West Point Negotiation Project Learns About Muslim Dispute Resolution from Expert Doron Pely
by Cadet Duncan Aylor
West Point, New York – 6 November, 2010
Mr. Doron Pely, a dual American-Israeli citizen who is the only non-Arab resident of 45,000 person Shafar'am in Israel and an expert on dispute resolution in the middle east (www.sulha.org), spoke to 70 members of the West Point Negotiation Project (WPNP) last Tuesday during lunch. He then conducted 1-on-1 interviews with 6 cadets conducting related research. WPNP members took away a lot from his visit. “Learning about Sulha and Muslim Dispute Resolution opened my eyes to other approaches to conflict resolution and taught me that what works for one culture may not work for another, so it is imperative to be educated on multiple ways of life” said Cadet Greg Sacenti.
The Sulha process is a traditional dispute resolution system (over 1500 years old), based on Sharia, and practiced by the whole community including Muslims, Druze, and Christians. Customary law leaders settle the disputes using a combination of mediation and arbitration techniques based on the system. Some US commanders (BG McMaster, for example) have benefited from understanding the role of the Sulha, effectively using awareness about the process to encourage reconciliation between tribes.
Gaining a better understanding of what the Sulha process is and how it works was useful to cadets in preparing them for future army service. “The Sulha tradition we studied in The WPNP will be a useful tool to us as officers, and will most likely play a vital role in securing peace in the Middle East” said Cadet Thomas Ankenbauer. WPNP members go to a series of “brownbag lunches” over the course of the year to learn about the field of negotiation and conflict management in preparation for their army careers.