Shlomo Ben-Ami: Israel’s Jimmy Carter?

Shlomo Ben-Ami sounds like a very reasonable Israeli voice.   This morning I listened to a short 12 minute video of Ben-Ami speaking about the proposal to create an Israeli-Palestinian Confederation.   You can listen to it here.

Ben-Ami served as Foreign Minister for a short time in early 2000 but refused to serve when Ariel Sharon took over from Barak and resigned in 2002.  I wish we heard more of his ideas emanating from that side of the “security wall.”

Today he is Vice-President of a peace institute called Centro Internacionale De Toledo Para La Paz.   He sounds like he could be Jimmy Carter’s twin.

The Toledo International Centre for Peace (CITpax) is an independent, non-profit Spanish foundation, geared toward contributing to the prevention and resolution of conflicts, the management of crises and the consolidation of peace within a framework of respect and promotion of basic human rights and democratic values. In addition, CITpax aims to bring an end to violence or preventing it from taking place, and recognises that the search for lasting peace involves the implementation of actions concerned with social change, development and the strengthening of institutions.

I’ve just ordered Ben-Ami’s book Scars of War, Wounds of Peace:  The Israeli-Arab Tragedy (2006) and hope to have a review to post in the near future.

Shlomo Ben-Ami

In a recent interview with Aljazeera, he shared his opinion about Arafat’s rejection of the Camp David deal.

No, if I were a Palestinian, I said many times, I would not have accepted the deal, whatever this deal might have been because as I’ve said before, there were different interpretations of what was put on the table in Camp David. But I admit that that was not sufficient for the Palestinians. That did not meet the minimal requirements of the Palestinians for a deal with Israel.

I thought different when it came to the Clinton peace parameters a few months later. There, I thought the Palestinians committed a historic mistake, and I’m not alone. Others in the Palestinian camp thought the same, and Bandar bin Sultan as well in a famous interview in The New Yorker thought that the rejection of the Clinton peace parameters by Arafat was a capital crime against the Arab nation or the Palestinian people as he said.

You can listen to that interview here.

There is a tendency on both sides to demonize the other.  Many Israelis and Americans consider Palestinians (and especially Hamas) as evil and terrorists.  

I’ve read plenty of Facebook posts by Palestinians and “peace activists” who believe that Israelis (especially the IDF) are evil and terrorists.   It is truly a breath of fresh air to hear someone like Ben-Ami speak with sensitivity and a nuanced understanding of people on both sides.

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