Palestinians and Israelis met in Nazareth for a weekend seminar

On February 10-11, the Geneva Initiative brought together 20 senior opinion leaders and political activists from Israel and Palestine for two days of lectures, discussions and joint work in the city of Nazareth. The weekend seminar focused on key issues of the conflict and solutions proposed by the Geneva Initiative, and provided participants with detailed knowledge and a toolkit for promoting the two-state solution. It also demonstrated to the participants that there remains a partner for peace on the other side. As one Israeli participant said, "getting to know the Palestinian group made me realize that people on the other side want peace just as I do".



The group was extremely diverse, with participants coming from all across Israel and Palestine. They included current and former Israeli and Palestinian officials, key civil society leaders, young professionals, party activists, women's rights leaders and journalists. They were chosen to participate in the seminar thanks to being highly motivated and politically active, and since they engage on a daily basis with diverse Israeli and Palestinian communities from across the political spectrum. Now that they have the necessary knowledge and tools, the group is better equipped to effectively advocate for the two-state solution within the Palestinian and Israeli political systems and discourses. They are also a lot more motivated, as one participant said: "this weekend gave me a real energy boost. I'm leaving the seminar filled with hope and motivation to act."
On the first day of the seminar, the group was welcomed by the Geneva Initiative's Palestinian and Israeli Directors, Nidal Foqaha and Gadi Baltiansky, who briefed them about some of the recent local and international developments and future prospects for the Peace Process. Then, the participants went through an intensive series of lectures, workshops and discussions on the core issues of the conflict and proposed solutions. The seminar also gave the participants a chance to learn about lessons from other conflicts around the world: Dr. Galit Desheh gave them a lecture on the conflict in Northern Ireland, highlighting some of the similarities and lessons learned – focusing on the role of civil society in conflict mitigation and peace promotion.
As is always the case in joint Geneva Initiative activities, creating a space where the participants - most of which have never spent time with people from the opposite side before - feel comfortable to interact and discuss complex and sensitive issues relating to the conflict was particularly important. A series of participatory exercises led by the seminar's facilitator Amnon Levav (Systematic Innovative Thinking (SIT)) helped create an atmosphere that enabled an open and constructive discussion. Many of the participants said that interacting with people from the other side left a deep impression on them. "Talking with the Palestinian participants about the conflict, including though issues like the different narratives and histories, religion, violence and terrorism – was not always easy", said one Israeli participant after the seminar. "But it was clear to all of us that it is absolutely necessary if we want to go past our differences and work together on building a better future".
This seminar was made possible through the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).