ARI SHAPIRO, host:
This week we're hearing from writers and intellectuals on the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Yesterday, Israeli novelist Amos Oz spoke of his vision for two states, Israel and Palestine. It's a vision shared by Palestinian academic Sari Nusseibeh. He's a man whose roots in Jerusalem date back centuries.
Professor SARI NUSSEIBEH (President, Al-Quds University): This is really the only way out. There's no other rational way to go forward towards peace. Otherwise we'll be going round in circles.
SHAPIRO: Nusseibeh is president of Al-Quds University, the Arab university in Jerusalem, where he also teaches philosophy. I asked him whether he believes a negotiated settlement between Israelis and Palestinians is still possible.
Prof. NUSSEIBEH: It is true we're running out of time. Indeed, after what we've seen in Gaza, perhaps even the desire to go to a peaceful solution has faded from the hearts and minds of people on both sides. Even so, what we saw in Gaza must make us in fact jump forward now as quickly as we could in order to arrive at a final peace between the two sides. And if we can't make use of this horror that we witnessed in Gaza to make us go ahead and do that, then that's it. I think we'll just go enter into a phase in history which is going to be dreary for both sides, both peoples. And it's not going to get any better as time goes on.
SHAPIRO: What do you see in the younger generation that you teach at the university? Is there a difference, do you think, between them and between the generations that came of age around the time of the creation of Israel?
Prof. NUSSEIBEH: I can't really make that comparison properly, because I wasn't around at the time of the creation of the State of Israel.
Prof. NUSSEIBEH: I was born. I'm a year younger than Israel. But I think on the Palestinian side, my own observation really is the following with the younger generation. That one, the growing tendency towards religion. Religion is becoming more of an important factor. And secondly, the fading away, the slow disappearance, if you like, of the desire for Palestinian national independence. The idea of a nation. The idea of a state. And you know, this is partly because of the fact that we haven't been able to establish the state in the past 15 years, through negotiations. But it's also that we don't seem to have internally, as Palestinians, been very clever at putting together the institutions of the state as we dreamed one day we would be able to. So the new generation I see around me, as a result, do not have the same interest towards the establishment of an independent Palestinian state that I used to see, for instance, around me in the student community 20 years ago when I first started teaching in the university campuses around the West Bank and Gaza.
SHAPIRO: How do they see themselves? And where do they see themselves 10 or 20 years from now?
Prof. NUSSEIBEH: Well, I don't think they have articulated a particular political vision for themselves. I believe that they have just come to see themselves as simply in a stage of suspension of confrontation. It's not a very hopeful sign, actually. It's something that basically portends a future explosion. So it's not really good what one sees on the ground today.
SHAPIRO: As someone who has been involved in these issues for your whole life, more or less, do you just feel like the summit of the mountain is getting further and further away? That every year that we return to these conversations, peace doesn't seem to be any closer?
Prof. NUSSEIBEH: Well, you know, I have a - a kind of different way of looking at the world. I don't see the summit as being either far or near objectively, so to speak. I see it being as far or as near as we the people on both sides wish it to be. You know, peace can just happen in 24 hours, just as - and as simply as war happening also within the space of 24 hours.
SHAPIRO: I know you believe peace can happen. And I know you believe peace must happen. Do you believe peace will happen?
Prof. NUSSEIBEH: You know, once again, I say the only future that's out there is the future that we the people on both sides will be making for ourselves. And if people do realize this, then I think certainly we can make peace happen.
SHAPIRO: Professor Nusseibeh, thank you very much.
Mr. NUSSEIBEH: Thank you, thank you Ari.
SHAPIRO: Sari Nusseibeh teaches philosophy and is president of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem. His memoir is called "Once Upon A Country: A Palestinian Life." Commentators from around the world are writing about the Gaza conflict, and you can read a sample of world opinion and add your own thoughts at npr.org.