I don't do this work for the benefit of Israelis or for peace. I do this for the benefit of Palestinians. Creating a viable and democratic Palestinian State is both a Palestinian interest and an Israeli interest. I work for the Palestinian interest.
We and the Israelis are neighbors; one lives in a posh villa with a swimming pool and guards, and the other in a chicken coop. The average annual income for an Israeli is about $15,000, while a Palestinian earns no more than $1,700. The poor neighbor will always try to steal from his rich neighbor. In this situation there can be no peace. My work aims to strengthen the Palestinian side on all levels. When we started working on Palestinian-Israeli relations in Jerusalem, we met people who felt inferior to Israelis. We have the feeling that the Israelis are subcontracting the Palestinians. The Israeli peace activists approach peace as a kind of mental therapy. They say "Ah, there is a good Palestinian."
I believe that all Palestinians want peace, stability and security and I also believe Israelis want peace. It is not an issue of good against evil but all Palestinians are being accused of terrorism, including myself. When I go to a checkpoint I am treated as a terrorist and not like a person who wants peace. This situation must be changed. We try to look at the conflict from a different perspective and not deal with the ethno-national conflict as such, but to examine at the urban fabric and the dynamics of life, which are related to the conflict. We try to focus less on the causes of the conflict and try to come up with futuristic ideas about how to deal with the obstacles, which can prevent achieving peace. Stopping these obstacles from taking control over the whole process is the crucial issue. Signing a political agreement doesn't mean achieving peace.
What we are trying to do now, as the IPPC, is to engage Palestinian society in learning to become aware of their role and their contribution to social, economic and political mobility. We try to empower them to be democrats, because democracy can't be taught. If you are an architect you should know how to use architecture to create change. If you come from the field of communications and media, you should know how to use your profession as a tool for change. The same is true for all the other professions.
We are trying to bring all the young Palestinians together in order for them to establish their own agenda for change. It is the people themselves who are going to carry out changes But without establishing the capacity to bring change, nothing will happen. We use professional scientific methods, like scenario building in order to determine best and worst case scenarios and try to develop strategies of intervention.
If we want to change the Palestinians' situation, we should rethink what peace contributes to the Palestinian cause. We should reconsider our leadership's behavior and be more critical. We should not attack the leaders, but we should have a say in bringing in concepts and fresh ideas from inside Palestinian society, and not have these imposed by outsiders.
I think looking at the whole spectrum, at all the aspects of peace - the economy, politics, society, and culture - trying to deal with these issues and coming up with practical solutions will contribute positively to peace building. I differentiate between peace building and peace making. Peace making is an agreement with elites. Peace building is engaging the majorities on both sides to benefit from peace on both a collective and an individual level.