Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Conditions and Preconditions of the Peace Process in 2010 by Hatto Fischer

After the failure to extend the freeze of further constructions by the settlers, Netayahu said this matter cannot be any longer a precondition for peace talks to be resumed but must now be integrated into the peace negotiations directly. He applies thereby a notion of dialogue to explore other possibilities of a compromise while facts are created on the ground by settlers resuming the construction on occupied territory. While settlers refute the building moratorium with the slogan 'Israeli land belongs to the Israeli people', both the Palestinian and the international community view the land issue quite differently. Since houses are build on territories Israel has occupied after the 1967 war, they are deemed to be illegal. For the Palestinians it goes even further as they see the very land being build on as part of the future Palestinian state. The latter they envision as a real chance to emancipate themselves from all the hardships imposed by Israel as occupier.

All the contentions are known but the failure for further peace talks has so far not been named realistically enough as a negative dialect between preconditions and conditions. To enter that kind of dialogue there is a need for quite another reference which has been overlooked so far.

Learning out of failures

As the case of the failed EU Constitutional Treaty, what the Middle East needs is a combination of treaties between states but also something like an agreement on basic values in need to be respected if Human Rights are to be upheld in the region. This is not the case when such a basic text valid for both sides is missing. The gap can be explained: Israel has no such reference point for its negotiation since to date it is without a constitution and the Palestinian attempt to attain statehood is flawed if it does not draft an own constitution and comes internally to a consensus about what should be a common source of values for all in the region. This means both constitutions must be compatible for otherwise no peace agreement will ever hold since no real statehood can exist without such a constitution based on the principle to preserve peace by safeguarding the lives of all people.

When responding to the letter of Frederique Chabaud and her refutation of intercultural dialogue following was said about the difference between dialogue and a botched diplomacy due to being based on flawed concepts like international dialogue. Following points can be taken up for further analysis in order to understand the intricacies but also difficulties of clarifying alone the difference between precondition and condition. As this can be found out only through dialogue the latter as a concept has to be explained as well.

1. Peace as an impossible demand

Dialogue in earnest means taking up the work on solutions many would not accept under prevailing conditions or think that is not possible. Precisely the demand for peace is as Michael D. Higgins puts it an impossible one, but which safeguards one against any inconsistency in terms of human ethics. It is also a fact no one thought the Berlin wall would come down. But for the impossible to happen certain contradictions will have to be worked through before anything else is taken up. People need also concrete proofs that even impossible things can be worked out provide one does not give up and stays as said consistent within oneself. It strengthens a sense that definitely some things can be done better together than fight each other e.g. common water management projects as was the case when Rabin was Prime Minister of Israel.

2. Security as prime blockage for a forward looking agenda

While many can name certain conditions if peace is to prevail, too often the mistake is made that security as factual precondition excludes automatically the other. Yet if dialogue is to be realized the other has to be treated as equal and have the same access to a common ground. That would amount to a possibility of setting the terms as well and not just obeying the terms which the other side predetermines. Right now the situation is at best asymmetrically defined by Israel with Palestinian resistance being almost the only weapon against occupation.

3. Measures of success

Measures of success with regards to advancing in statehood have to be based on ethical principles. This includes the need to endorse the principle of non violence. A lot has changed with regard to this since 2002. There is made a tremendous effort on the Palestinian to counter Israel by non-violent means. At least in the West Bank things have changed in this direction. Even the World Bank acknowledges efforts undertaken there amount already to fulfilment of conditions leading up to statehood.

4. The dialogue about conditions and preconditions

To remind dialogue is not based on preconditions. Rather it helps to examine the conditions under which it is possible to fulfil preconditions, including talking with the other and learning to understand the position of the other. At the same time a lack of fulfilment thereof should not be used as an excuse not to take up the dialogue with the other. A continuity of efforts in good faith must prevail at all times to keep open communication channels. This is the real meaning of staying in touch with the other side through dialogue. As this will have ramifications in terms of respecting the sovereignty of the other, everything conveyed must be based on this notion of equality i.e. it is impossible to say this is 'my land' for it is first of all common land to which everyone has access. Something similar exists in Greece even though it is violated in practice, namely that everyone must have free access to the sea and hence no one can build along the shorelines in a way that would privatize the access. Israelis and Palestinians have to learn to dismantle these fake hierarchies allowing one side to say: 'this is my table and you are only allowed to sit down if I give the permission.'

5. How to unlock the situation: the praxis of ‘Deutung’

In the Middle East or in Northern Ireland a special interpretation is needed to unlock the situation. Everything seems sheer hopeless if that precondition of an open ended dialogue cannot be fulfilled by the parties on both sides of the conflict. Adorno called what is needed not an interpretation (as described by Ricoeur) but a 'Deutung': a psychoanalytical kind of risk taking by showing suddenly an understanding. That moment comes when all explanations prove insufficient because the real reason for the pain remains largely unknown. For instance, when a child cries a mother can unlock it by showing an amazing skill. It is less guessing, then showing an understanding why the child is crying and this free of any judgment. This is not the empirical but the inner self which is liberated through such an outer understanding. It encompasses identity, existence, language and visions since this kind of understanding makes free the space and therefore allows for new form of mediation between the self and the world without loss of face. That freedom from judgement is vital. The moment a child feels understood and accepts the interpretation which goes with it, it will be relieved and soon run out to join the others again. The inner and outer self is then reconnected and communication with the world of the others possible again.

6. Verification depending upon honesty: off with the masks

A moment of relief made possible by the other side showing sudden understanding is in any dialogue of great importance. Greek philosophers speak about catharsis but in practice it is 'Deutung' which makes the difference. By showing how one understands the pain of the other - by means of an 'intuitive guess' needed because the empirical evidence is not sufficient to give an explanation and thereby unlock the pain - a new opening can be ascertained. Naturally any show of understanding can easily be rejected if wrong or the person addressed in this way does not feel being understood. Verification of any understanding is only possible if the other includes his or her own self-understanding. Naturally critics of this approach would say it works only at individual level but not at collective and inter-state levels. That may be true. However, it is conceivable that with a dialogue becoming creative by involving the imagination that other preconditions can be made out which so far have not been touched upon and which may be the real reason for not finding until now any solution. Subsequently this and not any other precondition has to be made into a subject of negotiation in order to give dialogue a chance to connect the individual to the overall process. For that precondition can provide an explaination why the peace process has either failed up to now or been at best a most faulty one insofar as there has been reached only an agreement to disagree.

7. Learning hypothesis based on intuitive guesses to further empathy

A dialogue made possible by showing sudden understanding through an intuitive guess depends upon the honesty of the addressed; otherwise no feed back shall be given to verify the interpretation. Instead everyone will continue wearing masks to hide true motives. That mutual dependency upon honesty in any dialogue should not be forgotten.

8. A need for human kindness

In situations of despair and plight a show of human kindness is also needed to unlock the pain. A human touch can make both sides return together to the public level of discourse. It is like divers coming up for air. That is never self understood. For dialogue is of such demanding nature. It shall never be easy at one and the same time to stay personal and yet go public. There has to be avoided insulting or exposing the other side; on the other hand, only in public can be reached an agreement. This is because any agreement has to qualify as a public truth. That is only possible if based on real empathy to allow for a common knowledge to which each side has to have free access. Through dialogue can be explained what has been agreed upon. Furthermore it will make explicit which precondition for coming to a real agreement will have to be fulfilled in order to start implementing the peace process. It is like stepping back in order to go forward.

9. Peace agreement as public truth

At all times attaining a public truth of the terms of agreement is vital. Otherwise the worked out peace process cannot be upheld. For example, if it is only an agreement in secret, mistrust of those stayed outside the negotiation process but are still affected directly by the outcome will break any agreement even before the ink of the signatures has dried. In the case of the Middle East the settlers threaten, for instance, not to abide to the building stop, while the Palestinian side cannot afford a further loss of face if forced to agree to a basically unacceptable situation. That is why the terms of agreement have to replace those dictated until now by the one sided power Israel holds. Moreover none of the terms can be based solely on own experiences. Rather the agreement will have to make possible new experiences in order to see if the peace will hold. It is called verification on the ground. Some immediate signal must be felt by all who move about in the area e.g. lifting of barriers and continuation of the building stop. That special condition of being open to an uncertain future needs to be discussed still further and be faced publicly as this can only ascertain peace. For then both sides will have equal access to the process which can alone sustain any agreement made. Peace will have the validity of being common knowledge.

10. Public openness and publicness as measure of reason

Important in this strive for public openness is that both sides acknowledge that an agreement can only be ascertained if together they wish to attain a common truth. It means the agreement can be reached by acknowledging what constitutes a common set of values. By giving mutual recognition as to what made the agreement possible, it shows a way as to how peace can be upheld. The latter requires in the text something which stipulates in a clear way how different interpretations of the once agreed upon agreement are to be resolved. This is needed before contradictions and violations thereof lead to renewing irresolvable conflicts prompted by both sides failing to understand each other in terms of the need for peace.

11. Towards a new constitution

There is needed on both Israeli and Palestinian side a move towards a new constitution by means of discourse fed by many dialogues. This is why dialogue links up in the long run with discourse as understood by Michel Foucault. He saw the latter as moving from one original source of values and consensus to another one and therefore to a new constitution. Without such a base dialogues would be unthinkable.

Pre-Condition I: the need for a Middle East constitution

In other words, no peace agreement will be possible if it does not serve as bridge between ongoing dialogues based on an assumption of common values while naming the problems in terms of clear jurisdiction as defined by the constitution. It is self understood that the latter has to embrace basic Human Rights and which holds for both Israelis and Palestinians. Only once such a constitution is in place, can both sides commit themselves to uphold the jurisdiction of law and therefore respect also the borders drawn up to designate for which territory the respective state is responsible. A state does not belong to any specific group but must safeguard all lives.

Unfortunately as if a systematic neglect that difference between constitution and peace agreement has so far played no role in the diplomacy exercised in the Middle East. From a European perspective this neglect should be analysed whether or not the concept of intercultural dialogue leads the negotiators astray rather than bringing them on course and towards a sustainable peace process. Without such a direct reference to the need for a constitutional prerequisite in order to recognize statehood, it is highly unrealistic to deal with Israel as long as it does not have its own constitution.

Condition II: Lifting of the restraining order by Israel and freedom from religion (basic texts as replacement of legal canons)

The same applies for Palestine. Only there the restraining order imposed by the Israelis has made it that more difficult to draft a constitutional vision on the assumption that the principle of a common law can be developed and established in the Middle East. This has been further aggravated by the split between Hamas and Fatah on the Palestinian side with a tendency on both sides to resort to old texts like the Koran or Bible to reaffirm values of the past due to the failure to write together a new text able to inspire all with a sense for common values.

The problem of reaching a peace agreement shall not be resolved if there is missing a common source of values to ensure the peace will last. This has to be linked to both sides having first of all a constitution in place for otherwise no peace agreement can be ascertained. Only through their respective constitution can both the Israeli and the Palestinian side set aside principles based on irresolvable grievances and embrace the law as sole jurisdiction of the respective states. Any agreement has to be in accordance with the terms to the other state. As both states shall be intractably linked to the other, the Israeli and Palestinian states need to include in their respective constitutions already the recognition of mutual borders.


Israel will have to abandon its pragmatic stance kept till now by not having a constitution. This has allowed Israel to push ever further its demand for an expanded territory while crossing over to Palestinian territory cannot be deemed as an act of war. That would be the case if a state border. So far Israel has continued its occupation almost unchallenged by the world. Always Israel claims to be acting in terms of its own security needs and not as a state responsible for the lives of the others since merely an occupying power. The very lack of a constitution gives Israel the maximum flexibility to interpret and to justify whatever it does as securing the existence of the state of Israel. The drawing of its borders can thereby be postponed into an indefinite future. But without having an own constitution Israel cannot enter the dialogue about peace in any real sense. After all the word peace means to all people around the world the same, namely the freedom to enter dialogue and to resolve conflicts through dialogue.

Athens 27.9.2010

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