Oslo and its aftermath: lessons learned from track two diplomacy
Since the collapse of the Oslo peace process and the violence that followed, many scholars have reflected upon the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Most of this analysis has focused on official negotiations without considering the substantial role that unofficial peace efforts have played in peacebuilding, both prior to and after Oslo. This article, in contrast, seeks to better understand the application of "track two" diplomacy to the Israeli-Palestinian case. It reports on a self-reflection effort by numerous Israeli-Palestinian peace practitioners to better understand what has worked, what has not, and how new initiatives could be more effectively organized and carried out in the future. The research presented is based on an inventory of seventy-nine track two projects that occurred between Israelis and Palestinians between 1992 and 2004, personal interviews with many of those who organized and oversaw these projects, and two focus group meetings that brought together a total of forty practitioners. In this article, we seek to better understand two issues: (1) how track two initiatives have changed in scope, organization, and intent; and (2) how track two practitioners have sought to disseminate their work beyond the participants of those initiatives. Our findings present an overall picture of the Israeli-Palestinian second track practice and identify a number of trends and common types of practice. Among the trends we have identified are the following: during the peace process years, more track two initiatives were undertaken with elite/professional participants than with representatives of the grassroots, but in the subsequent decade-and-a-half, Israeli-Palestinian grassroots, track two initiatives gradually replaced senior-level track two exchanges; most of the grassroots initiatives we studied were relationship focused, whereas those involving elite participants are outcome focused; the track two community subscribes to a set of theoretical propositions about which conditions and contexts facilitate the transmission of track two insights and ideas to the political process, but these propositions have yet to be validated; and track two specialists do little strategic planning about ways to most effectively transfer track two insights and ideas to the political process. Our research also identified four distinct, but not mutually exclusive, approaches to practice: the psychological, the constructivist, the capacity building, and the realistic interest.