When it comes to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the Franco-German rapprochement clearly has its limits as a transferable blueprint for reconciliation. At its core, the Israeli–Palestinian entanglement is not a rivalry between two entities only, but must be situated within the wider Israeli–Arabic conflict in which many players are at work. Nevertheless, this chapter points out that there are similarities, such as geographical proximity, the courage of political leaders to reach out to the “other side” in order to alter relationships and help to build trust, and the overriding influence of geopolitical changes. Even though these similarities are limited and should not be overrated, this chapter uses a combined theoretical and empirical approach to argue that the historical example of the Franco-German reconciliation shimmered through in the Middle Eastern peace talks time and again and serves to this day as a point of reference and projection space for hope.
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On closer inspection, the emerging relationship between France and Germany had not been on equal footing either as West Germany was a semi-sovereign state until 1990, and political forces in France had been in favor of closely controlling and even occupying Germany after the Second World War.
For the sake of preserving the students’ anonymity, no detailed sources are provided after the following quotes by the students. All citations are based on contributions such as presentations or final written reports and essays following the study trip or the seminar.
Considering the length of the battle (the battle lasted from February 21, 1916 until December 19, 1916), the number of men involved (an estimated 800,000 men were considered dead, wounded, or missing) and the size of the battlefield, which was not even ten square kilometers in size.
There is security cooperation, but it remains the case until this day that no Egyptian journalist, lawyer, teacher, or engineer can be in touch with Israelis without risking losing his or her membership of professional associations. The same goes for Jordan.
We are aware that, by talking about this “common ground,” we are referring to a cautiously and deliberately constructed narrative of Franco-German rapprochement that emerged in the 1960s and that was pejoratively labeled “Versöhnungskitsch” (reconciliation kitsch) by the journalist Klaus Bachmann. The strategy of referring to common ground such as the era of Charlemagne or clear military confrontation history such as Verdun was chosen to avoid talking about a much more difficult past of both France and Germany during the Second World War (Moll 2012: 31 et seq.).
A recent poll by the Arab Barometer shows that optimism about reconciliation is continuing to drop, with 30% of Palestinians being optimistic and 67% of Palestinians pessimistic about the success of reconciliation with Israel. Three months ago, optimism stood at 33% (Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research 2019). However, the latest issue of the Peace Index, a longitudinal research project by Tel Aviv University based on a monthly survey that monitored public sentiments on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict since June 1994, showed in December 2018 that 47% of the Jewish–Israeli citizens and 72% of the Arab–Israeli citizens found it important for the next Israeli government to renew negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (Yaar and Hermann 2019).
Keeping in mind that Sadat was the first Arab president to officially acknowledge Israel’s right to exist in his speech before the Israeli Knesset in November 1977. Sadat hoped for a domino effect, but instead his action prompted a vast majority of Arab state leaders to sever diplomatic relations with Egypt.
In Israel, the first ‘Intifada’ (Arab: to shake off) from 1987, a civil uprising of the Palestinians against the Israeli occupation, as well as a growing internal criticism of this occupation had led to a gradual rethinking.
Historically, there might be references in the canon such as “Semites” to include Jews and Arabs from the Middle East, but this term is simply not in use anymore. On the Israeli side, Jewish immigrants from the Islamic world prefer to be called “oriental Jews” to make a distinction with the term “Arab Jews.” The latter is only used by a number of left-wing intellectuals in Israel (Shenhav 2009; Shohat 2017).
See the study by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (Pardo 2017), an NGO that studies attitudes toward peace and “the other” in school textbooks throughout the Middle East. See also Schreiber (2019).