Joint Seminar for Israeli Shas Voters and Palestinians in Prague

From April 3 to 6, Geneva Initiative convened a joint seminar in Prague that brought together Israeli Shas voters and Palestinians.

Participants in the three day seminar included MK David Azoulay (Shas), MK Avraham Michaeli (Shas), and journalist for the religious press, Avi Bloom.  Palestinian participants included Sama'an Khoury, former minister Ashraf al - Ajrami, Sameh Khader, and Issa Abu Aram.  GI's Israel Director General Gadi Baltiansky  participated in the seminar, as well as Geneva Initiative's Elad Dunayevsky..

Gadi Baltiansky gave background to the formation of Geneva and the main contents of the agreement.  Participants were asked to examine the contents of the agreement after the seminar and return to Israel to promote the agenda of a permanent agreement with the Palestinians among the population groups they are close to.

Sama'an Khouri addressed the group with background on the negotiations that led to the consolidation of Geneva, pointing out that many of the individuals who participated in formulating the Geneva undertandings also participated in the negotiations at Camp David and Taba.  Khouri argued that one of the factors that enabled Geneva negotiators was a media silence under which they operated.  He further noted that reaching an agreement does not mean that an agreement will be implemented shortly after signing--in any scenario, application will be gradual. He further noted that solving the problem of refugees as part of a permanent agreement will not only address the concrete problem of refugees who lost their homes, but the whole consciousness of Palestinian refugees broadly.

At the meeting, MK David Azoulay (Shas) noted: "We are not just people who say no. Ultimately, if there is an agreement that meets the political and security problems of Israel, I am sure that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef will support this agreement. Any Jew who prays has the issue of peace in his prayers . Peace without a peace agreement is not peace. "

During his talk, Ashraf Al - Ajrami, former minister for prisoner affairs in the Palestinian Authority, argued that the most important issue in negotiations is the borders. "If we reach an agreement on this issue, we deal not just about borders, but also the issue of settlements in East Jerusalem." Al - Ajrami argued that the guiding principle for negotiations should be 1967 lines, since the international community recognizes this line.  However, Palestinians recognize that they must pay attention to the present reality on the ground, and so are open to the principle of territorial exchanges. Al - Ajrami claimed that 2.3% of the West Bank could be included in an exchange of territories.

On mutual recognition, said Khoury, the world recognizes Israel as it was established in1948. Palestinians recognized Israel in 1988 when they decided to recognize the 1967 borders.  Regarding Jerusalem, Khoury noted that the international community does not recognize East Jerusalem as part of Israel. The Geneva model would leave the Old City of Jerusalem  united, but  sovereignty divided. "There is no difference between the position of the Palestinian leadership and the Geneva Initiative," said Khoury.  Regarding Hamas, Khouri claimed that the movement won Palestinian elections in 2006 due to lack of peace. He expressed hope for a future peace that can be a warm peace, contrary to Israel's peace with Egypt and Jordan

Sameh Khader also addresed changes in the Arab world and argued against the existence of incitement in Palestinian schools, asking whether the Israelis are doing enough to cover what is really going on Palestinian education system.

The meeting concluded with conversation between Palestinian participants who had been prisoners in Israeli jails, and Israeli participants regarding the reasons for their arrests and the changes they experienced while imprisoned.