Another Co-Existence Effort Launches Amid Devolving Peace Process

Israel’s parliament hosts kick-off for international group

[JERUSALEM] A bipartisan group of Israeli lawmakers gathered in parliament Monday where a chapter of Youth and Students for Peace (YSP), a global non-governmental organization dedicated to fostering co-existence while raising the next generation of leaders, was celebrating its inauguration. The YSP was created in 2017 with the goal of building better societies through altruism and service projects. The group already has over 70 regional and national branches with several thousand active members.

At the core of the YSP’s philosophy is a focus on creating peace from the ground up—what it terms “micro-peace”—by emphasizing the importance of the nuclear family, which the organization describes as the fundamental unit of society. YSP is also guided by the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, ranging from alleviating poverty to tackling climate change and violent extremism.

Heading the event was legislator Hilik Bar (Labor), who was joined by, among others, his Arab-Israeli counterparts Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Union) and Druse-Israeli Akram Hasson (Kulanu). In his opening statements, Bar noted that while discussions about peace currently are not in vogue in Israel, it is nevertheless crucial to impart to the next generation the imperative of forging reconciliation with the Palestinians.

Bahloul noted that even those who speak of peace do so within the context of “separating” from the Palestinians, which he believes is misguided. “We need engagement, not division,” he asserted, adding that the YSP embodies this principle. For his part, Hasson reinforced the notion that “the youth are the future,” while recalling that before the Second Intifada—the Palestinian terror war against Israel from 2000-2005—Israelis worked freely and safely with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and vice versa.

The initiative comes amid an unprecedented crisis between the United States and the Palestinian Authority, which has boycotted the White House in the wake of President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Abbas recently launched a diplomatic campaign to garner support for a more inclusive peace process after having disqualified Washington from its historical role as mediator of negotiations.

Last week, Abbas traveled to Brussels to lobby European Union member states to help internationalize prospective talks, which might also include the likes of Russia and China. Speaking over the weekend at a summit in Ethiopia, the Palestinian leader declared that, “pursuing peace efforts requires the establishment of a multilateral mechanism under the umbrella of the United Nations,” adding that African nations too would have a role to play.

Attending the launch of YSP in Israel was Dutch lawmaker Hanten Broeke, a member of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, whose address to the plenum evidenced the subtle nuances—if not inconsistencies—that many attribute for the longstanding inability to solve the conflict. While acknowledging that President Trump’s Jerusalem declaration was correct and represented nothing more than a recognition of reality, in his next breath Broeke nonetheless denounced the move because of the resulting outburst by the Palestinians, which, in his view, are “desperate.”

“It is very difficult to find the right answers but it is of enormous importance to get the parties back to the table,” Broeke later told The Media Line. As regards Abbas’ repeated denunciations of the White House, he contended that it was necessary to look past the rhetoric and likened the peace process to a “divorce”—this, notably, in contrast to Bahloul’s statements—whereby both parties need to accept that the status quo is unsustainable and thus do whatever is necessary to detach from one another.

Bar expressed a similar urgency and condemned to The Media Line those who maintain the “defeatist attitude” that claims present conditions are not ripe for peace. “In the Middle East [many say that] it will never be the right time [for peace] and we will never have a perfect partner. But we must keep in mind that in the past [Israel] had much bigger enemies, like Egypt, and we made peace. Why? Because back then there were courageous leaders on both sides and they simply decided that now is, in fact, the time.”

As regards jump-starting what he deems an essential process towards safeguarding Israel’s future, Bar stressed that, “I have told [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu many times to put something on the table, make an offer. We worked in our caucus and we gathered ideas into a peace plan that I have presented at many institutions and parliaments around the world.

“It may not be perfect but we are initiating,” he concluded, “and we are trying to put ideas on the table. This is the most important thing.”

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