Analysis

A future for Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding

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A landmark new study commissioned by BICOM finds that grassroots Israeli-Palestinian peace building projects work and are a vital missing ingredient in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It was written by Ned Lazarus, a Professor at George Washington University and expert on peacebuilding in Israel and the West Bank.

The report sets out clear recommendations for practitioners and funders looking to help build the conditions for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

After the most comprehensive review ever conducted in this area, based on twenty years of evaluation data and extensive field work, the report proves that peacebuilding programmes work. Key findings include:

  • Policy makers should learn the lessons from the Northern Ireland peace process. Well-funded peace building projects that brought the two communities together were in place 12 years before the Good Friday Agreement and helped make it possible. They remain in place today, to protect the agreement and show that long-term investment in peace building can bring lasting change to intergroup relations in a conflict environment.
  • Peacebuilding creates peacebuilders and constituencies for peace. For example, 17.5 per cent of participants in a programme run by the NGO Seeds of Peace went on to dedicate their careers to peacebuilding work.
  • Peacebuilding changes attitudes. Peacebuilding programmes significantly improve Israeli and Palestinian participants’ attitudes to one other. 90 per cent of participants in a project run by the Near East Foundation said that they trusted the other community more after being in the programme.
  • Peacebuilding creates trust and empathy between the two peoples. A programme led by the Parents Circle Families Forum found 80 per cent of participants were more willing to work for peace and 71 per cent felt more trust and empathy towards the other community.
  • Peacebuilding projects change policy. For example Eco-Peace, an Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian environmental NGO has helped Israel double its water supply to the Palestinian Authority.
  • Sustained follow up is vital for success. One-off encounters were less successful than those that involved follow up meetings. The Seeds of Peace programme found that alumni involved in follow up meetings were twice as likely to remain active in the long-term than those that didn’t.
  • Despite the experience of Northern Ireland, and the evidence of successful peacebuilding in Israel and the West Bank, the UK is investing very small amounts in peacebuilding projects. Just 0.2 per cent of the £68.5m DFID spends in the Palestinian Territories is invested in peace and coexistence projects.
  • The report concludes that the UK should join, and contribute significantly, to an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, following the successful model of the International Fund for Ireland (IFI).

The full paper is available as a PDF below.

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