The Peace Process and the Politics of Conflict Resolution

This analysis of the Middle East peace process argues that the application of conventional Western conflict resolution mechanisms has attempted to remove the justice principle from the Arab-Israeli conflict. The author contends that the shift from a "closed agenda" determined by core values to an "open agenda" where everything is open for bargaining, and from a justice-driven "entitlement-benefits" matrix to a utility-driven "cost-benefits" one, can only lead to issue transformation and the progressive scaling back of goals. Acceptance of the adversary's framework has reduced Arab negotiators to supplicants rather than counterparts whose perceptions can be managed by the opponent. After examining Arab options, the author concludes that whatever settlement emerges from the current process is bound to fail because it cannot fulfill basic demand for justice, resulting in a redefinition of the conflict in its broader religious and strategic horizons.

Amr G.E. Sabet is visiting associate professor of political science at Tampere University, Finland.