Peace scholar speaks at NYU

Yair Hirschfeld, a University of Haifa professor and key architect of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, spoke at the NYU Taub Center for Israel Studies last night about the current peace negotiations in the Middle East and his recent book, “Track-Two Diplomacy toward an Israeli-Palestinian Solution, 1978-2014.”

During the lecture, Hirschfeld argued that negotiations between Israel and Palestine have been ineffective and an effort should be made to find common ground for the governments.

“So far negotiations have been based on the logic [that] nothing is agreed upon until everything is agreed upon and, if you want a recipe of failure, this is a recipe for failure,” Hirschfeld said.

Instead of focusing on their grievances, Hirschfeld suggested that Israel and Palestine should work on the common ground they have.

“The mindset should be what is agreed upon can be implemented, since there is agreement on a number of issues including water, access and movement, as well as cross-border corporations,” he said.

Hirschfeld also denounced the violence that religious Israelis have demonstrated toward Palestinians and warned of the consequences of their actions.

“To tell you the truth, we have religious people putting a Palestinian kid on flames, and this is something so outrageous and so terrible that if this is the way we’re going down this is really the end of everything,” Hirschfeld said.

CAS junior Rayya Nahas said she found Hirschfeld’s opinion to be less extreme than other opinions on the conflict.

“The fact that he had a very moderate approach was very interesting,” Nahas said.

Hirschfeld also emphasized the importance of Israel building a partnership with its neighboring countries.

“If we want Israel to be a sustainable nation, it has to develop relationships with its neighbors and you can only build good relationships with your neighbors if you maintain a high amount of dialogue,” he said.

While Hirschfeld said even though Israel should seek the support of the United States, he was critical of Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace initiative in the Middle East.

“If Mr. Kerry wanted to solve this in nine months, he didn’t know what he was doing,” Hirschfeld  said.

In a statement to WSN, TorchPAC, the NYU pro-Israeli group, proposed a solution for resolving the Israeli-Arab conflict.

“TorchPAC believes that a lasting solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict will only be solved with the creation of two states for two peoples, one Israeli and one Palestinian,” the statement read. “A lasting solution must come from both sides of the table.”

Students for Justice in Palestine did not comment.

However, NYU law student Prasad Dharshini said Hirschfeld did not propose a solution to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

“There are very few people today who are neutral on the issue who can tell you that there is a solution, because it is a very complex conflict,” Dharshini said. “He didn’t suggest a solution to the problem, he suggested that a solution was possible.” 

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 16 print edition. Additional reporting by Su Si Park.  Email Marita and Su Si  at [email protected].