Geneva Initiative Annexes
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GI holds a seminar for journalists at the Ma'aleh Hahamisha Hotel outside Jerusalem

10-11/07/2008: GI holds a seminar for journalists at the Ma'aleh Hahamisha Hotel outside Jerusalem
Date: 10.07.08

Coverage in Jpost

Coverage in INN

On Thursday-Friday, July 10th-11th, Geneva Initiative held a seminar for about 30 Israeli journalists, in cooperation with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. Among the participants at the seminar were representatives of the country's central media outlets (print, broadcast and web journalism) and representatives of media outlets in the Ultra-Orthodox, Arab, Russian, and Ethiopian sectors.

The seminar opened with a tour to the separation barrier along the Jerusalem envelope, guided by Col. (Res.) Shaul Arieli, formerly a brigade commander in Gaza, the deputy military secretary for the defense minister and the prime minister under the Netanyahu government, and head of the Negotiation Administration under the Barak government. The tour's objective was to provide participants with knowledge of the situation on the ground, the disagreements, the proposed solutions and their meaning.

Next, participants gathered at the Ma'aleh Hahamisha hotel near Jerusalem for a series of discussions and lectures. The first presentation was by Izhar Be'er, General Manager of the Keshev Center for the Protection of Democracy in Israel, and Nidal Rafia, CNN's chief producer in Israel. Be'er spoke to the participants about the problematic manner in which various issues are presented in the Israeli media. He explained that the way articles are framed and the difference between the headlines and the bodies of articles often lead to misinformation regarding important events and a misconception of these events among the readers. Be'er gave specific examples, and presented the participants with better ways to transmit the information in a more credible manner. Rafia spoke about the manner in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is covered by the international media. She explained that the foreign media often uses toned-down terminology when covering actions against Palestinians and at times ignores operations with Palestinian casualties due to a lack of interest.

The following panel dealt with the manner in which the conflict is presented in Israel's minority media. The panelists were Victoria Dolinsky of Radio REKA in Russian, Alon Nuriel of the Ultra-Orthodox Miyom Leyom newspaper, Tsega Melko of Radio REKA in Ethiopian, and Said Abu-Siah the Arab language Hadith a-Nas. Each panelist explained the unique characteristics of his or her sector and detailed the manner in which the conflict is presented to each audience.

That evening, Palestinian Minister for Prisoner Affairs Ashraf al-Ajrami spoke to participants and said the situation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was not positive, as there has been no significant progress in the negotiations between the two sides. He said Israel has continued building in settlements despite its promises and has failed to remove even a single roadblock. Now, Israel has reached a prisoner swap deal with Hezbollah and will soon reach a similar one with Hamas in which it is set to release many security prisoners, but it has refused to release even a single prisoner as part of the negotiations for peace. He explained such actions show the Palestinian public that only violence and abductions lead the Palestinians achievements opposite Israel and that Abbas is becoming weaker because the public believes his path of peace has failed. Al-Ajrami warned that if the sides fail to reach an agreement soon, the two-state solution will become irrelevant and will be replaced with a one-state solution—a binational state with equal voting rights for all.

The following morning, the participants met with Geneva Initiative Director General Gadi Baltiansky, former media advisor to Prime Minister Barak, who discussed with them whether or not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict received enough prominence in the Israeli media's agenda. Baltiansky said that the media, in trying to conform to the public discourse, tends to neglect discussion of events related to the Israeli Palestinian conflict and political process, even though these issues are of existential importance to the State of Israel. The prime minister himself has said that were the two-state solution to become irrelevant, Israel would be "finished" as a Jewish democratic state.

In the final panel, MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz) and MK Benny Elon (National Religious Party) each presented his views on the existing options for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both speakers agreed that solving the conflict and reaching a peace agreement are the vital interests of the State of Israel. Elon presented his plan "The Israeli Initiative," according to which Israel would reach an agreement with Jordan and Egypt on the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and these areas would be transferred to their control, with Israel relinquishing a minimum of territory. According to him, the first step must be to solve the refugee problem: there is no historical equivalent to this situation, in which people remain refugees for 60 years with no solution. The refugees' difficult reality increases hatred towards Israel. Elon suggested that Israel initiate an international move to make life better for the refugees and eliminate their refugee status. This could be done by providing them with funds and by giving them permanent residence in their current locations or in third-party states. Taking responsibility for the Palestinians is in Jordan and Egypt's interest, and they would agree to such a solution if Israel's makes this effort. Beilin responded to Elon by saying that were Jordan and Egypt to agree to Elon's plan, and were it possible to solve the refugee problem in a context other than negotiations over a Palestinian sate, he would be a staunch supporter of this plan. The problem, Beilin explained, is that there is no support whatsoever for this initiative on the other side. The Geneva Initiative, on the other hand, provides an accord supported by senior Palestinian officials and, according to polls, by the majorities of both publics.

The seminar was covered by Israeli media in both Hebrew and English.