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Senior Shas Leaders Meet Palestinians in Budapest

On September 4-7, the Geneva Initiative hosted a joint seminar in Budapest for Shas party leaders.
Senior Shas party members and leading Palestinian figures participated in the seminar. Among Shas representatives were Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, MK Yitzhak Vaknin; Mayor of Beit Shemesh, Moshe Abutbul; Attorney for Shas Chairman Eli Yishay, Noah Tzadok, and the party's legal advisor, David Glass. The group was accompanied by Ya'akov Rivlin, reporter for the Haredi newspaper "Ba'kehila". Palestinian representatives included Former Minister Sufiyan Abu Zaidah, Former Minister Ashraf Al-Ajrami, and international law specialist Mustafa Al-Ustaaz. Additionally, "Yediot Aharonot" writer Zvika Brut joined the seminar.
The seminar contained four days of debate, which focused on the core issues of the Conflict and on the solutions presented in the Geneva Accord. A large portion of the debate also centered around Shas's role as a participant in the decision making process in the Israeli political system, and on its ability to influence Israeli governments on this topic. The current political situation, specifically the potential implications of the Palestinian UN bid, were also discussed.
MK Vaknin said during the seminar that "Israel needs a leader who is brave and willing to take risks. One cannot say he or she is willing to 'make painful concessions', but to impose so many limits on negotiations with the Palestinians at the same time. If we do not take these steps, we will find ourselves handicapped in our position in negotiations and our ultimate concessions will be much larger than what is proposed today. Once it was taboo to meet with Palestinians, but today everyone meets with Palestinians. That is proof that we had forbidden things in the past, for no reason. The time we are missing is precious."
The small number of participants, and the location on neutral territory, contibuted to an intimate, open and informal environment which helped bring the two sides closer and allowed them to form real relationships.
Israeli daily newspaper, Yadiot Aharonot, published an article about the seminar in its Weekend Magazine. To read the article, translated from Hebrew by Geneva Initiative staff, click here.