Nirvana Is Not the Goal of the Peace Process

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Tamara Wittes writes, in reference to the Rob Malley/Hussein Agha op-ed which declared the goal of a two-state solution more-or-less hopeless, to say:

I understand the throwing-up-of-hands impulse you express, and that you think Rob Malley and Hussein Agha are expressing in their op-ed. But there is a significant moral and material difference between throwing up your hands as an individual and suggesting it as a guide for policy on the op-ed page of The New York Times.

Peace processes and peace agreements are not about achieving nirvana. They do not "resolve" conflicts between peoples. What diplomacy does is halt conflicts, stop violence, and create room for the possibility of societal reconciliation, which is admittedly rare but not unheard of. Does anyone think that Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland have stopped resenting each other or being suspicious of one another's intentions? Have they let go of their bitter history? Do they now all believe that the other side is just as right as they are? No on all counts - and they don't need to, as long as they are still willing to settle their issues through shared government instead of through bombings in the streets. That is a high achievement, and a one that is not inconceivable as a goal for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, Goldberg also writes the magazine's advice column. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. Previously, he served as a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward, and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

His book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. Goldberg rthe recipient of the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism. He is also the recipient of 2005's Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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