Today’s ICSR seminar, Resolving Conflict in the Middle East: New Ideas for Peace, was a great success and another step forward in the Atkin Fellowship. Fellows Odelia Englander of Tel Aviv and Oday Abukaresh of Nablus presented their research to an engaged audience of scholars, analysts, and graduate students.
Odelia spoke about the role of the United Nations in the Israel-Palestine peace process, arguing that the international body must overcome a history defined by lacking the will and capability to live up to the principles of its founding charter. Explaining the UN’s role in the Middle East since its founding in 1946, she argued that this is the only way in which the UN could become a leading credible party to the peace process, moving past its status as a platform for ‘phony wars’ and hyper-politicization, as there is no other viable institution that can be a vehicle for negotiating the two-state solution.
In a different vein, Oday analyzed the role of civil society joint Palestinian-Israeli organisations and their failure to succeed in advancing the peace process in a practical way thus far. While recognizing that these groups have brought Israelis and Palestinians together, Oday argued that this inter-communal cooperation has not penetrated those segments of society that are most at risk for extremism. Oday also spoke about Track II diplomacy and its potential role in supplementing the efforts of joint organisations toward peace.
As discussions about Israeli-Palestinian peace often do, the seminar provoked robust and interesting questions and debate from the audience – particularly about expectations for the political capacity of the UN, the possibility of a future peacekeeping force, the role of the Quartet, and other important issues.