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Abstract

Researchers have recently leveled criticism at the realist approach to conflict resolution by pointing out the importance of symbolic aspects of this issue. Few studies, however, have hitherto focused on symbolic demands in conflicts. The present study examines the role of symbolic as well as concrete demands in conflict resolution, and is therefore innovative in this regard. A demand is categorized as “concrete” if it is based on an interest that is viable and applicable, in that it involves tangible resources that may change hands or be divided. A “symbolic” demand, on the other hand, pivots on either refraining from or taking action rather than on a tangible result. With reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this research suggests that the relationship between symbolic and concrete demands can serve as a tool for achieving conflict resolution – not only by compensating for symbolic demands with concrete demands and vice versa but also by balancing between the symbolic and the concrete aspects within the same demand. These findings may have valuable implications for the use of symbolic discourse as an instrument to transform conflicts.

Author Bio(s)

Rotem Nagar is a Ph.D. student in the department of Communication at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. She is the vice director at the Mosaica Conflict Resolution Center, which develops models and paradigms of conflict resolution at the grassroots level as well as at the theoretical micro level. Her research deals with communication aspects in international processes of conflict resolution and transformation, including discourse and linguistically related trade-offs. She is a contributing author to a book on the community mediation practices in Israel, to be published in 2013 by JDC-Israel and the Israeli Ministry of Social Affairs. Email: rotem.nagar@mail.huji.ac.il; Address: Topaz 9, Mevasseret Zion 90805, Israel; Phone Number: +972 542 511149

Jacob Shamir is an Associate Professor of Communication and Senior Research Fellow at the Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. His research interests include political communication, public opinion, media and conflict resolution. Together with Khalil Shikaki of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, he has directed, since July 2000, the Joint Israeli-Palestinian Poll (JIPP; http://truman.huji.ac.il/). Professor Shamir has published numerous articles in major international journals of communication, political science and conflict resolution. His most recent book, titled Palestinian and Israeli Public Opinion: The Public Imperative in the Second Intifada, co-authored with Khalil Shikaki and based on the JIPP, was published in 2010 by Indiana University Press as part of its Middle East Studies Series. Email: jshamir@mscc.huji.ac.il; Address: Department of Communication and Journalism, Hebrew University, Mount Scopus Campus, Jerusalem, Israel 91905; Phone Number: +972 80228852

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