INSCT Hosts Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process Simulation

Israel_Simulation_Perrin 2Many involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process argue that recent attempts at peace have failed because the interests of citizens have not been considered. If citizens are encouraged to understand together the underlying reasons for conflict and to listen to the needs of other parties, the chances of lasting peace will increase.

With this reasoning in mind, on April 24, 2015, INSCT hosted a simulation exercise for first year law and Masters of International Relations graduate students who will be studying in Israel and Palestine in summer 2015.

The exercise—which was led by SU Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and INSCT Faculty Member Miriam F. Elman (Associate Professor, Political Science)—was designed to mimic Track II grassroots engagement. Its purpose is to show how techniques of mediation and dispute resolution might be used to gauge the interests of the people who will need to “buy in” to a peace agreement in order to sustain any final deal that is reached by high-level, Track I negotiators.

Based on a US Institute of Peace exercise, which Elman updated and modified for the INSCT simulation exercise, the students role-played Israeli and Palestinian citizens, engaging in one-on-one and group discussions about the conflict, peace negotiations, and the potential impact of real peace in their daily lives.

Each student assumed the character of someone who either lives in Israel; in the West Bank, under the governance of the Palestinian Authority; or in Gaza, under rule by Hamas. Elman explained to the students/citizens that—within the simulation scenario—an outside third party has brought them together to discuss with each other their needs and concerns in the midst of ongoing violence, mistrust, and hostility.

In role, participants conversed with their Israeli and Palestinian counterparts. Toward the end of the simulation, they reconvened as Israeli and Palestinian “delegations” to present position statements and rebuttals. The simulation concluded with each delegation summarizing areas of agreement and disagreement, as well as points of contention that could be further engaged upon in subsequent mediation sessions.

“The students in the INSCT study abroad program were eager to add to their knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Elman. “The simulation provided a way for students to familiarize themselves with the core issues that are today contested by the various parties, and to get a better sense of how contemporary Israelis and Palestinians view both the conflict and the prospects for peace.”

“Thanks to this simulation, I now know a lot more about the nature of this protracted conflict and will be better positioned to make sense of what I hear in Israel/Palestine, and to ask the right questions when I’m there,” said first-year law student Robert C. Fonda. “Professor Elman's presence during the exercise was invaluable. Essentially, she hosted a multiple-hour seminar, and her input made the simulation extremely worthwhile.”

Later in the summer, participating students will visit Israel and Palestine as part of INSCT’s Program on Security in the Middle East, support for which comes in part from Carol Becker (’76) and Gerald B. Cramer (’52). The program facilitates direct student engagement with scholars and practitioners who have first-hand experience with the region’s complex, ongoing issues. Students will study peace, conflict, and security topics at INSCT partner the Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) in Herzliya, Israel and at MITVIM, the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies. 04/28/15