In recent weeks I have done a range of media interviews, on both radio and television, on issues related to international conflict resolution as it applies to political upheavals in the Middle East and Southern Caucasus.
It is a most taxing concern. In Israel-Palestine, for example, assuming that this hyphenated political compound could last much longer, an amorphous peace process was finally re-launched this past week by Israel and the Palestinian Authority under the genial and shuttle-friendly auspices of US special peace envoy George Mitchell.
The start-up of those proximity talks - proximate geographically between Jerusalem and Ramallah - occurred following an almost eighteen-month hiatus during which new governments took office in both the USA and Israel. Arguably the most remarkable feature of such a long-awaited resumption of talks was the absence not only of any fanfare but also of almost any credible expectation that these talks might produce concrete and final-status results.
The talks that are finite - and therefore self-defining in their own failure - should in essence address bedrock principles such as the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, the illegality of settlement in all occupied territories and the legally invalid nature of “actions taken by Israel, the occupying power, which purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem” [in the words of UNSCR 476 (1980)].
But would they achieve any real breakthrough, or would they just provide the Netanyahu government with tactical cover at a time when it has encountered mild US irritation? In fact, are we even able to talk of a two-state solution anymore, or is time seriously running out for this option in favour of a bi-national one despite the multiple efforts of churches, organisations and even states for peace, security and justice?
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a black hole that swallows up goodwill ambassadors through the ages. Yet we cannot and should not give up hope.
These issues of how to break through the political mire and build a just peace are among those I am continuing to explore, in dialogue with others, on Epektasis, and also in my writings for Ekklesi and elsewhere.
(c) Harry Hagopian is a former executive secretary for the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) and now an ecumenical, legal and political consultant for the Armenian Orthodox Church, as well as an independent inter-faith adviser for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. He contributes regularly to Ekklesia. Dr Hagopian is also involved with ACEP, the Paris-based Christians in Political Action (http://www.chretiensenpolitique.eu/ ). His own website is called Epektasis - http://www.epektasis.net/