Compromise will be essential to forging a lasting peace in the Middle East, two leaders in the region told a packed forum at the Kennedy School of Government last night.
Both Yossi Beilin, former Israeli Minister of Justice, and Yasser Abed Rabbo, Palestinian Minister of Information and Culture, said they would advocate accepting a less-than-perfect solution.
Rabbo said that Israeli and Palestinian leaders may not be ideal partners, but that they are forced to live together. He likened the situation to “a Catholic marriage that we cannot break.”
“Although we have been living under siege during Israeli occupation, it is possible to live peacefully with our neighbors,” Rabbo said.
Tensions have been especially high between Israelis and Palestinians since last summer, with frequent bursts of violence and failed attempts to make a cease-fire last.
Associate Professor of Government Eva Bellin, who moderated the event, asked the panelists what a workable compromise would look like.
The panelists’ answers were short on specifics, but both said an agreement for peaceful coexistence is within reach.
Both sides’ leaders have an understanding of the guidelines of an agreement, Beilin said—but average people in Israel and Palestinian areas must accept the solution.
Rabbo said that a perfect solution for either side is not possible.
“[A] just peace may not be attainable but a solution based on fairness and equality is possible,” Rabbo said.
Both panelists expressed concern about obstinate leaders who may be less willing to compromise.
“[Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon publicly states he will not discuss peace,” Rabbo said, “but he secretly sends his son to meet with [Yassir] Arafat,” head of the Palestinian Authority.
Beilin and Rabbo also agreed that American intervention is necessary to supervise and moderate peace talks.
“With passionate reactions on both side, you need a third party,” Beilin said.
With so much agreement, some members of the audience said, the event was surprisingly nonconfrontational.
“Although it was nice to see cooperation, there was no real debate,” said Luther B. Carter, a first-year Kennedy School student.