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A group of 15 Israelis and Palestinians participated in a seminar from September 7-10 in Cadenabbia, Italy for young activists and journalists. The participants represented a diverse demographic of citizens in the region what contributed not only to the political discussions of the seminar but also offered an intimate glimpse of the challenges faced by Israeli and Palestinian citizens in this region.
The participants flew through Ben-Gurion Airport at noon of September 7th and arrived to Villa La Collina on Lake Como in the evening. After a festive dinner and opening remarks of the resident representative of KAS Israel, Dr. Michael Borchard, and the partners in the seminar, Nidal Foqaha and Daphna Perry from the Geneva Initiative, the participants have introduced themselves, their motivation for attending the seminar and got to know each other.
The next day the representatives of the Geneva Initiative gave an overview of the main points of the Geneva accords and its suggested solution to the core issues of the conflict. In the next session Dr. Borchard has presented the recent survey conducted by KAS, together with the IDI and PSR, and showed the misconception among Israelis and Palestinians about the other side. Dr. Borchard has shown what the contested core issues of conflicts are and emphasized which groups are the hardest nuts to convince in any future solution and what can serve as an incentive for them to support a peace agreement.
Following Dr. Borchard, the Palestinian participants have elaborated on the inner political trends and developments in the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Director of the Geneva Initiative, Mr. Nidal Foqaha, has given an update about national politics and the municipal elections that were cancelled while the seminar took place. He explained the role of the Palestinian Supreme Court and mentioned the decrease in its independence nowadays. A Palestinian participant has given a short overview about the situation in Hebron and the constraints inflicted on the Palestinian population in the area. Another Palestinian gave a short lecture about the position of youth in the Palestinian Authority and the how the high levels of unemployment create more frustration among young adults.
After lunch the Israeli participants have briefed the Palestinians on the current political situation in Israel. The Israeli journalists have outlined the recent trends in Israel’s national politics, as well as the geopolitical developments in the region. The Israeli political activists have updated about the relatively new political parties in Israel, Kulanu and Yesh Atid, and explained what the main issues these parties are promoting. After the sessions, the group have gone to a guided boat trip in Lake Como and had free time in the picturesque town of Bellagio.
The next day has started with brief notes of Dr. Borchard about Israel’s image in the world. He has expressed his concern that Israel is distancing itself consciously from the western world. Afterwards the architect, Yehuda Greenfield-Gilat, who took part in the design of the Jerusalem annex of the Geneva Accord, gave a thorough lecture about how the Geneva Initiative offers to divide Jerusalem between Israel and the future Palestinian state. After a coffee break he continued with possible solutions to the Palestinian refugees issue and emphasized the significance of a flourishing Palestinian economy in facilitating the rehabilitation of the refugees inside the Palestinian state. He concluded that Israel, for its own interest, must do everything nowadays to assist and encourage the Palestinian economy, mostly in the Jordan Valley.
After lunch the group welcomed the well-known Palestinian journalist Mohammed Daraghmeh who elaborated on the Palestinian press. He mentioned the challenges which the media in the Palestinian territories faces namely its lack of freedom and independence and its affiliation to the governing power, either the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank or Hamas in the Gaza strip. After his words, the participants were divided into unilateral groups to discuss what can they actively do to promote a peace agreement and what do they need from the other side in order to reach a solution. After noon the group had free time to tour the area on their own.
On the last day, the participants were divided into two mixed groups to discuss how they personally can promote a dialogue and agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. They offered ways to increase Israeli-Palestinian interaction and encounter between the two peoples, to enlarge the media cover-up of everyday life in the west bank and to involve more politicians in favor of the two-state solution. After final remarks and evaluation, the group headed back to the airport and flew back.