U.S. Secretary of
State John Kerry’s announcement of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement to resume peace
negotiations, a process that has stood idle since negotiations last broke down
in 2010, raises renewed questions as to whether it is possible for a peace
agreement to be reached, particularly as sharp cultural differences between
Israelis and Palestinians continue to play a significant role in defining the
parameters of peace.
Click photo to download. Caption: From left to right: Israeli President Shimon Peres, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa in Amman, Jordan, on May 26, 2013. Kerry on Friday announced an agreement on a “basis” for renewed Israeli-Palestinian talks. Credit: Flash90.
“Culture plays a
role both in conflict resolution and conflict maintenance. Culture plays a role
when questions of acceptance are raised as basis for peace,” Dr. Mordechai
Kedar, director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam at
Israel’s Bar Ilan University, which is under formation, told JNS.org.
Speaking in Jordan on Friday, Kerry said that a
preliminary agreement “establishes a basis for resuming direct final status
negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis.”
“The representatives of two proud people today
have decided that the difficult road ahead is worth traveling,” Kerry said.
A specific date for the first meeting between
the Israelis and Palestinians in Washington, DC, has not yet been set. Before a
renewed negotiations start, Kedar believes questions of culture loom over the
“You have to ask
yourself, ‘What does peace mean in each culture?’ before you can hope to reach
it,” Kedar told JNS.org.
“While in Western
terms ‘peace’ means open borders and multi-level cooperation, in the Middle
East ‘peace’ does not mean much more than temporary non-belligerence, but
Israel has not yet adjusted its expectations from its neighbors, neither
Westerners understand the situation in which Israel has to survive in this
region,” Kedar said.
Early responses from Israel and the Palestinians
on the prospects for renewal of negotiations touched on those differences.
Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu began racing ahead legislation for
any negotiated peace deal to be ratified by a national referendum
In his weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, Netanyahu
stated, “I don’t think these decisions can be made, if there is a deal, by one
government or another, but need to be brought as a national decision.”
“It won’t be easy, but we’re going into the
negotiations with integrity and honesty,” Netanyahu added.
Meanwhile, multiple Palestinian representatives
have been denying that the framework for final-status negotiations had been
agreed upon. Palestinian Authority officials have repeatedly accentuated since
Kerry’s announcement that they are maintaining their demands in order for talks
to resume—including a return to the pre-1967 lines (which were marked as
armistice lines between Israel and Jordan after Jordan occupied the West Bank
in 1948) as the basis of negotiations, and a complete freeze of construction
beyond those lines—and that those demands had not yet been accepted.
Fatah Central Command member Abbas Zaki stated
in Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood newspaper As-Sabeel,
“The visit [by Kerry to Jordan] is nothing more than consultations; it has
nothing to do with launching negotiations.”