Monday, January 26, 2009

Peace Talks: The Importance of Apologies

There's an important op-ed that appeared in the NYT over the weekend, coauthored by Scott Atran. It's a well-reasoned and well-researched call to Western leaders to go beyond the utilitarian approach to peace negotiations.

To some extent they buried the lede: interviews with Mousa Abu Marzook, deputy chief of Hamas, and Bibi Netanyahu, who may well make a comeback as Israel's prime minister. Both responded positively to talk of apologies and what could be interpreted as moral concessions from the other side. But the key to the story is in these paragraphs:

"There is a moral logic to seemingly intractable religious and cultural disputes. These conflicts cannot be reduced to secular calculations of interest but must be dealt with on their own terms, a logic very different from the marketplace or realpolitik.

"Across the world, people believe that devotion to sacred or core values that incorporate moral beliefs — like the welfare of family and country, or commitment to religion and honor — are, or ought to be, absolute and inviolable. ... People will reject material compensation for dropping their commitment to sacred values and will defend those values regardless of the costs."
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