Peacebuilding in Israeli-Palestinian Relations

by Saliba Sarsar (Author)
©2020 Monographs XII, 164 Pages


Focusing on peacebuilding, this book emphasizes how "grassroots" peacebuilding efforts contribute to closing the gap between the Israeli and Palestinian national communities that have been in conflict for decades. The analysis is undertaken at the individual, pair, and entity levels. The book explores how those involved at each level view the relationship with the other and act to bring about coexistence, a shared society, or peace in a sustained way amid major challenges and an uncertain future. A strong argument is to cultivate and embrace "the habits of peace," mainly wider perspective, long-term view, compassion, dialogue, forgiveness, nonviolence, and reconciliation. An open letter to Palestinians and Israelis concludes the book, urging them to reconsider their ways and imagine a better tomorrow for themselves and future generations.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Illustrations
  • Dedication and Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1 Arab-Jewish and Israeli-Palestinian Interactions A Historical Background
  • 2 Navigating Arab-Jewish and Israeli-Palestinian Relations
  • 3 Profiles in Peacebuilding Courage
  • 4 Uncommon Pairs The Making of Unique Peacebuilding Leaders
  • 5 Metamorphosis of Peacebuilding Entities
  • 6 Peacebuilding and BeyondChallenges and Suggestions for Improvement
  • 7 Habits of Peace
  • APPENDIX Peacebuilding Entities and Initiatives in Israel and Palestine, 1949–2016
  • Index


Peacebuilding is not an easy task or a short-term endeavor. It is a generational commitment. Writing about it is a challenge as the inspiration often comes not only from personal conviction and engagement, but also the exemplary work of the peacebuilders themselves. The idea behind Peacebuilding in Israeli-Palestinian Relations began developing some three decades ago as I watched Israeli Jewish and Palestinian peacebuilders cross borders to actualize peace.

My sojourns at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute atop a southern Jerusalem hill near Bethlehem opened new vistas on dialogue and understanding. My visits to the Peace Research Institute in the Middle East (PRIME), Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), now known as the Israel-Palestine: Creative Regional Initiatives, and Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam-Oasis of Peace, among others, reaffirmed my belief in the peacebuilders’ vision, dedication, and energy. My follow-up peaceful coexistence work in the United States brought me in contact with many supporters of Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding, including Len and Libby Traubman of the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue in San Mateo, California. It is to all peacebuilders in Israel and Palestine and their supporters around the world that I dedicate this book.

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Heartfelt thanks are extended to Dr. Sami Adwan of PRIME, Dr. Gershon Baskin of IPCRI, Robi Damelin of the Parents Circle-Families Forum, Elana Rozenman of Trust-Emun, and Dr. Yehuda Stolov of the Interfaith Encounter Association for their insight and help. Deep gratitude is also extended to Dr. Yael S. Aronoff of James Madison College at Michigan State University for her friendship and endorsement of the book idea from the start; Dr. Joseph C. Santora, the founding and current Editor of the International Leadership Journal, for his interest in my peace research and writings; Dr. Kevin L. Dooley of Monmouth University for his generosity of spirit and valuable suggestions for improving the manuscript; Michelle Smith and Jackie Pavlovic of Peter Lang Publishing for their advice and guidance; and Sarah O’Connor of Monmouth University for her excellent editing skills and general support. Dominique N. Connell, Michael Manning, MacKenzie R. Ricca, and Sunni Vargas—my students at Monmouth University—provided important research or technical assistance for which I am grateful. Last but not least, my profound appreciation goes to my wife Hiyam and my daughters NoorEvelyn and Hania for their love and faith in peace for all.


“So when I think of and talk and write about peace culture, I’m writing about how we deal with difference creatively.”—Elise M. Boulding (1999, para. 2)

“Peace can be agreed around the conference table; but unless it grows in ordinary hearts and minds, it does not last. It may not even begin.”—Jonathan Sacks (2002, p. 7)

Peace is always preferable to violence and war. Peace, as path and destination, empowers and enables. Violence and war cause casualties, destruction, and pain. By conquering enmity, we value life, we enrich our soul, and we heal the world!

The task of bringing about peace is usually left to top government officials. They typically take the lead and credit in diplomacy and peace negotiations, not individual citizens. However, peace is too important to be the exclusive domain of governments. In the words of Harold H. Saunders, former United States Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs and a key participant in the Camp David Accords of 1978, “Only governments can write peace treaties, but only human beings—citizens outside government—can transform conflictual relationships between people into peaceful relationships” (2001, p. xvii).

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This book addresses the issue of Israeli-Palestinian relations in Israel and Jerusalem, and to a lesser extent the West Bank. The Gaza Strip is not included. The emphasis is placed not on international interventions (e.g., funding, negotiations, resolutions, solidarity), even though these might be essential to successful peacebuilding efforts, or the institutional and structural assets of and obstacles to building peace at the national levels, but on how individuals, pairs, and entities enhance capacities and participation, and meet the challenge of moving away from conflict and trauma and engaging in healing, recovery, and reconciliation. In a 2002 article, “Reconciling the Children of Abraham,” I wrote, “Real peace comes to Arab Palestinians and Israeli Jews when they make it part of their dreams and their reality, when they prepare for it. Qui deiserat pacem, praeparet pacem!” (2002, pp. 323–324).

Unfortunately, Arabs and Jews are in a struggle and have been at it for over a century. They find it extremely difficult to let go of old habits and practices. This relationship crystallized in 1948 in what is called the Arab-Israeli conflict, with its main expression focused on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Israelis and Palestinians have painted themselves into national, territorial, ethnic, religious, and ideological corners. They have played zero-sum games, thus ensuring that peace will not materialize before one side surrenders and the other wins. Both—living near each other but unequally—have suffered and continue to suffer terribly. Their lives, property, and future are continuously being threatened. While many have been sacrificed on the altar of extremism, jingoism, and myopia, others suffer from fear, trauma, and the unknown. Their descendants then carry the resulting scars and accompanying thirst for revenge for years, if not decades. In this way, the dispute lives on.

The Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, the Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the First Intifada (1987–1993) and the Second Intifada (2000–2005) of the Palestinian people against Israel’s occupation, the calls against normalization of relations, and extreme views on both sides of the divide—all have created added challenges for those involved in peacebuilding efforts in Israel and Palestine. While such activities have produced some progress, ranging from joint coexistence to shared society, peace moves have remained limited.

Countless national and international initiatives have attempted to end the Israeli-Palestinian dispute peacefully. National interests, territorial imperatives, security concerns, psychological barriers, religious dogmas, and ideological proclivities continue to block opportunities for finding an acceptable ←2 | 3→solution to the majority in both national communities. Forward steps taken toward peace are invariably thrust backward to agony and tragedy.

A Personal Connection and Commitment


XII, 164
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (March)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XII, 164 pp., 5 b/w ill., 1 table

Biographical notes

Saliba Sarsar (Author)

Saliba Sarsar is Professor of Political Science at Monmouth University. He earned his Ph.D. in political science from Rutgers University. His honors include the Global Visionary Award and Stafford Presidential Award of Excellence from Monmouth University.


Title: Peacebuilding in Israeli-Palestinian Relations