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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

'Fight as politicians and live as friends'

By Amy Lieberman

While the Palestinian Ashrawi and Israeli Beilin have had longstanding political affiliations, the past seven years of silence on the Israeli-Palestinian mediations have provided them with little opportunity to converse. At Macalester since their own separate appearances years ago, they get back on track gearing up for what they hope to be a constructive, positive future. The Mac Weekly had the chance to sit down with the two participants before they took the stage.
The Mac Weekly: I wanted to know how the two of you came to speak together for this summit. How you were brought together and what you do hope to accomplish by speaking together?

Ashrawi: We have known each other for a long time. But we were invited to speak together, actually, we didn’t decide on it.

Beilin: We have to show people who are interested in our conflict that we can work together, that we can come together. We have to show that this is a conflict we can solve and take on as friends and as politicians. We also have the common denominator as human beings for peace.

TMW: How do you think you are able to look past the politics and really just relate to each other as individuals?

Ashrawi: I mean, we are human beings, after all. The only way to make peace is to relate to each other. We relate to each other as human beings first and then we talk about politics or peace making, because you can never make peace if you abstract the other or negate the humanity of each other.

Beilin: Politics is a part of us. We should fight as politicians and live as friends. We have this idea of neutralizing politics and relating as human beings, but I think we should start as politicians and then be friendly as human beings. We are politicians because we are worried about our families, our peoples and our neighbors. This is politics.

TMW: And speaking more on the politics side, I know that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been doing some work in this region and there is an idea of a conference in the fall, to be held in Washington, D.C. Will either of you be involved with that?

Ashrawi: I’m not sure yet about myself. I am a member of the higher negotiating committee for policy, but I don’t know if I will be in the meeting. I usually do see Dr. Rice when I come here or she visits, but I’m not sure about the November conference. However, we do know what is needed for the November conference and are quite willing to tell people what to do.

TMW: Basing off of your past participation in accords or conferences, what prospects for peace do you see? What would have to be different this time around in order for the changes to be longstanding and effective?

Ashrawi: I think one of the requirements of success for the November meeting were it not to be a meeting, to be a real conference. Not to be symbolic, or sort of a political gesture. not to be of side issues, or technicality issues, or a feel good public relations campaign, but more of a serious, comprehensive approach to negotiating status issues and to indicate a willingness to engage in discussion in an effective way.

Beilin: The most important thing is that it should not fail . It will not be a quick success, and the success should not be, as Hanan said, a political program. There should be specific references to the outstanding issues, which have been actually touched on only in the year 2000 and since then we have never touched on again.

TMW: When looking towards the U.S. presidential elections coming up in 2008, do you think the change could be a positive influence on the situation?

Beilin: [Laughter] Yes, well, the last seven years were a disaster … I think that it was the wrong foreign policy, which deteriorated the situation between Palestinians and Israelis, and supported the wrong ideas. I hope that there will be a change . I hope that any new administration will be much more involved in the beginning, in helping us to solve the problem, because we need the American administration.

Ashrawi: I agree that you do need Americans on board . the lack of engagement in the last seven years has left a vacuum that has been filled by extremism and violence . I just hope whoever wins the election will understand sooner or later that non-involvement has very serious repercussions.

TMW: Macalester has recently started up a Middle Eastern studies concentration, and is looking to expand it in future years. If you were both involved with this, what kind of course would you like to teach? What subject do you think students should know more about?

Beilin: Ah, this is an interesting question. I should be very careful in answering it because I might be called to teach it: conflict resolution.

Ashrawi: You need a really committed way of tackling tough issues, negotiating with people you don’t necessarily trust or like. We both agree that sometimes you sign better agreements with people you don’t trust. You both need space. So, peacemaking, but in a very specific context-with time frames, with binding agreements, all the requisites of changing reality, not just harboring in the air, without behavior on the ground. This is one of our problems.

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