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LISTEN: Lessons for Israel-Palestine from a divided Cyprus

Is conflict management sustainable? A closer look at a similar conflict should serve as a stark reminder for all Israelis who care about peace.

"UN Buffer Zone" warning sign on the south (Greek) side of the Ledra Crossing of the Green Line in Nicosia, Cyprus. The other side of the fence is the Turkish side. (Jpatokal/CC BY-SA 3.0)

A UN Buffer Zone warning sign on the south (Greek) side of the Ledra Crossing along the Green Line, Nicosia, Cyprus. The other side of the fence is under Turkish control. (Jpatokal/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Living the Israeli-Palestinian conflict day in, day out, one often feels suffocated by a thicket of obstacles to peace. Wherever one looks for solutions, the doors seem to slam shut. It is easy to conclude that no conflict has ever been so stubbornly intractable, and that no one faces so many layers of complexity. What I’ve noticed from years of international work and close observation of other protracted conflicts is that the people in those other places feel just the same.

This year, I began a project at a think tank called Mitvim: The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies to try and learn more systematically from other conflicts with comparable problems. No two situations are exactly alike, but I firmly believed from my experiences that much can be gained from such comparisons by way of lessons, new thinking, and also warnings. In a recent paper, I focus on our close neighbors, Cyprus, to see what Israelis and Palestinians can learn. Divided since 1974, the leaders of the Turkish Cypriot north and the Greek Cypriot south (Republic of Cyprus) are currently negotiating towards a peace and reunification deal.

Whether they will succeed cannot be known. Still, a close analysis leads me to conclude that conflict management is a poor option — something that Israelis and Palestinians should take to heart. In this interview with Gilad Halpern of TLV1 radio, I discuss the comparison of conflicts generally, and Cyprus in particular, hoping to shed new light on old problems.

Read more:
How thousands of Palestinian and Israeli women are waging peace
The two-state solution is dead. Let’s move on
It’s 2016 — let’s say goodbye to Zionism once and for all

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    1. i_like_ike52

      There have been numerous talks and attempts to reach a negotiated settlement in Cyprus. They have all failed. Considering that Erdogan is slying attempting to expand Turkish influence, including by sending troops into former Ottoman provinces of Syria and Iraq, it seems hard to believe he would agree to pull out of northern Cyprus and agree to reunify the country under a democratic government with a Greek Cypriot majority, so it is likely the current talks will founder just as the previous ones have.
      It should be noted that the Greek Cypriots, in spite of having several hundred thousand people expelled from the Turkish controlled part of the island, have not resorted to terrorism as have the Palestinians.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @I_Like_Ike52: It should be noted that the Turkish controlled part of the island does not control the passports of the people on the Greek side, it doesn’t determine where they can fish, it doesn’t build settlements wherever it pleases on the Greek side, it doesn’t send patrols to the Greek side to arrest people, it doesn’t imprison Greeks without trial….

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        The remarkable but all too typical Israeli arrogance of Ike. “Those good little Greeks know how to behave when they are occupied. There’s a good little Greek. Those Palestinians oughta straighten up and suffer politely our (much more brutal and humiliating) occupation. What ill manners they have. What’s an overlord to do? Colonizing ain’t what it used to be in the good ol’ days of the 19th Century.”

        Reply to Comment
        • AJew

          This is what _ike said:

          “It should be noted that the Greek Cypriots, in spite of having several hundred thousand people expelled from the Turkish controlled part of the island, have not resorted to terrorism as have the Palestinians.”

          Ben then flys off as usual into a rage and in effect says that his Palestinians are right to commit terrorism (against Israeli civilians as they do – my comment – because Ben pretends otherwise).

          How about compromising and signing a peace deal instead? Nah, says Ben (yes he does, because that’s how he always responded in the past) can’t have that. His Palestinians cannot accept mutual recognition because it is humiliating for them to recognise Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. Even occupation is better than that says Ben.

          Ok then Ben, stop whining about the occupation.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Psychological projection, without a shred of insight, is a wondrous thing to behold. Nature is a many splendored thing.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I put it more provocatively than Bruce did but Bruce and I are on the same page. Pay attention to what Bruce intelligently wrote rather than indulge your obsession with me. You’re as usual all inflamed about be but being inflamed about me is a chief distraction. It occurs to me that you’re using me as a foil to avoid having to address Bruce here, even though we don’t substantially differ except that I’d be the first to admit he’s more diplomatic. What in particular is it that Bruce wrote that you object to? Strive to be specific about his actual statements rather than engage in ad hominem or diversion.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Again to Ben, Bruce and the Palestinians.

            The Palstinians have two main choices.

            1. Compromise and sign a peace deal. The occupation would then come to an end. So will all the bad things that come with it for both sides.

            2. Refuse to compromise and to sign a peace deal, the occupation then continues with all it entails. No point then in whining about it, just do your worst and hope that you will scare us into ending the occupation unilaterally. Hey it sorta worked for them in Gaza but will it happen again? One doubts it because Israel may make mistakes but we learn from our mistakes.

            Look at my previous post to see what we mean by compromise.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Asaaand…we go for the diversion. Love that royal “we.” “I speak for ‘the Jews.'” During that whole “Nation State of the Italian/Roman Catholic People” go-around we had, in which you refused to engage, the fatal problems with your “Our Ethnoreligious Nation State Concept Which You Must Recognize” concept was revealed. And this Bibi-manufactured concept, by the way, is bandied about by people who aggressively and with royal contempt deny the other side’s self determination concepts (“the p people don’t exist”) and deny even the brutal reality of their 49-year occupation, but I digress.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Ben’s paranoia on display.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “which you refused to engage”

            I engaged and you ignored as you ignore everything that you don’t like to admit.

            “Ethnoreligious Nation State Concept Which You Must Recognize”

            Again Ben ignores what I said in my two earlier posts. I said MUTUAL recognition. The Arabs recognise the Jewish state of Israel and we recognise the new 23rd state of Palestine (which in all likelihood will be declared as an Islamic state – the same as most Arab countries are – check out Tunis and Iraq).

            As for his “ethnoreligious” comment. There are hundreds of such states making up the human race.

            Aaaaaaaaaand, the UN voted for two states in 1947. A JEWISH state and an Arab state. NOT for ISRAEL and an Arab state. Now for the record, the Jews of Palestine created a Jewish state and they named it Israel.

            Aaaaaaaand, the Arabs of Palestine attacked the Jewish state not because it’s name was Israel but because they did not want a Jewish state to exist. They wanted only one state an Arabic state.

            So, now, seventy years later, since they have been losing in the war which they started, they need to either compromise and undertake that they no longer intend to destroy the Jewish state, or wear the consequences as I outlined in my two earlier posts.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            I meant to say 23rd Arab state of Palestine. Not 23rd state of Palestine.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Either way it’s the same hogwash. Handing Israel formal recognition of “Jewish State” is for them like them handing a pyromaniac a box of matches for safekeeping, an alcoholic the key to their wine cellar for safe keeping…..

            Reply to Comment
    2. AJew

      “Handing Israel formal recognition of “Jewish State” is….crap, crap, crap and more crap….”

      Fine. Then stop whining about the occupation.

      Reply to Comment