Peace Talks, What Do They Mean? Realism and Constructivism in Yasser Arafat's public Statements Following the Oslo Accords (1994-1995)
The Oslo Accords (1993) were perceived by the whole world as a major breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. This article's main contention is that a rhetorical study is the most appropriate and useful tool for understanding what peace talks meant in Arafat's case. Two major approaches to the rhetorical situation are considered. These translate into the following two general questions: Do peace-talks and peace-processes act as an objective set of factual events, brought to the public's knowledge as is (Bitzer, 1968), or are they rhetorically constructed and presented at times as exigencies, to suite specific political goals (Vatz, 1973)? If credibility and trustworthiness go hand-in-hand with rhetorical strategies, what theoretical strategies are the most effective, judging from Arafat's case study? A critical evaluation of Arafat's public statements during the first year since his return to Gaza (1/7/1994-30/6/1995) confirms the historical value of this event as a breakthrough in the perceptions of both the Israelis and the Palestinians, but also refutes, in certain ways, this perception of reality. The discussion follows Vatz's view of the rhetorical situation and exigencies as rhetorically constructed. The analysis is based on both theoretical and empirical literature about modern rhetoric, with a focus on "equivocal communication", shown by field studies (Bavelas et. al., 1990), as an appropriate rhetorical strategy in avoidance-avoidance situations.
Keywords: Political Communication, Modern Rhetoric, Symbolism, Israeli-Palestinian Peace-process, Yasser Arafat, Rhetorical Situation
Dr. Tirza Hechter
Associate Lecturer, Department of Political Science and Mass Communication, Tzfat Regional College, Bar-Ilan University