Geneva Initiative Annexes
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GI holds joint leadership seminar in Turkey

10-13/04/08: GI holds Israeli-Palestinian leadership seminar in Antalya, Turkey
Date: 10.04.08

On the weekend of April 10th to 13th, the Palestinian Peace Coalition-Geneva Initiative held a seminar for some 50 Israelis and Palestinians from various influential fields. Among the participants were government workers, ministerial and parliamentary assistants, journalists, local leadership, peace activists, and women's leadership.

Speaking at the seminar were GI signitories Menachem Klein and Saman Khoury, as well as GI Director Generals Gadi Baltiansky and Nidal Foqaha.

The seminar began with an icebreaking session on Thursday evening, in which all participants introduced themselves, their backgrounds, and their hopes for the seminar. The following morning, participants heard welcoming statements by PPC Director General Nidal Foqaha, GI-Israel representative Rubi Alfi-Nissan, and European Commission representative Izzat Ayoub. Next, the Israelis and Palestinians exchanged their personal experiences from the conflict. The session, which began with an Israeli relating his experiences as an IDF commander at the Kalandia checkpoint, soon turned into a heated debate. The Palestinian participants presented their day-to-day hardships, and Israelis presenting their fears and security concerns.

The following session on Friday was a presentation by Mr. Khoury and Dr. Klein on the current political situation. The two reported on the present atmosphere and despair among both publics, detailed the current developments in the negotiations, and discussed the status of international involvement. In response to questions from the audience, Khoury and Klein spoke of the setbacks in previous negotiations that precluded an agreement. The day continued with a role-playing group activity, in which Israelis attempted to present the Palestinian position when entering negotiations and vice versa. Among the issues raised in each group were interior divisions, right of return, Arab-Israeli identity, security, and the future of settlements. The day ended with a presentation by participants from the media on both sides on the role of journalism in the conflict. The participants detailed the difficulties facing them in covering events on the opposite side of the Green Line and the inherent biases in covering the conflict. All agreed that each side receives different information.

On Saturday, the final day of the seminar, Mr. Khoury and Dr. Klein presented participants with information on the two most-sensitive issues of the conflict: refugees and Jerusalem. In their presentations, the two referenced the solutions detailed in the Geneva Accord for the two issues and the questions underlying the issues, such as the conflicting narratives between the two sides. The presentation was followed by a heated discussion that provided a clear example of the great gaps between the narratives of each party. Next, GI Director Generals Gadi Baltiansky and Nidal Foqaha led a discussion on simple ways in which the two parties and the international community can support negotiations and facilitate their success. One of the suggestions brought forth was to look beyond the divisions of the past to a possible solution in the future, on which both sides can agree. Additionally, participants agreed that the gap between developments around the negotiating table and events on the ground was a detriment to the peace process. One participant suggested both sides talk about the ideas presented in the Geneva Accord instead of talking about the past.

The seminar ended with a closing session in which each participant summed up his or her experience and presented conclusions and ideas for the future. Many participants said the experience helped them to better understand the other side, and several people voiced their desire for follow-up activities. One participant, from the right wing of Israeli politics, said that he used to think war was the only solution to the conflict, but now sees a peaceful solution as a possible alternative.

Several seminar participants later wrote about their experiences at the seminar, and it received coverage in both Palestinian and Israeli media, including Arab Israeli media.