"The change will come from the young"

 

On the 23-26 October the Geneva Initiative held a joint Palestinian-Israeli seminar in Crete for young politcial activists from both sides.

In late October we held a joint Israeli-Palestinian meeting for young political activists from both sides. The participants were young leaders who have taken part in our local activities in Israel and Palestine. On the Israeli side, it included activists from the Labour, Meretz and Hatnua parties. During the seminar the participants learnt about the solutions offered by the Geneva Initiative and about the current political, economic and social situation on each side. The participants heard lectures, engaged in open discussions and took part in groupwork while discussing the arguments for and against a two state solution, and their role as young people within the political arena.

The participants enagage in groupwork

The participants discussed the recent war in Gaza, the narratives of both sides, and the need remember the past while looking forward to the future. For many of the participants, both Israelis and Palestinians, this was the first time that they met young people from the 'other side' aside from a military checkpoint. The participants got to know one another and took the first steps towards forming a 'brainstorming group' to create additional forms of cooperation in order to increase support for a negotiated agreement.

During the seminar

Dr Yuval Benzimon of the IDC in Israel and one of the speakers said: "The strength of the two state solution and the Geneva Initiative is that is a real solution. Many people object to the two state solution, and some may even have good arguments, but this is the only solution which can work. Today, there is no trust between the sides, however, before the peace treaty with Egypt and Jordan people said the agreements would not last and they have lasted very well."

Saman Khoury, Director General of the Peace NGO Forum told the participants: "We tend to forget that whether we like it our not, there are two different national groups that are struggling as if neither one had a state. The recent war in Gaza gave the feeling that the only solution would be if the other side were to disappear, and this is true for both sides. The principle behind the Geneva Initiative is the exact opposite. It says that we can exist next to each other…the question arises how to divide the territory, with Israelis see as Israel and Palestinians as Palestine – Jerusalem has to be a part of both states – in order to emphasize that there are two peoples."

Prof. Yossi Yona of Ben Gurion university added: "We want to live in peace with our neighbors, who also have the right to be here. I see myself as someone who belongs to the Middle East. I still hope that the solution will come from young people, although young people lack patience, we have to understand that this is not a sprint. It is a long distance run. We have to keep working and in the end the change will come. I call on you to continue with your activism, despite the leadership that we have. Leaders want to survive and we are here to change. We have a moral responsibility to change, we care about the future and therefore must keep working."

Rami, a Palestinian participant said: "I thought that we would just argue and try to prove that the other side was wrong, but I discovered that it is really easy to mix with the Israelis. We have many things in common. In the past I was against participating in this type of meeting, but I saw that the way that we looked at each other changed during the meeting. I hope our societies can also change. I plan to tell my friends about it."

Maksim, an Israeli participant commented: "My conclusion is that there is a partner on the Palestinian side and a partner on the Israeli side."

Mohammed, a Palestinian participant posted on his facebook page: "It was such a great weekend with such a great people from Palestine and Israel. People who made a change in my perspective towards our political conflict! Really it was a remarkable one and I can't wait to see all of them so soon! "

The seminar was funded by the Partnership for Peace Program of the European Union.