Comments: Is Negotiation Still the Solution in the Middle East?

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Josh , Belchertown MA   05/25/04
Missing the Forest for the Trees
After reading the article "Is Negotiation Still the Solution in the Middle East?" and reading the subsequent comments I get the feeling people are missing the forest for the trees. It is quite apparent that the purpose of the article is to argue that negotiation is the only realistic path in the Middle East and that track is not dead. The other tactics and destructive actions will never move this conflict from its current abysmal state to a more constructive realm. The others that have read this and commented have plucked out statments (trees) and lost what is really important here (forest -- i.e. the way forward). While you might disagree with some of the author's characterizations (I do as well), his overall point is one that should not be lost. Another commentor stated that as mediators we are supposed to be unbiased and articles like this do not belong on this site. I respectfully disagree with this assessment. On the second point -- I think this space is exactly the place to have these conversations and engage in serious dialogue about these issues. On the first point -- every person on here is biased in their own manner. I have always held the belief that what we as mediators must strive for is equal treatment of the people involved (i.e. impartiality). This allows us to have our biases, which I don't believe we can just dispose of readily, and treat each side equally. It seems to me that is what the author is trying to do here even if some might disagree with some of his "trees". Comments please. Josh

Paul , Pittsburgh PA   05/07/04
Editorial response
I want to thank those of you who have written critical comments about this article – especially those who asked how an edited section could allow such an article to appear. Since my name appears at the top of the section with the label “editor” you put the ball in my court. I have been slow in negotiating what it means to be an editor of a section and have allowed articles to be posted that bypassed me entirely in the process. I cannot leave myself in a position of responsibility where I have no chance to carry out that responsibility. So, we are working out a new relationship where I will preview postings and try to link related articles etc. But, I would have included the article in question anyway. This should be as free a forum as possible of international conflict resolution ideas. If anyone wants to take issue with an article you can – and have done. My current thinking is that there are three broad classes of articles which will get different treatment. Category A: Solid articles, on relevant subjects – these will be posted and often with input from me – linking them with other articles, commenting, or otherwise. Category B: Articles that fit our general scope but are on the fringe, do not seem to add much to our information core, or, honestly, are on subjects that I have little expertise to judge – These will be posted as is with no commentary, linking, etc. Category C – Articles of poor quality, irrelevant to conflict resolution – These will be rejected. The article in question here is a B. I don’t feel it contributes significantly to a better understanding of how to resolve the conflict and, as your letters have indicated, the language tends to undercut its credibility. It is worth posting, even if its only function is to attract your letters and demonstrate how sensitive the language and apparent bias can be. For examples of Category A articles see the three recently posted - Bridging the Gap, Middle East Union and my comments - Reframing a Solution. Shalom - Salaam

Paul , Pittsburgh PA   05/04/04
Some creative thinking needed on the MidEast
The heated exchanges going on in the International Section re: Israel/Palestine illustrate the deep and charged feeliings involved - and the difficulty of implementing any of the "old" solutions. Last weekend (May 2) I met Jeff Halper, director of the Israeli Committee to Stop House Demolitions - he has been thinking outside the box and may have come up with a workable reframing of the problem that might be the catalyst leading to a settlement. I invite you to read his article and my introduction (and review of his book) here on my website - until they post it in the International Section of I'm afraid you have to type it in manually, - and click on "Current International Articles"

richard    05/03/04
In 'Is Negotiation still the Solution in the Middle East?' Manie Spoelstra wrote "3. Israel has military power, but low moral ground, The Palestinians has less power but high moral ground." You must be kidding, right?? Does murdering a pregnant woman (in her eighth month) along with her four children qualify as "high moral ground"?: see Woe onto all of us in the world community if we accept this as the behaviour of a people with "high moral ground". Honestly, would you negotiate with these murderers such that you ultimately have to live with them as your neighbours?? As a mediator suggesting a solution, at the very least, you really ought to be more responsible and honest about your choice of words and ideas, especially if it is truly your sincere intention to create a climate that is conducive to a resolution of conflict.

Concerned    05/02/04
As any BASIC mediation course teaches, both parties to a dispute need to have a good faith desire to resolve it through negotiation and compromise. Is the author ignorant of the FACT that HAMAS' stated goal is the TOTAL DESTRUCTION of Israel, not the return to any pre-war or defensible borders. How could negotiation possibly be the solution with such a party? Furthermore, is the author aware that many HAMAS attacks have taken place within the 1948 borders, ie., in Israel proper rather than the disputed territories? So much for the authors' alleged "intellectual prowess"! I am shocked that the editors posted this "article". Very dissapointing.

Concerned    05/02/04
This drivel debases this website. Mediators are supposed to be unbiased and have an open mind, neither of which the author appears to have. This article belongs on a pro-Palestinian propoganda website, not How did the editors ever agree to post this "article"?

Dan , Los Angeles CA   04/30/04
The author most naively calls the slain Sheik Yassin "a frail, half-blind, quadriplegic, man of God." This quadriplegic from birth managed to become the undisputed leader of HAMAS --- designated by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization. Both the Sheik and his successor, the late Abdel Rantisi, were individually designated in August of 2003 by the U.S. Treasury Department as "Specially Designated Global Terrorists." As early as December 2002, before the war in Iraq, these men called for the mass murdering of Americans. And they have taken credit for hundreds of murders of Israeli men, women and children in their explicit quest to destroy Israel. Israel from its birth has been fighting only for its survival. In desperation it has now had to build a fence. The author states "Israel has military power, but low moral ground, The Palestinians has less power but high moral ground." What is the author thinking? Israel has survived but remember if they would've lost one war of the multitude of invasions by the Arab states since 1948, Israel would not be here. Israel nevertheless offered thru Clinton at Camp David over 95% of the land in the West Bank which Arafat claimed. Arafat left the mediation and started the "intafada" to kill hundreds of innocents. Now Sharon is dismantling unilaterally his own settlements to give the Palestinians independence. Israel has exhibitted unprecedented restraint and morality. I as a mediator appreciate the need to bring the right representatives to the table. Hopefully, the Palestinians will select leadership that will care more for them and be disgusted by an Arafat, who is on Forbes 400 richest list through theft of his own people's funds, be reconciled with Israel's existence and be prepared to negotiate a peaceful solution.

aarons , adelaide sa   04/28/04
middle east
I agree wholeheartedly with Joels comments. Much of the so called objective pro Palestinian commentary is merely a thin cover for anti-semitism. If the Palestinians are so poor why do their benefactors with unlimited wealth not support them more or take them in. The arab country wnats the Palestinians anywhere near them. It suits them to wage war with Israel and get them off there backs

Joel    04/28/04
Negotiation in the Mid-East
As an individual who has spent many hours at the negotiation table, I get the sense that Mr. Spoelstra has already developed a bias in his analysis of the Israeli - Palistinian conflict. As an advocate of negotiations, he should be more responsible in understanding the facts. He describes Sheikh Yassin as "frail, half blind, quadriplegic..." Already he has evoked sympathy for a man who has had that condition since the age of 12. In his four-point list of trade offs, Mr. Spoelstra says that Israel can concede on the 70km wall. Let's get this straight, the wall was constructed to prevent homocide bombings. In point 2, he describes U.S. money as being accesible to Israel. Isreal has paid back every cent of any U.S. loan, while the Arab world with their petro dollars have purposly kept the Palistinians in poverty. Do you wonder where Mr. Arrafat has hid his billions? The author should understand history and know that the Palistinians were always poor, especially when they were ruled by the Arab lands for many years prior to Israel's involvement. The only times Arab money is sent to a Palestinian, is when one of their children are killed during their homocide bombings of innocent Israli civilians. I am confused with his terms of Israel having low moral ground. I believe that if the Arabs would throw away their guns, there would be peace. If the Israelis threw away their guns, there would be no Israel. Is it the Israelis with "low moral ground" that teach their young to hate and kill women and children? If Mr. Spoelstra would see a Palestinian school book, he should ask why Israel does not exist in its maps. He should ask why Palestinian teachers encourage the death of Jews. In his last point regarding the occupation, remember that Itzhack Rabin, the late P.M. of Israel was willing to give up 97% of the West Bank and 100% of Gaza to Yassir Arrafat on the White House lawn, witnessed by the world and President Clinton. It was Mr. Arrafat, who threw it all away to invoke the intafada. The P.L.O. charter still calls for the destruction of Israel. It is my understanding that in negotiations all parties must feel that they are walking away a success. What does Mr. Spoelstra really expect more of from the Israelis?