Event Reports

Getting a grip on the other side of the story: Members of the Axel-Springer-Akademie visit the KAS Ramallah

As part of a one-week study tour through Israel, trainees and scholarship holders of the German Axel-Springer-Akademie spent a busy day in Ramallah on Saturday.

After visiting the checkpoint Qalandiya and seeing parts of the wall on the way from Jerusalem to Ramallah, the group had the special opportunity to meet Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki. Provided with the perspective of the Palestinian political leadership on topics as diverse as the declaration of statehood, the financial support of the European Union, and the role of water in the Middle East conflict, the participants engaged in an open and fruitful discussion with the Foreign Minister.

In the KAS office, a member of the influential Negotiation Support Unit (NSU) gave an excellent briefing on the “realities on the ground” which are to be taken into account in any negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, including the current proximity talks.

Trainees and scholarship holders of the German Axel-Springer-Akademie at their briefing with the Palestinian Foreign Minister

Afterwards, head of the KAS Ramallah Mr. Felix Dane presented the aims and the projects of the office which can look back on 14 years of successful work in the Palestinian Autonomous Territories. He also provided the group with interesting insights on the current political situation and the staggering peace process.

Belonging to Germany’s largest media company, the visitors had been looking forward to meeting a leading journalist in the region. Talking to the Director General of Al Jazeera Israel/Palestinian Territories, Walid al-Umari, the participants realized that both Palestinian and Israeli policies place obstacles on journalists and the exercise of free press.

Trainees and scholarship holders of the Axel-Springer-Akademie in front of the KAS Ramallah

The program was rounded off by a quick tour to the Presidential Palace Muqata’a, the grave of Yassir Arafat and Manara Square which at a Saturday evening is living proof of a busy, active Palestinian society that has not given up on normal life.

At the end of the day, many participants felt they were only just beginning – to see the many facets of the Middle East conflict and to understand that both parties to the conflict have legitimate needs and wants that must be respected by any future peace agreement.