by María José Fano Navarro


"I believe, despite all, that the people in this hour can enter into a dialogue, into a genuine dialogue with one another. In a genuine dialogue each of the partners, even when he stands in opposition to the other, heeds, affirms, and confirms his opponent as an existing other.  Only so is it possible for conflict, thought not to be eliminated from the world, yet to be subject to human arbitration, and so led to the point where it is overcome."


Martin BuberPointing the Way.


The Road Map is severely lacking in detail. It mentions that the sides will have to negotiate the permanent status issues such as borders, Jerusalem, settlements, refugees, etc. but makes almost no mention of these issues throughout the process in the earlier phases. About present situation, there is the best time to recover the wisdom of Martin Buber, the Philosopher of Dialogue.

Martin Buber (1878-1965), the distinguished Jewish philosopher can serve as an articulate guide on the path to a lasting peace. As said P.F. Spalding, "The moment has arrived to put Buber's Philosophy of Dialogue into praxis on the world stage".

The Jewish philosopher is the voice for reconciliation and accommodation. His thoughts about the moral necessity for reconciliation between Jew and Arab, can serve to guide the Middle East towards a lasting peace. Several samples are offered below. Paying attention to his writings, to his words, this is the firs step.

Buber began to claim for accommodation between Jew and Arab in 1920, eighteen years before he settled in Palestine. At that time Buber wrote:

We must abstain from all foreign policy except for those steps and actions which are necessary for the achievement of a lasting and amicable agreement with the Arabs in all aspects of public life, indeed, only those steps which would bring about and sustain an all embracing and fraternal solidarity with the Arabs are worthy. [1]

Buber always said that it takes moral daring to make peace. He wrote:

The truly daring are not those who dream of conquest and subjugation, but rather those who look to the future, when two nations will together, in brotherhood, make the Near East flourish. [2]

Speaking in 1962, Buber said:

The main thing is knowing what the moment demands. In other words, we must replace the way of tactics, which is the short-term approach, with the way of strategy, which is thinking for the long term. Real defense consists of seeing far ahead, of taking the long view. We must work for long-term results, the decisive word must be dictated not by political tactics but by political strategy. [3]

Both Jew and Palestinian, are mindful of the heavy meaning and consequences of "taking the long view." This requires seeing beyond Palestinian statehood and beyond resolution of the status of Jerusalem, to the time when a permanent peace and brings economic prosperity in the region. This is what  Buber wrote in 1944:

Is it really necessary that the lives of two nations living together in one place depend on the solely political concepts of majority and minority? Has not the time come to try to put the concept in different terms? And isn't it possible that this particular location and our particular situation may be just the circumstances in which to begin trying? True, it is very difficult, very, very difficult; it demands tremendous daring, and in order to accomplish it courageous and independent thinking is required, capable of formulating a new means to achieve new goals. But whoever knows our situation thoroughly, knows that we have no other choice; only here, if anywhere lies the true path--all other paths are deceptive. [4]

Buber's speech to the Twelfth Zionist Congress in Karlsbad, Czechoslovakia in 1921:

Our national desire to renew the life of the people of Israel in their ancient homeland however is not aimed against any other people. As we enter the sphere of world history once more, and become once more the standard bearers of our own fate, the Jewish people, who have constituted a persecuted minority in all the countries of the world for two thousand years, reject with abhorrence the methods of nationalistic domination, under which they themselves have so long suffered. We do not aspire to return to the land of Israel with which we have inseparable historical and spiritual ties in order to suppress another people or to dominate them. [5]

Buber saw a vision of a "new and glorious encounter."

The goal of establishing an enduring solidarity of true common interests which in the end must overcome all the conflicts to which the present mad hour has given birth...only then will both peoples meet in a new and glorious historical encounter. [6]

In 1945, Buber wrote these words:

To win a truly great life for the people of Israel, a great peace is necessary. Not a fictitious peace, the dwarfish peace that is not more than an intermission, but a true peace with neighboring peoples, which alone can render possible a common development of this portion of the earth as a vanguard of the awakening of the Near East. [7]

Sharon and Arafat must read the Road Map with than Buber's vision. In the context of what Buber said in a speech at Carneige Hall in 1952, at the conclusion of his lecture tour of the United States, both leaders will have to make themselves painful exceptions:

He who makes himself an exception is suspected or ridiculed by both sides. Each side has assumed a monopoly of the sunlight and has plunged its antagonist into the night, each side demands that you decide between day and night. [8]


  1. 1918 Essay entitled "Toward the Decision" quoted in A Land of Two Peoples: Martin Buber on Jews and Arabs; Paul R. Mendes-Flohr ed. (New York: Oxford University Press 1983 ) p.41
  2. 1949: Unpublished speech entitled "Should the Ichud Accept the Decree of History?" quoted in Paul Mendes-Flohr p 249 above.
  3. 1962: Speech entitled "We must Grant the Arabs Truly Equal Rights" quoted in Paul Mendes Flohr above p 298
  4. 1944: Article entitled "A Majority or Many? A Postscript to a Speech" quoted in Paul Mendes-Flohr above p.167
  5. 1921: Speech entitled "A Proposed Resolution to the Arab Question" quoted in Paul Mendes-Flohr above p.61 ibid.
  6. 1921: Speech entitled "A Proposed Resolution to the Arab Question" quoted in Paul Mendes-Flohr above p.62 ibid.
  7. 1945: Essay entitled "Our Reply" quoted in Paul Mendes Flohr above p. 178
  8. 1952: Speech at Carnegie Hall entitled "Hope for this Hour, quoted in Pointing the Way by Martin Buber (New York: Harper &Row 1963) p 221 1960: Letter to the President of Rumania quoted in Encounter on the Narrow Ridge A Life of Martin Buber Maurice Friedman (New York: Paragon House 1993) p 415



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