The President and I actually have something in common–we are both rooting for peace in the Middle East before the end of his term! He, no doubt, has a whole host of reasons, not the least of the which would be managing to salvage some foreign policy success to help his legacy. I find it incredibly ironic that Middle East peace has now become the 7th inning stretch of presidential administrations–“okay, now that we have not focused on this problem, let’s try to solve it as I become a lame duck president”. It is for another posting to think about whether presidents make better mediators as lame ducks or at the height of their term.
My reasons for rooting for peace are more personal & durable–my sister, who lives outside Haifa, is within Hezbollah rocket range from Lebanon. My whole family visited Israel over winter break and it was a wonderful vacation. I won’t focus on the cool sights and fascinating history because that is a given–it really is worth the trip. Rather, I want to note something hopeful in terms of peace on the ground.
The Abraham Fund is an organization devoted to advancing coexistance among Jews and Arabs in Israel. This is a terrific initiative getting real work done–helping to negotiate transportation, environment, education, and other issues among the different populations in Israel. For example, three days ago, ten Arab and Jewish mayors, in partnership with The Abraham Fund Initiatives, submitted a joint petition to the Minister for Transport, calling for a solution to traffic problems at five dangerous intersections in Northern Israel. Another project, Mirkam in the Galilee, focuses on educational and leadership exchanges between several Jewish and Arab towns in the Galilee region. I met with one of the Mirkam project leaders, Gilad Levy, while I was visiting. Amazingly enough, Gilad is a trained mediator and conflict resolution specialist who has been hired to help implement a specific program in Northern Israel. The idea that this type of professional expertise would be the first choice of funders to implement a program is fabulous and something that we don’t often see.
We, in the profession, often bemoan that political and business leaders do not see the need for us until the conflict has erupted rather than properly planning in advance for the inevitable conflicts that will ensue. (See Alternatives article for more.) It is refreshing to see that in a place where we hear more about conflict than peace, at least some leadership understands the need for conflict management professionals–not in resolving the disputes but in the planning of the programs themselves.
Now, if we could just get the President to think about some conflict management…