Are the Middle East Peace Talks in Jeopardy?

On April 7, IPCRI's co-director Mr. Dan Goldenblatt spoke for Al Jazeera about the current crisis in the Middle East peace talks. 

What has changed in Israel since the 1990s?

Dan Goldenblatt: Public opinion in Israel has veered to the right. Support for the center and center-right has increased. The country has become more religious. People still talk about exploding buses in Israel, even though, thankfully, the suicide bombers have not come since the second intifada. That had a very strong impact on the Israeli psyche. That continues to be fed by Israeli politicians to feed into this existential fear that Israelis have. This constant everlasting security threat — Israeli politicians say repeatedly that we can only count on ourselves. It is one the public listens to. Israel needs the international community. It needs the American government’s support.

Do Israelis take U.S. support for granted?

To a certain extent. Had the American administration put its foot down, it could have gotten Israel to do what it wants. We know Netanyahu has very strong ties on Capitol Hill. He probably even tried to influence, unsuccessfully, the last election. There is a feeling that we can trust Americans to not go the whole nine yards and pressure Israel. We know that from past experience.

What is Israel-Palestine: Creative Regional Initiatives?

We are a 25-year-old organization. It started as an Israeli-Palestinian think tank involved in track-two negotiations. We brought thousands of Israelis and Palestinians together. In the past two years, our mission has changed a little bit. We still support a peaceful resolution to the conflict. We no longer believe it can be done through a separation paradigm. We believe the solution must include two sovereignties and yet complete freedom of movement throughout. Important Jewish sites are in West Bank, and 100 percent of Palestinian refugees come from Israel proper. We are also focused on strengthening the Palestinian private sector. We take Israelis to Palestinian cities to show them real people living their lives. We call it breaking down the walls.

IPCRI Achievements

1980s First ever Palestinian-Israeli working groups
1990s Palestinian-Israeli working group on security credited by Yitzhak Rabin for opening the Oslo track

Development of the ‘two capitals in Jerusalem’ idea that is held until today

Engagement of hundreds Israeli and Palestinian environmentalists in a 3 year ‘our shared environment’ program

Law & Development program enlisted by the World Bank and IMF
2000s 10-year peace education program that developed curricula and trained hundreds of teachers

Training of Palestinian farmers as certified exporters to the EU

Widely used research on Palestinian and Israeli text books

International conference on regional water issues involving 200 experts
2010s Back channel negotiations between the Israeli government and Hamas that ended with the release of Gilad Shalit and Palestinian prisoners

Involvement of over 350 Jewish and Arab/Palestinian youths in designing joint community projects within Israel.