I was living in London at the time. The war and its global economic consequences were very real to me. In 1973, the Arab world rallied behind Egypt and Syria and imposed an embargo on oil shipments. Countries, like the UK, with limited access to alternative sources of energy were, quite literally, thrown into darkness. It was a bleak time. The possibility that Kissinger could find a pathway to resolve the military and political impasse in the Middle East was the hope we held on to. As Indyk so clearly and cleverly shows in his chronicle of the events, peacemaking is not for the faint hearted. It requires a level of skill, dedication, mastery of detail and an element of good luck.
Kissinger brought a rare talent to the task. His indomitable commitment to disengaging the warring parties laid the foundation for the subsequent peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. But, contrary to the hopes of many, the peace accords of 1979 have not produced a “warm” peace between Israel and Egypt. There has been little to show at the people-to-people level. Kissinger and his Egyptian, Syrian and Israeli interlocutors were engaged in peacemaking. They gave little or no time to the vital role of peacebuilding.
The parallel to the Israel Palestine conflict seems clear. For more than five decades efforts have been made to advance the cause of a comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians. These efforts have failed to deliver because they have focussed exclusively on the political outcomes – the macro level – with little or no parallel investment in relationship building between the people on both sides. Only recently has the “penny dropped”. In an environment where polls show that 80+% of people on both sides don’t trust the other, there is an urgent need to invest heavily in cross-border economic and people-to-people initiatives. Absent a significant focus on peacebuilding, we leave the field open to the purveyors of extremism on both sides. We cannot allow them to hold sway. The consequences of our failure to do so are clear, with the frightening emergence of language of mutual delegitimization and even dehumanisation. This is a slippery slope to horrors that we must avoid at all costs.
It is therefore encouraging to see the commitment of both the US and the EU to supporting peacebuilding – the US through its multi-year, multi-million-dollar Middle East Partnerships for Peace program and the EU through its Peace Initiative.
This is the space that Project Rozana is committed to. We work using the vector of health to build Palestinian health capacity and Palestinian civil society through developing a broad and significant network of human relationships between Israelis and Palestinians that will, over time, move the ‘dial of trust’ in a positive direction.”
Chair, Project Rozana International