Fathom | “The assumption that a conflict of over 100 years can be solved by a piece of paper is totally detached from reality”: an interview with Yair Hirschfeld

As the play Oslo opens in London, BICOM Director of Research Calev Ben-Dor sat down with Yair Hirschfeld who was, with Ron Pundak, one of two architects of the Oslo peace process. If the human story Hirschfeld tells about how the peace process got going and reached the White House lawn is fascinating, his political analysis of the failure  of the mistakes made, the constituencies ignored, the open roads not taken is essential reading for Israelis, Palestinians and the international community.

Calev Ben-Dor: Oslo won best play at the Tony Awards and will arrive in London in September. Your character appears in the play in a way that many have said is inaccurate. What are your thoughts on it?

Yair Hirschfeld: The play’s idea is excellent in that it demonstrates that Oslo is an important historical development and it will likely open up a public debate in the US, the UK and also in Israel and Palestine, which is very welcome. However, it’s important to bear in mind that it is an imaginary piece – as far as I know, the author made no effort to speak to any of us.

The play also has two basic faults. The first is similar to Rudyard Kipling’s ‘White Man’s Burden,’ in the sense that the play suggests that Israelis and Palestinians are incapable of making peace, so require Western, enlightened, white-skinned Norwegians to do it, which is far from the truth. The conflict is between two peoples whose homeland is in the same place and who have both experienced serious existential threats that have been played out over the last 130 years. The idea that it can just disappear with a click of the finger is a very dangerous proposition and viewing the conflict through this lens distorts the basic facts and realities. There are deep emotional, historical, political and psychological components to the conflict and each requires long-term trust-building and legitimacy in order to resolve the conflict. It is a pity that this is not portrayed in the play.

Read the full interview in Fathom.

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