In 2016, the Mitvim Institute embarked on a process of comparing the Israeli- Palestinian conflict to other protracted ethno-nationalist or religious territorial conflicts. The project was designed to consider parallel – or contrasting – themes, situations, developments policy lessons and insights for the Israeli Palestinian conflict. This paper summarizes the overall information and learning that emerged from the detailed study of three conflicts, Cyprus, Nagorno- Karabakh, and Serbia-Kosovo, while considering relevant insights from others, including Colombia and Northern Ireland, although these were not the direct focus of this research.
The initial goal of the research was to use such outside thinking to locate new ideas related to several specific major topics: (1) Process lessons and insights on how to advance diplomatic negotiations, find ideas or warning lessons about what has worked to advance negotiations, getting societies to ratify diplomatic agreements or at least not sabotage them, and predict and avoid pitfalls in implementation; (2) Political and constitutional frameworks for resolving conflicts, that have been tried in other cases to consider and assess possible solutions; (3) Policy ideas for addressing specific core conflict issues, beyond overall political, constitutional, territorial or sovereignty status.
The project was undertaken on the basis of extensive field and academic research in different regions that yielded intriguing similarities, or comparable contrasts to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The working assumption was that those parallels were not just interesting, but held potential for constructive policy ideas, lessons, insights and recommendations both for policy directions to consider, and those to avoid.
The paper includes two main sections:
Case study summaries: In this section, the insights and lessons learned from each of the project’s three case studies are summarized. By necessity, the larger observations from each case are summarized and portrayed in broad brushes; the supporting evidence and detail are found in the research papers themselves.
Thematic insights: In this section, the relevant observations are considered thematically, based on the larger themes we hoped to advance: How to improve processes of negotiation? When are leaders able to advance peace and how do they navigate public supporters and spoilers in the process? What are different constitutional frameworks invoked for conflict resolution in related cases? How to address or understand specific similar core issues of each conflict? What are the lessons to be learned, and what are the warnings and pitfalls to be avoided on these topics? This section will draw on the three in-depth research papers as well as other more limited comparisons collected and analyzed through the project.
The conclusion summarizes the efficacy of this comparative framework, and assesses the perceived and actual benefits of conflict comparisons.