The Geneva Initiative's new political course in Ashkelon

After concluding several successful political courses across the country (including in Afula, Ashdod and Ramat-Gan), the Geneva Initiative ran a course in the southern city of Ashkelon throughout February and March. Next on the agenda: a tour of east Jerusalem and a workshop with graduates of a parallel Palestinian course.


The course attracted a very diverse group of highly politically active participants, including members of the local council, managers of educational and cultural centers operating in the city and party activists from very diverse ideological backgrounds.
The first meeting opened with a meeting with Yossi Beilin, the Israeli chairperson of the Geneva Initiative, who briefed the participants about the feasibility of the two-state solution in light of recent domestic, regional and international developments. Beilin's optimistic approach and messages were met with very enthusiastic questions and comments. The participants raised issues such as: how do we convince people in our community that the two-state solution is still feasible? What are the advantages of bilateralism, as opposed to unilateral actions? And how should we raise the issue of ending the conflict when addressing people who deeply oppose the two-state solution?
Next, the participants attended a series of lectures on various aspects of the conflict and proposed solutions, and also learned from peace building efforts in other conflicts – particularly the Northern Irish experience. A meeting with Former Palestinian Minister and current resident of Gaza Hisham abed al Razak was particularly eye opening for the participants, as several of them actually moved to Ashkelon in 2005 after being evacuated from settlements in the Gaza strip. The participants heard about the situation in Gaza: lack of basic services, unemployment, rising frustration among youth – and what all these mean for the future of Israel and the Palestinians. "We can't ignore Gaza when talking about finding a solution to the conflict", said one participant after meeting Hisham. "Whether we like it or not, it's there to stay". 
In the upcoming weeks, the course participants will deepen their understanding of the current situation and prospects for the two-state solution by touring the greater Jerusalem area with borders expert Col. (res.) Shaul Arieli, and will learn more about the Palestinian perspective through a workshop with graduates of a parallel Palestinian course.  


Geneva Initiative Israeli chairperson Yossi Beilin, and reconciliation and transitional justice expert Dr. Galit Desheh, addressing the course participants

This course is made possible through the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development.