“Ma’aleh Adumim is not going anywhere unless the Israeli government changes. This is the best answer I can give right now,” stated an Israeli participant to a frustrated group of Palestinians at a “public negotiating congress” Friday in Tel Aviv.
Huddled under 17 canopies along Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard, some 250 Israelis and 250 Palestinians discussed and debated solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The event, hosted by the NGO Minds of Peace, sought to involve the public in peacemaking by establishing “Israeli- Palestinian public negotiating congresses,” according to the NGO’s website.
In these congresses, like the one on Rothschild Boulevard, Israelis and Palestinians from all walks of life meet face-to-face and attempt to reach informal peace agreements. Ultimately, the organization hopes to establish a major Israeli-Palestinian negotiation congress to further the peace process.
Dr. Sapir Handelman, chairman of Minds of Peace, told The Jerusalem Post that bringing the Israeli and Palestinian public together adds a missing component to peace negotiations. “The leadership needs to know that the public is behind them in the peace process.
Moreover, if the people are not involved, any peace process will crumble once the violent minority tries to impede a solution,” stated Handelman Handelman, an academic specializing in conflict resolution, modeled the Israeli-Palestinian congress after similar public congresses that pushed for peace in South Africa and Northern Ireland.
On Rothschild some participants engaged in heated debates on topics ranging from settlement building and the Palestinian right of return. However, others were seen joking around and laughing.