OP-ED: Israel and PA Leaders Can’t be Relied on for Peaceby Scott Brockman December 20, 2016
Abbas? Netanyahu? Today’s leadership lacks the vision, motivation, courage and legitimacy to promote peace and to take the necessary steps to bring it about; their narrow concerns are sadly their personal and political survival.
Recognizing this, the School for Peace (SFP) at Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam has initiated a new program to engage up-and-coming politicians from Israel and across the border in the Palestinian territories to fight for peace and equality. This program is now preparing the next generation of politicians to be peace leaders by building skills, developing trust in the “other,” and increasing knowledge of the core issues involved in bringing peace: borders, historical narratives, the status of Jerusalem, refugees, and more.
In partnership with Inmaa, a NGO in the West Bank dedicated to the promotion of justice, rule of law, democracy, and human rights, the program is working now with 120 up-and-coming politicians – Palestinian Israelis, Jewish Israelis, and Palestinians from the emerging Palestinian state, who in the coming ten years will be our future political leaders.
The School for Peace and Inmaa, have investigated where political leaders develop from, and have used this knowledge to carefully select the participants of this program. In Israel, they have identified five sectors: members of the national executive committees of different parties, student unions, community groups serving Russian Israelis and Jewish Israelis from Arab countries, religious groups, and the media. In Palestine, political leadership comes from: members of the national executive committees of different parties, student unions, NGOs, labor unions, and municipal councils. The staff of SFP and Inmaa have strategically selected up-and-coming politicians by using their existing networks to conduct a serious inquiry into potential political leaders from the aforementioned groups.
All of the current program participants will be entering a political reality that now has far too many leaders who talk only to the extreme sides of any one issue making it all the harder to find the stamina and courage to speak in public about peace and express their conviction to bring change. The wrong voices are elevated now and this needs to change.
During this ongoing intensive program, participants will be working with the “other side” to develop a joint vision and gain practical experience in speaking about issues of peace in their communities. The up-and-coming politicians need the capacity to translate the knowledge they will gain into action and to motivate the public that has lost hope in reaching peace. They will achieve this by assessing the discourse and needs of local communities and learning to address them in a way that speaks to their hopes and fears.
At the local level, the 30 projects that will be developed by these 120 up-and-coming politicians will directly improve the lives of thousands of people in Israel and Palestine. At the national level, the participants will change the dialogue around peace among themselves, within their political parties, and within the broader political sphere by opposing extremism and showing their constituents and national leaders that there is hope for peace. Moreover, their greater understanding of the effect of government policies on individuals will drive them to more carefully consider not only the basic rationale of policies but also their effect on citizens’ day-to-day lives.
I want to strongly encourage you to share this story with others and consider helping us provide the necessary matching funds to ensure the European Union’s commitment to this program and its success. These up-and-coming politicians represent the future heads of their communities who will negotiate future peace. This program will provide them with the skills and knowledge needed. In its absence, the window of opportunity for a successful negotiated peace may be closed for another generation. Given the program’s potential and our past experience, you can now contribute to broad scale change in the conflict. Invest in peace now. If you have questions or need more details I am happy to provide you with documentation of the entire program. www.oasisofpeace.org/donate.
Scott Brockman is Executive Director of American Friends of Neve Shalom/ Wahat al-Salam. This article was originally published on Brockman’s Facebook page. Brockman occasionally blogs for Times of Israel.