Thursday, August 23, 2007

Common Ground News Wire features

Title: Regional peace with Palestine at the coreAuthor: Marc GopinSource: The Common Ground News Service, 23 August 2007Word Count: 745

Title: Making peace workAuthor: Erin PinedaSource: The Common Ground News Service, 23 August 2007Word Count: 914

Each article is available in Arabic, English and Hebrew

Regional peace with Palestine at the core
By Marc Gopin
WASHINGTON - We are at a critical juncture in the Palestinian-Israeli struggle. It is this struggle that takes precedence over the regional Arab-Israeli conflict because its acuteness and its constant festering since 1948 underlies the intractability of all the other conflicts. It becomes essential then for the new openings between Syria and Israel, for example, to be a spur to a comprehensive peace with the Palestinians as well, not a hindrance. My work in Syria for peace during the last three years has yielded the following insights into what may work:* Most influential Syrians, including many high-ranking officials, want normalization of relations with Israel based on a return of the Golan. There are obstacles from deeply entrenched Old Guard interests in the status quo, but a positive showing of peace by Israel and the US will significantly strengthen and even transform the power of moderate forces in the Syrian leadership.* The Syrian public, however, is moved and always has been by the injustice done to the Palestinians, their fellow Arabs and Muslims. They will not support President Assad in peace talks--support he truly needs--unless they see some genuine signals from the Israelis that they are serious about justice for Palestinian refugees, and a renewed respect for and reconciliation with Muslims.* Most influential Syrians are ready for a less proprietary relationship with Lebanon even though they resent the "ingratitude" of the Lebanese. What this all means is that there is room for President Assad, who has already reached out to Israel quietly for three years, to reach out publicly to the people of Israel and the Jewish community as further pressure. But he must receive something substantial in return in order to not lose domestic support, which is solidly behind the Palestinian cause. It also means that if strong diplomacy prevails there is room for a non-military transformation of the Syrian-Lebanese relationship. The entire Israeli security establishment wants a serious dialogue with Syria, especially given the regional increase in rocket investments and the resulting blow to Israel's defences last year. Most Israeli security analysts are satisfied that Assad is serious about negotiations, but it is the White House that, due to its anti-diplomatic policy of threats only, is preventing Prime Minister Olmert from taking action. Olmert, and any aspiring leader of Israel, is afraid of the political ability of the White House to shift their support toward Netanyahu and bring down the current Israeli government. In order to set in motion a chain reaction of peace moves, we need a US administration that is serious about comprehensive peace in the Middle East. This may only come after the next American elections. But it is also possible that the sitting president may simply give Olmert the green light to talk to Syria without any acknowledgement of having done so. What the region needs is a thaw in Syrian-Israeli encounters, some significant measures designed to change the living conditions of the Palestinians, and serious final status talks with Fatah on the major outstanding issues: the 1948 refugees and Jerusalem. There is every reason to believe that movement in these realms will put major pressure on the military wing of Hamas to desist from resistance because the people, even inside Hamas, will demand it once they see the benefits accruing.Iran, Qatar, and private Gulf funds continue to massively support Hamas' resistance, and this can undo peace progress. This is where constant, forceful diplomacy in the region will have to accompany bilateral negotiations. This is not something that the current US administration may be capable of, but the major players in the region should be planning for a different American posture before long. The current approach to the Middle East is an abysmal defeat for America, and this assessment has bipartisan consensus. When the White House is to the right of the Israeli security establishment something is out of balance in American politics. An American shift to pragmatism will not satisfy those who want an even-handed American approach to the Palestinians, however. But we can expect more pragmatism and a deeper understanding of the consequences of the brutal passivity of the Bush years in the face of the situation in Gaza and the West Bank. Meanwhile, the stars may soon be aligned for Syria to be the next Arab rejectionist state to transform its relationship with Israel. This will be good news only if it is not at the expense of the Palestinians and their rights to equality and final justice.


* Marc Gopin is the James Laue Professor at George Mason University's Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at
Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 23 August 2007, www.commongroundnews.comCopyright permission has been granted for republication.


Making peace work
By Erin Pineda
NEW YORK - Simply stated, the "peace dividend" theory holds that in times of peace, budgets and resources normally allocated for defence can be used to invest internally in housing, education, and other initiatives which improve a society and bolster an economy. In other words: in the long term, peace is more profitable than war.But in the post-Cold War world, regional conflicts and international terrorism have proliferated, and peace has proven an elusive concept. Having thus far failed to make peace in our time, the economic gains of the "peace dividend" have largely remained in the realm of the theoretical. Perhaps we need to utilize new tools and look at peace-making through new lenses in order to build the vibrant, viable, stable, and prosperous societies we envision for the future. Suppose for a moment that business cannot wait for peace; suppose that selling a product and turning a healthy profit could actually play a significant role in encouraging peace. In business, it is commonly acknowledged that two parties profiting from a joint venture develop a mutual, vested interest in developing and maintaining the relationship between them. What if the same could be said for "enemy" populations?That is the theory behind the PeaceWorks LLC, a 13-year old company that has pioneered the field of the socially conscious, "not-only-for-profit" business model, and proven that peace and profit can work hand in hand. The company has a unique mission: to foster economic cooperation and peaceful business interactions in conflict regions through the manufacturing, packaging, and distributing of natural food products, all the while sustaining a growing, profitable company. PeaceWorks was founded by Daniel Lubetzky in 1994, when, fresh from Stanford Law School, he travelled to Israel to research ways to encourage economic ventures between Israelis and Arabs. After tasting a sun dried tomato pesto made in Israel, he came up with an idea.So what does pesto have to do with peace? PeaceWorks turned the process of manufacturing this local product into a process for conflict resolution. The line of products which includes sun dried tomato, basil, and olive pestos runs as a cooperative venture that ties Israelis and Arabs together - Meditalia, a name meant to evoke the diverse and culturally-rich region shared by both Arabs and Jews, uses olives from Palestinian farmers, tomatoes from Turkey, and glass jars manufactured in Egypt. By providing people who are separated from one another by geography, the politics of antagonistic governments, past wars, and religio-ethnic rifts a project of mutual interest, the people involved in the production of these projects have come to see themselves as tied to one another. They benefit in a very tangible way -- profit -- from their interactions with one another, and so learn that it is in their best interest to cement these relationships. Once profitable and mutually-beneficial business relationships have been developed, the process of breaking down stereotypes and divisions becomes much easier. People begin to see themselves as interconnected. With its distribution network now at 10,000 stores worldwide, PeaceWorks has grown significantly, and proven that business has a part to play in making the world a better place. The company now offers a number of different products made as joint ventures between "enemy" populations - in addition to the Meditalia products, Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims in Indonesia collaborate on PeaceWorks' Bali Spice line. Furthermore, PeaceWorks' other products, the Be Natural and KIND healthy snack bars, though not made in a conflict region, donate 5% of their profits to Lubetzky's non-profit foundation, The PeaceWorks Foundation, whose OneVoice Movement works toward a non-violent end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the ground up.After the failure of Oslo and the rise of the second Intifada, Lubetzky applied the same entrepreneurial sense and hands-on approach that started PeaceWorks to launch OneVoice, a grassroots movement which empowers the moderate majority of Israelis and Palestinians to take a more assertive role in resolving the conflict. The globalisation of products and markets has radically changed business in the last century. Likewise, the globalisation and internationalisation of regional conflicts has dynamically shifted the framework for conflict resolution. In many ways OneVoice represents the non-profit mirror for the PeaceWorks LLC: its efforts are focused on the tangible, day-to-day processes of getting people involved in changing the political situation for the better. With field offices in Tel-Aviv, Ramallah, and Gaza, OneVoice has worked to create an alternative paradigm of politics in the region, transcending the "left vs. right" and "Israeli vs. Palestinian" divides to reveal that the moderate majority can prevail over the absolutist vision of an extremist minority, which so often succeeds in derailing the peace process. In just five years, OneVoice has signed up over 430,000 members on both sides of the Green Line, and actively engaged the Israeli, Palestinian, and international leadership in heeding the call of their people to sit down and negotiate a resolution. In January of 2007, the World Economic Forum hosted a special plenary session featuring OneVoice activists, giving them a platform to pledge their support for a two state solution in front of Tzipi Livni, Shimon Peres, Mahmoud Abbas, and WEF Founder Klaus Schwab. Progress towards peace, specifically in regions plagued by complex and internationalised conflicts, is slow at best, and the steps that must be taken do not point us down the path of least resistance. The PeaceWorks Group has gone a long way in working to prove that there is a necessary role for ordinary people -- for businesses, for citizens -- to play in the process of making peace work.###

* Erin Pineda is the Communications Coordinator for the New York office of the OneVoice international headquarters, This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at

Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 23 August 2007, www.commongroundnews.comCopyright permission has been granted for republication.