Identities and Interests in Making War, States, and Peace:

A Constructivist's View of the Israel-Palestine


Franke Wilmer


Constructivists tell us that the two prevailing and for decades, competing paradigmatic views of international relations fail to take into account the role of identities and interests, and that identities and interests change. Would the application of a constructivist perspective to the protracted conflict between Israelis and Palestinians provide new and useful (or constructive) insight into the quest for stability and peace in their relations?  Most analyses focus on this quest as a problem of moving from 'war to peace,' that is, from defining the problem as 'violent conflict' and the solution as a 'resolution' of the issues in terms of material disagreements that parties themselves most often identify as the source of conflict (and impasse in resolving it): Israel¹s existence as a state and Palestinian rights to a state.  In both cases, however, identities and interests are implicated insofar as both sides maintain that their identities and interests can only be fully realized through statehood.  This essay will evaluate two questions that put the constructivists' question at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship: What is the relationship between identities and interests on the one hand and material conflict and security on the other, and second, what are the limitations of the state as the sole intermediary through which identities and interests can be realized and protected?


Franke Wilmer received a PhD from the University of Maryland in 1990 and has been at Montana State University since 1991.  She is a Full Professor and served four years as Political Science Department Head.  She has published two books examining different aspects of human rights and political violence: The Indigenous Voice in World Politics (Sage 1993), and The Social Construction of Man, the State, and War: Identity, Conflict, and Violence in Former Yugoslavia (Routledge 2002).  In 2005 Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer appointed Franke to chair the Montana Human Rights Commission.  In 2006 she was elected to a seat in the Montana State House of Representatives, re-elected for a second term in 2008, and elected by her colleagues to serve as Speaker Pro Tempore in the 2009-11 term.  She served on the House Education and House State Administration and Veteran’s Affairs committees in 2007 and again in 2009.  In 2008-09 Franke chaired the House Interim Committee on State Administration and Veteran’s Affairs.  She also serves on the Governor’s Capital Financial Advisory Council.  Franke has also served on the Board of Directors of the Gallatin Human Rights Network (1994-2000) and was one of its founding members; on the Board of Directors, of Congregation Beth Shalom (2006-09); and is Co-Chair of the Social Action Committee for Congregation Beth Shalom (2007-10).

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