Israel/Hamas: The Challenge for No-Violence Conflict Resolution


May 2021

Almost everyone who reads a newspaper, listens to the radio, watches television or uses a computer knows about the recent trouble between the State of Israel and Hamas. This terrible clash has been festering for many years (resulting in violence earlier) and will continue to fester – perhaps flare again into violence and tragedy until a solution can be found. One problem from the start is that it has not been possible so far to get the two parties in contention to a negotiation possibility. One party (Hamas) doesn’t even recognize or accept the actual (perhaps legal) existence of the other (Israel).

As I have said in every conflict (public or private) I have assisted in resolution, step one is to get the parties who are at issue to be part of the resolution process. There seems to be a strong misunderstanding in this country and abroad, that issues of Gaza and the West Bank are between Palestinians and Israelis themselves. They are not between – Israel and Hamas.

Even though I have not been directly involved in this particular dispute, colleagues and I were involved in attempts to bring Palestinians and Israelis together from time to time since 1991.  But to be effective in any outcome, we must bring the actual disputants to the table. I do not believe that is the case here.  While the “nationality” or “ethnicity” of the rocket people in Gaza is Palestinian, the decision making party in the Gaza dispute is Hamas.  Israel would like to bring them to the table but Hamas says publicly it would rather see Israel driven into the sea. There exists also a question as to whether the Palestinian Authority speaks for the majority of the people in the West Bank and certainly not so in Gaza.

So, who can come to any peacemaking table? That is question number one. In recent clashes in Gaza and elsewhere with terrible tolls of death and injury, it is frustrating for both Israelis and Palestinians but also to Americans and others. Politicians of all stripes can give their opinion all day about the terror, death and injury, but there never will be a solution until the Palestinians rightfully choose who is to speak for them.

My own observations made years ago when I was in Israel proper and in East Jerusalem, convinced me that there was no real problem between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs. Even the Palestinians in the area outside of Israel seemed to want to work toward an overall resolution.

Yesterday, I learned from press reports that it is somewhat routine at the world-famous Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem to not discern whether it is an Israeli or Palestinian patient who needs a vital organ transplant. If an organ is available and all else meets medical standards, the organ is used on the patient regardless of ethnic origin or background of the patient. In fact, the head of the Transplant Team at the hospital is a Christian Palestinian physician/surgeon.

If only, the seemingly intractable conflict could be handled like a medical procedure. But it has to be the right parties (not the loudest voice or the most powerful with support of a foreign power – such as Hamas and Iran) to sit down.  As I have taught, written about and observe in practice, the parties must WANT to resolve and they MUST have the authority to settle.  It is my view; the Palestinians are in essence prisoners of Hamas.  If they could only have their own voice, I think negotiation could be successful.


Charles P. Lickson, is a former practicing attorney turned mediator and writer. He found that so-called “traditional” (via the legal system) dispute resolution was not necessarily the best way to get a decent settlement to a conflict. He turned to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) thirty years ago. Lickson is the author of the widely-read book: Ironing It Out: Seven Simple Steps for Resolving Conflict updated in 2020. The revised, updated Ironing It Out, (published by Lalo Publishing) is part of the Conflict Management Consortium, mediation training and has been read and used all over the world. The book is available on Amazon and at select booksellers.