SEEDS OF PEACE
Negotiating For Peace
Is Eternal Job Security
By Tim Boxer
OR two decades Aaron Miller toiled in vain as a negotiator on Arab-Israeli affairs at the State Department. Two years ago he shifted career course to take the reins of Seeds of Peace, an organization that promotes coexistence.
Miller brings young people out of the Mideast maelstrom to engage in conflict resolution at summer camps in the U.S. and the Seeds center in Jerusalem .
“My former employer at the State Department envies me,” Miller remarked. “James Baker says in his next life he’d also like to be a Middle East negotiator because he’d be guaranteed a job for life.”
That brought knowing smiles from 1,152 people who jammed the Copacabana club in Manhattan for the organization’s seventh annual Bid for Peace Celebrity Auction.
“The last four years [of the intifada] was hell for Seeds for Peace,” said Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. ambassador to the UN. “If Aaron succeeds to resolve all these conflicts, he could put Seeds out of business.”
Christine Baranski and Billy Crudup added a bit of showbiz pizzazz to the party as they introduced several of the speakers.
CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour, who said she’s half-Iranian, endorsed the work of Seeds for Peace because “from friendship comes tolerance and from tolerance comes peace.”
Her husband, James Rubin, a former assistant secretary of state, told of the time he and Miller had a meeting with the Saudi crown prince. Instead of going to a grand palace, they were taken to a huge tent out of town.
Standing outside on the biggest carpet he ever saw, Rubin asked, “Why did he pick this spot in the middle of the desert?”
“See that little patch of grass?” Miller answered. “He likes to sit here and look at it and think big thoughts.”
Liav Hertsman, a 24-year-old from Tel Aviv, said after she attended a Seeds for Peace international camp, she refused to enter the intelligence unit of the IDF. Instead she served as a media officer.
“Working in intelligence,” she said, “I would not have been able to keep my Arab friends.”
Eias Khatib, a 16-year-old Arab, talked about living in an Orthodox section of Jerusalem . Neighbors offered to buy his house for a lot of money but his family refused to sell.
“I used to play soccer with the other kids,” he said. “Once when we played there was a bombing. The mothers came and took their children home. They didn’t want their children playing with a Palestinian.”
Having graduated from a Seeds of Peace camp, Khatib wants to prove that coexistence can work and “you can have Palestinian friends.”