By all accounts, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has proven highly intractable. Decades of fighting and talking alike, have hardly managed to sway it off course. The general devastation visited upon Israeli and Palestinian society by this condition is evident to all, and in particular to the protagonists themselves. The benefit of peace between Israelis and Palestinians hardly needs explaining.

Because of its longevity and deep societal impact, the settlement of intractable conflict usually requires the mutual reconciliation of belligerents. At a minimum, within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, mutual reconciliation implies acceptance by Israelis and Palestinians of the principle of peaceful coexistence based on the common recognition of their national rights. This, in turn, entails a profound shift in national mentalities on both sides, with war-supporting beliefs giving way to peace-favouring ones.

The signing of the Oslo Peace Accords between the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993 and 1995 gave scope to a multitude of people-to-people (P2P) programmes. Organized by local NGOs, these sought to encourage Israelis and Palestinians to a better understanding of one another and commence a process of mutual reconciliation. A decade after their initiation, the return of violence together with the collapse of most P2P activities makes it clear that these objectives have not been reached.

A result of UNIDIR's Fellowship Programme, Peace in the Middle East: P2P and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, examines the failure of post-Oslo P2P activities and suggests how these could be revamped. Illustrative examples of revised P2P programmes are discussed in the areas of politics and the news media, followed by an inquiry into the capacity of local NGOs to carry out such actions. A guideline of policy recommendations closes the study.

Citation: Adel Atieh et al. (2005). "Peace in the Middle East: P2P and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict", UNIDIR, Geneva.