strategy, it has to wait for a few months because, at least on the political level, we don't have the faces yet.

Nadia Nasser-Najjab: I think what Fadwa said about the legitimacy of the people who are leading the contacts is important. In some way this is similar to preOslo because the activities now are directed towards changing the status quo.

Shira Herzog: You mean joint protests that are continuously underway.

Nadia Nasser-Najjab: Of course there are differences. But we can see similarities. There are refuseniks now similar to those in the 1980s. I believe that the difference now is that the political leaders who led the joint activities before might have become institutionalized- the campaign against the wall is now institutionalized.

Fadwa Khader: Partly institutionalized.

Nadia Nasser-Najjab: What Shira and Janet said is absolutely right, about the problem of civil society when the PA arrived. The Palestinian Ministry of NGOs tried to organize peopletopeople activities and started to call for meetings to supervise the work of NGOs and coordinate among them, but it didn't work. So in some ways we are back to preOslo in terms of activities, with some differences. But these are the contacts that are accepted now among Palestinians, though perhaps not among Israelis.

Hillel Schenker: We just had the Palestinian election and Hamas made its achievements. In the past there has been hardly any peopletopeople activity between Hamas and Israelis, except for maybe a few rabbis.
Do the Palestinians and Israelis think it's at all possible to have any form of peopletopeople activities between Israelis and people associated with Hamas? I realize that maybe it's too early to answer this question.

Janet Aviad: If you go back to the 1980s, when the PLO was illegitimate in the general Israeli society, Peace Now initiated contacts with PLO officials. That was in order to legitimize them in the eyes of the Israeli public, because it was known that those officials accepted the existence of the State of Israel and wanted to reach an agreement. During all of the 1980s activities, the leadership was in Tunis and very few meetings were held with them before Oslo.
In the meantime, in the territories, peopletopeople advanced the local Palestinian leadership. That was the function of people-topeople from the point of view of the Palestinians.
Many local leaders got headlines in the Israeli press, in the New York Times, and then it came back to the Palestinian press. And there were joint political protest activities aimed, from the Palestinian point of view, at proving that the Palestinian partner existed. That is not the situation today. In my opinion, there will be no echo of peopletopeople activity until it's clear that the Hamas leadership accepts the same conditions that were accepted then by the PLO leadership.
Personally, I had some meetings with Hamas people. But that was a long time ago. Today, no Israeli peace movement of any size can initiate peopletopeople activities until they know Hamas accepts Israel's right to exist and are ready to reach an agreement. This is because such P2P activities would become part of the legitimization process of Hamas within Israeli society. Otherwise, we will delegitimize ourselves. The situation has to be parallel and there is no indication of that yet. Shira is right; it's too early.

Shira Herzog: We talked about different agendas - how the Palestinian side had a clear political agenda, the establishment of two states.
There were Israelis who, in the late 1970s and 1980s, met with people involved in the PLO, trying to get the PLO to the point to which it arrived at in its 1988 decision. Once that was the political agenda of the Palestinians, it was easier for those contacts to come to the surface.
For Palestinians, meeting with Israelis was part of an agenda to end the occupation. But this is not part of a Hamas political strategy. At the moment, the Hamas political strategy is internal. As they struggle with the impact of their win in the elections, they have to sort out what their statement is going to be to Israel and internationally.
Today we don't have that shared position, that political agenda which made it possible for both sides to meet. However, just as before the PLO made its decision in 1988 there were contacts, so there probably are - and there certainly should be and probably will be - international contacts and IsraeliPalestinian contacts with Hamas to try to bridge the gap.
When what we now call Track II started, it was very clandestine. It's the same in any conflict. The people involved have to deal with huge issues of legitimacy in their own community. The difference now is that, whereas in the past on the Palestinian side-in the 1980s and even the 1990s - the opposition was against any negotiation and a twostate solution, now you have an opposition on the Palestinian side that is actually committed to such a political platform. Now, that's the minority in the parliament. And I think there is also a role in strengthening these voices, certainly through joint protest. In that sense, it's also preOslo.

Hillel Schenker: It's not only the opposition. It's also the PA President, Mahmoud Abbas. So it's even more complicated.

Shira Herzog: Exactly. What I am saying - again comparing it to preOslo - is that it's much more complicated than that. But I think one conclusion is clear. From my observations - certainly on the Palestinian side - that the imperative of having a joint political agenda on which there is agreement on the basics is necessary to make any P2P activities valid on the Palestinian side.
Sure, professional cooperation can continue. And I think there are some efforts at interfaith dialogue. But in the mainstream, unless there is an understanding on two states, it's going to be very difficult to create legitimacy for this kind of activity. And from the Israeli side, this becomes a lot more complicated - because there is the continuing problem of violence and the resistance. Israelis are simply not convinced that even Palestinians committed to two states are prepared to renounce violence altogether.

Nadia Nasser-Najjab: Fadwa, what do think? Do you see major changes in terms of contacts with Israelis in light of the new elections?

Fadwa el-Sha'er: Do you mean whether Hamas will allow or not? It's too early to answer.

Nadia Nasser-Najjab: So you are not sure. If Hamas says no contact with Israelis, do you think people will stop all contacts with Israel?

Fadwa el-Sha'er: It depends on the strength of the opposition. The problem is that, from the beginning, Oslo, or peopletopeople plus Oslo, did not create a strong basis and foundation for any future relations.

Shira Herzog: What would be called a supporting constituency, a strong foundation among the Palestinians.

Fadwa el-Sha'er: We need to see success on the ground. Some people refuse to participate in P2P activities; they confuse normalization and peopletopeople projects. It is important to create awareness among the people about the definition and the aims of peopletopeople projects. They don't know the exact aims, the future strategy, the impact, the target. This is the important thing.

Janet Aviad: That's a very important point.

Nadia Nasser-Najjab: Fadwa, what do you think? How do you see it? By the way, she ran in the elections and almost won.

Fadwa Khader: Almost, as an independent candidate. Next time.
Let me tell you about my experience. I have been very close to our people throughout the past three weeks. People have been talking about normalization. They don't really understand the difference between peopletopeople and normalization.
Hamas was elected because the people want an end to the difficulties in their daily lives. They thought that maybe Hamas would bring about a change. This is not true. We know that very well. But most people don't really understand that.

Signe Gilen: They want a change.

Fadwa Khader: Yes. And we know very well why our people want a change. During the past ten years of the PLC, things got increasingly complicated, especially since the second intifada-high unemployment, great economic difficulties, lack of services, no political progress on the ground and the establishment of an apartheid situation. Those are major issues we have to face.
In general, whenever people don't have any home they go directly to God or to religion. We have to realize this. So the Palestinians voted for Hamas because they thought maybe they will bring about a change. And Hamas was also very intelligent in their campaigning. They were very effective emotionally. But we don't know what will happen within Hamas. We don't know what will happen after February 16th, the first meeting of the new PLC. Maybe then things will start to become a little clearer.

Fadwa el-Sha'er: And after Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) will define his political agenda (see Abbas speech in the Document section - Ed).
In addition to what Fadwa said, the people also felt that the U.S. and Israel didn't help Abu Mazen make any progress. The people did not see any light at the end of the tunnel. They are all depressed. Hamas spoke to the people very simply saying, We want to rescue you; we want to take care of all these things for you - security, peace, the wall, the money. So the U.S. and Israel also share in the responsibility for these results.

Shira Herzog: We know that the Palestinians have certainly shown their commitment to a democratic process. And in a democracy, civil society is not so dependent on government policy. But because of the situation of occupation, it's more complicated.
The question is this: Depending on who's in the government and who's in the opposition, there may be a hardening of the language regarding cooperation. In other words, as long as there's occupation, is cooperation acceptable? Is it normalization? Is it collaboration? And it will be important to watch how the community that is committed to joint protest activities, joint political activities and/or professional cooperation fits into whatever new language will be used about cooperation versus occupation. This is what will give meaning to the question of legitimacy on either side. And that's part of what is not yet clear for the future.

Nadia Nasser-Najjab: Absolutely.

Hillel Schenker: Thank you all for participating.