From Crisis to Opportunity:
Inclusive Approaches to the Arab-Israeli Conflict

In late 2006, the European Union awarded Oxford Research Group, the Middle East Policy Initiative Forum (MEPIF) and Conflicts Forum €500,000 over two years under its Partnerships for Peace programme. This project is designed to help develop more inclusive and legitimate approaches to transforming the Middle East conflict.

The landscape of conflict and security is shifting across the Middle East. This project aims to support a new, inclusive approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict by opening new space for consultations among legitimate yet opposed stakeholders through civil society-brokered dialogue, analysis and engagement. The goal is to explore accommodations grounded in real support in the societies. The action will engage rooted elements of Palestinian and Israeli societies and stakeholders from the wider region, including faith-based movements.

Two work streams, one focused on regional dialogue led by Conflicts Forum, one on the Israeli-Palestinian arena led by ORG and MEPIF, form an integrated programme of research, consultations, publication, workshops and dissemination. Both these streams will:

  • Build up relationships with all the parties involved in the conflict.
  • Where appropriate, bring together conflicting parties for informal roundtables in a conducive atmosphere.

Our approach includes:

  • The pursuit of non-military options to the resolution of conflict.
  • The application of human security principles to the understanding of conflict.
  • The need to address the root causes of conflict in order to bring an end to political violence.
  • The use of sustained dialogue methods.
  • The pursuit of rigorous research with the aim of a practical application to the resolution of conflict.

The entire EU-funded initiative is overseen by ORG. The Israel-Palestine programme is led by Gabrielle Rifkind and Ahmed Badawi in consultation with a high level of international expertise on the Middle East, including strategic and psychological consultation.

The programme is currently made up of the following projects:

1) A standing conference table for the Palestine-Israel conflict
Several initiatives are being taken to promote a security architecture that would enable an inclusive model for sustainable peace. The parameters of the political endgame of the Palestine-Israel conflict are well known. What we do not know is how to get there. What is needed is a mechanism initiated by the international community to actively put in place a durable peace process that involves all the stakeholders in the conflict. Until now there have been no safety nets when the peace process breaks down. This initiative suggests the setting up in of a standing conference table led by the Quartet's special envoy to the Middle East. It would involve an advisory board of those with a deep knowledge of the conflict, including the wisdom and experience of former world leaders and senior diplomats. These advisors would help facilitate track one negotiations between the interested parties at the standing conference table. Members would make a serious commitment to keep the peace process on track whatever the level of violence or provocation in the region. Over time the table could evolve into a semi permanent table for the wider region to facilitate cooperation on regional security. The idea is being promoted particularly in light of the opportunities presented by the International Conference in November 2007. More information about this proposal is available here.

2) Israeli Track: The Time is Ripe
This initiative is intended to provide an opportunity for Israeli Jews to collectively think in-depth about the nature of the state they wish to live in and how they will develop a fruitful and peaceful relationship with Israeli Arabs, the Palestinian people and their wider neighbouring countries. This will involve bringing together Jewish-Israeli leaders from across all factions of Israeli society to answer the question: How do we envisage a state of Israel in which we, our children and our grandchildren would be happy and proud to live, amongst ourselves, together with the Palestinians and our neighbours? The initiative will begin in October 2007 and be completed by May 2008 to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel. The initiative will include three workshops involving scenario planning for the future, to be held in Cyprus. It will also include three 'learning journeys' for participants to visit parts of the world that have or are experiencing conflict, such as Northern Ireland. Further information on the initiative can be found here.

3) Israeli military action on the Gaza border: a human security analysis
Recent events in Gaza have had a profound impact not only on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but on the whole Middle East region and beyond. Following the Palestinian presidential elections in January 2005, Israel's unilateral "disengagement" from Gaza in September 2005, the Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006 and the formation of a national unity government following the Mecca Agreement in March 2007, many had hoped for a new window of opportunity for improving the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories which could potentially pave the way for the resumption of peace talks to bring about an end to the protracted conflict. However, the Palestinian situation has dramatically deteriorated since June 2006, turning Gaza's already critical political, economic and security conditions into unprecedented levels of blockade, poverty, violence and uncertainty. This report examines the immediate and desperate situation in Gaza through a "human security" lens. Much is known about the political goals that could bring about and end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but little is being done to examine and minimise the current unbearable human suffering in Gaza. This study seeks to redress this balance by offering a new insight and a detailed account of the day to day security breaches and the root causes of violence. Uniquely, it offers ways to improve the security situation based on both the particularities of the area and international law and conventions that govern such situations. This research will be communicated to decision-makers at the highest level and will be used as part of a Palestine-Israel roundtable.

4) Palestinian track: Conflict Transformation in Palestine: Towards a Strategic Framework to End Occupation and Prevent Post-Independence Domination
The history of failure in securing national independence and establishing a viable state over the last 13 years has led Palestinians to be suspicious of Western motivations and interventions. The West demands that Palestinians meet certain conditions before attaining statehood. These include ending armed struggle, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, reforming the Palestinian security system and building viable institutions of governance. To most Palestinians, however, such demands are seen to be unjust. Whilst Palestinians in the end want a functioning state and a prosperous economy, most of them argue that it is virtually impossible to do so while under a military occupation. The aim of the project is to help initiate and frame a new constructive discourse, first among Palestinians then more widely, that begins by recognising this reality. In the new discourse the question "how can occupation be ended and Palestinian rights and needs be guaranteed?" is from the beginning given equal weight to that given to the question "how can a viable Palestinian state be created that does not threaten and is not threatened by Israel?".


Further information

A New Security Paradigm

About the project team

About MEPIF

How we work

A Standing Conference Table for the Middle East


Publications

Visions of the Endgame: A strategy to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict swiftly to an end
Tony Klug, May 2009

The Arab Peace Initiative: Why Now?
Gabrielle Rifkind, November 2008

Conflict, Economic Closure and Human Security in Gaza
Justin Alexander, October 2007

A Standing Conference Table: A Process for a Sustainable Peace in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
Gabrielle Rifkind, July 2007

No matter what Israel and Hamas do to each other, the solution won't be rational
Gabrielle Rifkind, July 2006 (The Independent)

Separating aspirations from realities
Gabrielle Rifkind, May 2006 (The Jerusalem Post)

What Lies Beneath Hamas' Rhetoric: What the West Needs to Hear
Gabrielle Rifkind, March 2006

Israel-Palestine: What Future for the two Peoples? Confronting the Obstacles to a Viable Peace
MEPIF/ORG, April 2005