Unsustainable Peacebuilding

Ceasefires are a common phenomenon in Israel/Palestine. Whenever there is an operation in Gaza, moderates and leftists on both sides call for an end to all violence, to restore the “calm” or “quiet” (for a lack of a better word in English; it’s definitely not full “peace” that they’re asking for). I agree, of course.  When there’s an operation, the immediate goal is to stop it. But all-too-many of my peers in the Israeli left fall asleep after the “quiet” is restored. There simply isn’t enough of a motivation for them to get up and make sure that the next war doesn’t happen, because, for now, it’s quiet. It’s safe.

The Israeli-Palestinian situation is an extreme example, but I think that in general, it’s dangerous to be shortsighted as a development practitioner and as a peacebuilder of any kind. Take, for example, the situation in Yemen, which I am currently engulfed in as part of my “challenge question”. There are immediate humanitarian needs that must be addressed as soon as possible. Roads have been blocked, the price of fuel is inflated, and (therefore) children are malnourished. This is an immediate, short term concern that should be addressed first. But there is the risk that both local and international actors will become too concerned with those short term solutions. Shortsightedness is dangerous.

In Israel/Palestine, there are plenty of international organizations working in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (although not as much in Gaza anymore). They are doing invaluable work. UNRWA, for example, provides immediate relief, health care, social services and education to many of the refugees in the occupied territories. But that will not prevent the next war. If I learned one thing in  this program, is that whatever I do, even if I end up working at UNRWA, my immediate concern will be to make sure that any action I make contributes to a sustainable, long-term solution to the conflict (and I am sure there are many at UNRWA that do just that).



The status quo is beneficial for the Israeli right, allowing it to continue an expansionist policy at the expense of 4.5 million Palestinians in the occupied territories. “We’re negotiating; don’t worry”. I worry. The status quo may seem convenient for the Israeli right wing today, but ultimately, they are shaking a can of soda that can burst at any moment. That’s my nightmare. It seems that the field has yet to develop the proper theoretical tools to deal with such an asymmetrical, static, ongoing conflict.

Because of this, and based on my deepening understanding of the relationship between peacebuilding and development at the Summer Peacebuilding Program, I think that any peacebuilding efforts in Israel/Palestine must focus on destroying the source of all structural forms of oppression and violence in the region: the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Any successful peacebuilding missions in the region – whether by means of advocacy, international pressure, domestic politics, or a grassroots campaign – must place this as their first priority.