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Israeli-Peacemaking Since 1967: Factors Behind the Breakthroughs and Failures

By: Galia Golan

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Galia Golan is currently a professor in the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. She specializes in issues related to international crises, political issues, and globalization. She is a peace enthusiast and a Zionist.

Breakthrough or Failure?

By: John Lee

The Arab-Israeli conflict is the epitome of a conflict where the peacemaking process took longer than the war itself. Such conflict was sparked by a rise of European Jews who desired their own settlement in Palestine during the first World War due to the discrimination, displacement, segregation, and systematic killing. This led to the Zionist movement which had a primary goal in aiding these Jews in settling in the Palestine area. According to the Zionist ideology, the Jews desired to return to their homeland, located in—what we call now—Israel. At the same time, the Arabians sought independence from the Ottoman Empire, leading to the Arab Revolt. The Arabians eventually gained independence and annexed the territory of Palestine. Consequently, this annexation exacerbated the conflict for land between the Jews and the Arabians. Both desired a part of the Palestine territory. In such cases, this conflict is a battle between desperation and greed. In response to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Galia Golan, in her book Israeli Peacemaking since 1967: Factors Behind the Breakthroughs and Failures, identifies the factors of progress and failures in peacemaking relations between Israel, neighboring Arab nations, and international parties such as the United States. She considers the negotiations, leadership, and security as three huge impacts to the process. Going from the chronology from the end of the Arab-Israeli war to Oslo II, Golan considers seven notable peacemaking processes that israel engaged from 1967 to determine whether they are failures or breakthroughs.

“Of importance to this study is how these and other attributes of intractability served to block or prevent a breakthrough, or led to a failure, or conversely, which of them underwent a change, enabling a breakthrough.”1 Golan establishes a foundation to show how this conflict escalated to even more complications. She refers to how she will make references to identify what contributes to further or ameliorate complications. She explains the Israeli-Arab conflict as an “intractable conflict.” She first starts of her list of efforts with the “1967-1968 failure.” 1967 was the year the Six Day War occurred from June fifth to the tenth. The war was a breakthrough, at least from the Israeli point of view. President Johnson was not content that Israel preempted the war, but the peace breakthrough was possible as the war ended. During this conflict, the United States and the Soviet Union sought diplomatic relations with the Arabs and Israeli. Yet, as war brings further devastation and losses to resources and money, the Soviet Union and the US powers agreed to work together toward peace in the Palestine territory. Among the numerous factors that would lead to a breakthrough, Golan explains that the claims to the land territories led to rivalries and opposition, which ultimately is responsible to the failure to peacemaking. There were two different opinions at play: the Palestinians and the Jordans. There were debates among the Palestines to determine the extent of Israeli rule expansion in the territory including the control over East Jerusalem. Yet, due to apathy in dealing with the Palestines and failures in “bargain” along with lack of leadership in Israel, this particular promising peacemaking approach was met with failure. “Almost all were unwilling to act independently of the Arab states, there was no willingness to accord Israel control of East Jerusalem and there was no united Palestinian leadership capable of taking such decision in any case…”2 Golan then proceeds to explain the first successful breakthrough, which was with Egypt. The Six Day war between Egypt and Israel was concluded with a ceasefire and US and USSR intervention. The US and USSR desired peace and aided the two middle eastern countries in negotiations. This particular breakthrough was preceded by two failures, the 1971 and 1973 initiative by Anwar Sadat, which failed due to mistrust and security that Israel and US held based upon the plans to re-establish the borders. Yet, among these failures to achieve peace, the Interim Accord and of 1975 and the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian Peace Agreement, proved to be breakthroughs. The Interim Accord led to military disengagement which would release tensions and aid in a peaceful approach to the conflict. The Israeli-Egyptian Peace Agreement was carefully implemented and discussed in Camp David which was mediated by the US with President Carter’s direct involvement. Nevertheless, this breakthrough was possibly as result of US intervention and the willingness of Egypt and Israel to comply.

As Carter’s success in aiding in a peaceful negotiation between Egypt and Israel over border disputes demonstrates a breakthrough, failure still followed with Syria. President Clinton faced problems in the middle east regarding the border disputes between Israel and Syria. Israeli leader, Yitzhak Rabin explained, “the Arabs demand full withdrawal to the 4 June 1967 borders, which Israel cannot do..”3 Rabin was skeptical of Assad, the Syrian leader, and claimed that Syria was not a “peaceful partner” despite Syria’s claims to desire peace. Yet, this perpetuating mistrust only led to failure. Even so, America held Israeli-Syrian talks such as the Geneva Convention with Assad and Barak, Rabin’s predecessor. Unlike Rabin, Barak was not interested in peace, which eventually led to failure to achieve peace with Syria. As nations such as Egypt and Syria participated in peace negotiations with Israel in post Yom Kippur War, Jordan was among the nations to achieve a breakthrough in peace yet had failures during the process. During the Geneva Conference of 1973, the Jordanians agreed to disengagement of military forces and passed the “Jericho Plan” which was the idea to return to Jericho and return of Israeli forces to the Jordan valley. There were additional meetings to discuss the post war efforts, yet the treaty with Egypt led to the failure to reach a breakthrough. Another attempt to obtain peace was the London Agreement of 1987. This eventually became a failure due to the Iran-Contra affair in the US, which made America and Reagan to not have particular “interest in an international conference at the time.”4 Additionally, there was a distinct mistrust between the leaders, King Hussein of Jordan and Perez of Israel. After numerous accounts of mistrust, these two nations finally reached peace in 1994 with the Peace Agreement of 1994 where borders would be split equally in the land swaps and Israel will provide Jordan with water. Ultimately, despite the many failures, the continuation and perseverance for peace became fruitful in aiding in peace in Israel.

Most notable in the peace process, the Oslo Accords were among the many attempts that showed breakthrough and failures at the same time. The Oslo Accords are a set of agreements between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Israeli government. According to Golan, “The Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization constituted the most significant breakthrough since the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement.”5 The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 brought American commitment to bring peace within Arab-Israeli. This eventually led to the Madrid Conference where successful Oslo talks took place. Ultimately, American involvement initiated the breakthrough in peace. Yet, the first of the Oslo Accords are considered as “failure” due to lack of public opinion, misperception, ambiguities in the accords, change in Israeli leadership , personal security, domestic changes in the socio-economic situation such as globalization and individualism, and increase in restrictions. In order to restore the possible chance of peace, the Oslo II accords took place. Barak, a successor of Rabin, met with Clinton at Camp David along with other leaders in the middle east to discuss further plans toward peace. Ultimately, mutual recognition was achieved, but mistrust, lack of leadership, and public opinion still remained a blockade to complete success. Nevertheless, the Oslo Accords aided in gaining mutual relationships between Israel and the Arabs, which is fundamental in obtaining peace.

Even though the Oslo Accords did bring some sort of success, the aftermath of the failures led to violence such as the second Intifada and Israeli military retaliation. Such violence only “precluded Israeli interest in or progress toward negotiations...”6 In response, Deputy Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, addressed these issues and looked to neutralize the domestic violence in Israel and Palestine. Continued warfare produced refugees and the need to evacuate civilians away from terrorism. Many wars such as the Second Lebanon War, perpetuated throughout 2007. Olmert made proposals such as “strong law enforcement instead of military in Palestine” to lessen the warfare. Olmert sought peace, but yet, similar to past Israeli leaders, he desired the opposite party to agree to his terms rather, which ultimately led to failure in obtaining peace. Thus, Olmert nearly made a breakthrough, yet fell short due to lack of “understanding.” In conclusion, the Israeli-Arab peacemaking process continues to perpetuate. Many factors such as mistrust, interests in personal securities, and lack of strong leadership leads to failures in obtaining peace. Yet, breakthroughs did indeed help in some diplomatic conflicts with other nations such as Egypt and Jordan, but was not “good enough” to bring ultimate and overall peace to Israel.

In the midst of of these diplomatic conflicts were peace talks, and in the midst of these peace talks, there were both successes and failures. She believes “the identification of factors, the context in which they appear, or their very absence at any given time...may provide keys to eventual resolution of the conflict.”7 Golan develops her thesis using analysis of seven attempted peacemaking processes that Israel has engaged in since 1967. This allows her to develop a thorough discussion of the relationships between Israel, various Arab neighbors, and third-parties. Each chapter explores events that led to both breakthroughs and failures in achieving peaceful relationships between different parties. By identifying and prioritizing the factors that have supported efforts to establish agreement, Golan highlights components in the peacemaking process from an Israeli perspective, as well as from the perspective of the parties in relation to Israel.

Galia Golan is the Head of Master of Arts in Conflict Resolution program at IDC Herzilya. She expertises in conflict within the Middle East. She analyzes and summarizes the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict to provide her own personal viewpoint of factors or reasons of certain actions. She is a dedicated peace activist and Zionist, who believes “Israel can and must reach a just and lasting peace with its Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians.”8 As a peace activist, Golan wrote this book with the belief that peace was imminent in Israel even if there are many who believe this conflict as irresolvable and were apathetic to the peace process. This book is one of ten other books which address the Israeli-Arab conflict. Israeli Peacemaking since 1967: Factors Behind the Breakthroughs and Failures is a book in which Golan lists the peacemaking processes of Israel ever since 1967, where she implements Israeli history along with US history to explain how there were opportunities for peace in Israel. In 2014, Golan wrote this book. 2014 was where the Israeli-Arab conflict was persistent and considered one of the top issues that required US interest. In comparison to Golan’s thesis in her book, the general viewpoint of the Israeli-Arab conflict was of interest and desperation for a solution. Golan responds using this book to the public that there were indeed peace opportunities laid by the US as shown by the history of the peacemaking process.

In response the Golan’s Israeli Peacemaking since 1967: Factors Behind the Breakthroughs and Failures, Michael E. Garver reviews Golan’s thesis and theme. He observes that Golan “identifies the actors and processes that were factors that led to progress or failure in the peacemaking relations between Israel, neighboring Arab nations, and international parties.”9 In his interpretation, leadership, security, and interstate negotiation were the three primary factors that were identified as the most impactful in the peacemaking process in Israel in Golan’s point of view. He recommends this book to those who are interested in “better understanding of the complex process of resolving protracted conflict in any setting.” He believes that the key factors Golan has identified are applicable in any conflict in communities, regions, and nations all throughout. In such view, Garver appraises this book as the Holy Grail to conflict solving. Another analysis of this book came from Neil Caplan from Vanier College and Concordia University. In response to Golan’s work, Neil Caplan comments, “what impressed [Caplan] was the complexity, richness, and the total intractability of the conflict.”10 He shows great admiration for this book due to its thorough details and volume of intensity. He believes that Golan, through this book, leads readers through a full breakdown of the numerous attempts to reach a breakthrough in what seems as an irresolvable conflict. Nevertheless, it is shown how Golan’s Israeli Peacemaking since 1967: Factors Behind the Breakthroughs and Failures provides great insight and a new perspective as well as approach to a conflict deemed impossible to conclude in good terms.

Nonetheless, this book provides an excellent example of applying history to present issues. This book allows its audience to understand the reasons of failure and breakthroughs toward a peacemaking goal. Not only does this book provide in depth analysis of the Israeli-Arab conflict and the peacemaking efforts, but it also provides an opportunity to see different perspectives of the issues and understand how to apply these failures to current issues. Additionally, using a relatively recent issue, Golan does a terrific job in offering details in the quest to understand and support the progress that will bring peace in the future. Thus, this book aids in understanding the Israeli-Arab conflict and invites the audience to strive for the imminent peace in Israel.

The question of how this book portrays the social, political, and economic changes of America following the Cold War has many answers. This book is about international affairs in the middle east. Throughout this book, America has been portrayed as the mediator and leader in bringing peace in Israel. US is representative and aided in many attempts in peacemaking between Israel and the neighboring Arab countries. This portrays how the US does not take an isolationist stance in foreign policy , but rather continues to intervene in aiding other foreign countries diplomatic relations. Thus, America is able to form international relationships with the middle east. Yet, problems still persist in the middle east regarding the war and the refugee crisis. Yet, as Golan boldly claims, “...there are solutions out there, and given circumstances, they are attainable if there is political will.”11 This quote demonstrates America’s will to bring ultimate peace and prosperity throughout the world. As a result, America has taken the responsibility as the one of the world’s powerful nations to be the peacemaker in the world, solving international conflicts little by little including the Israeli-Arab conflict.

In the end, the Arab-Israeli conflict provides the epitome of the hardships to earn peace. Peace is a desired trait in any community, region, and nation. Like Golan continues to advocate, peace will soon be achieved in Israel. Nonetheless, it is up to those, like Golan, to continue to have hope to reach the ultimate goal of peace.

[1] Gôlan, Galya. Israeli peacemaking since 1967: behind the breakthroughs and failures. London: Routledge, 2015. Print.1-5
[2] Gôlan, Galya. 13
[3] Gôlan, Galya. 57
[4] Gôlan, Galya. 103
[5] Gôlan, Galya. 118
[6] Gôlan, Galya. 170
[7] Gôlan, Galya. 1
[8] ”Galia Golan.”Galia Golan - SourceWatch. Source Watch, 26 Oct. 2007. Web. 23 May 2017.
[9] ”Israeli Peacemaking Since 1967: Factors Behind the Breakthroughs and F” by Michael E. Garver. NSU, n.d. Web. 23 May 2017.
[10] Bar-On, Mordechai. “Israeli Peacemaking since 1967: Factors behind the Breakthroughs and Failures.”Taylor & Francis. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 May 2017.
[11] Gôlan, Galya. 217