Good morning all. Day 2 is filled with Panel and Plenary Sessions. I, of course, can only be in one place at a time so we will be starting with Do Israelis “Care About Peace”?
Saturday, Feb. 27, 9:00 AM:
Chair: Hanna Barag, Board Member, Yesh Din. Israeli organization that monitors and advocates for the enforcement of Israeli law equally for Jews and Palestinians.
Moderator: Attila Somfalvi, Ynet Corrresponent
Panel: Daniel Ben Simon – Member of Knesset (Labor), Yuval Benziman – USA Director Geneva Initiative, Shlomo Molla – Member of Knesset (Kadima), Dahlia Scheindlin – Israeli Political Consultant and Public Opinion Analyst
Ben Simon: Real question is do we have the right leaders? What price will we pay? Every move towards peace put before the people has passed with between 72 and 90% of vote. Labor joined Netenyahu because they believed he was ready to be a statesman, not a politician. They were wrong. Palestinians have prepared now, have a more pragmatic leadership than Israel. Israeli leaders make peace or get sent home, that is the history Netenyahu ignores. West Bank has the mechanisms in place now for a state.
Benziman: 55% of Israelis think an agreement is not possible, BUT the same numbers SUPPORT an agreement on the basis of the Geneva Accords. Do not look at the right third, they will never change their mind. Concentrate on the other 67%. When fed Peace process in pieces, people oppose the invdividual items, BUT when presented with the same items in a full package they support them. In times of crisis, the people support their leaders in Peace and War. The leaders must lead to peace. Just like the average American does not know the details about Obama’s health care bill, just a general feeling – the average Israeli is the same about the Palestinian Conflict. The myth that all Israelis know what is going on is just that, a myth.
Molla: Made his way to Israel on foot when missed in two Israeli Government operations to help African Jews migrate. In Knesset since 2008. His speech much more political than the others. Talking that Kadima can bring peace, Likud can’t. Netenyahu has chosen ideology over peace. We need to send Netenyahu home. It is the only way. Netenyahu and Barak (Israeli Defense Secretary) have to go. We need Tsipi Livni.
VERY political speech, be probably correct.
Scheindlin: March 2010 Isralis put the conflict in 4th place (Arab pop put it in first). Education, Security, Poverty more important. But the other figures supporting Peace are also true. The problem is that many people don’t think it is possible. Since it is out of reach, it is not a high priority. 51% believe a peace deal could hurt Israeli security, result of the “Oslo reaction”., 68% do not trust that Palestinians will implement an agreement (the “Camp David reaction”).
Center leans just (52%) towards Peace, they need to be approached. 62% believe (mistakenly IMHO) that Israel can continue with status quo.
Somfalvi: Much distrust after results of disengagement from Gaza, pushed many from the left to the right. All three leaders take advantage of this fear to take votes. Even Livni as a negotiator stopped shrt. How can they bring peace?
Molla: Kadima stands behind their leader, and their leader needs to be willing to tell the people that pace is a good thing.
Somfalvi: Will she give up East Jerusalem?
Molla: Tried to make gov’t but failed BECAUSE she would not say to Shah that Jerusalem was not on the table. Molla does not go as far though as saying “Yes”.
Somfalvi: (to Ben Simon) How can a weak left push a peace agreement.
Ben Simon: The tragedy is that there are no real big parties anymore. Years ago 47 were not enough to form a government, now Likud has one with 27. Without large parties ou cannot have consensus. The process is broken. Each group has its own demand. You can not run a state, make a peace, win a report, with 20 different wills in the Knesset. “It is not going to be a peace of lovers, it is going to be a nice divorce.”
Somfalvi: How does Labor bring the left back to the party?
Ben Simon: The left has become so insignificnt politicaly but we still have the ideas. “Israeis elect the right to carry out the ideas of the left.”
Somfalvi (to Scheindlin an Benzimen): With Hezbollah quiet and the midle class secure, how do you convince them that their normal, combined with the fear inside the Israelis, is bad for their future.
Scheindlin: Israelis ARE awake and DO want peac. The obstacle is that Israelis do not believe they have a partner in the Palestinian Authority. Israelis need to feel that they have a partner that can speak for West Bank AND Gaza and sign a real deal. Israelis need someone they feel they can sign a deal with. Believes such people exist but need to show themselves. Likud’s official position is the position of Labor in 1998, peace. So Israelis tust them to be better negotiators. They have not been. (cynical Likud?)
Benzimen: Not looking at eternal problems in Israeli Society. Erosion of the democratic culture on may levels. Inseperable from the Palestinian conflict. Israelis need to learn to see the connection between their internal problems and finding peace. You cannot solve the former without FIRST solving the latter. Example, most Israelis see Iran as the biggest threat, but do not see how peace with Palestinians helps isolate Iran.
Somfalvi: Statement: Israeli laders USE the threats to run away from important decisions. Ianian problem is gov’ EXCUSE not to deal with questions.
Mna questions asked, then answers all together, I asked if the fact that for the first time in history he Israelis an Palestinians are both afraid of the same thing and it is NOT each other, it is the change around them. How can this be used to move forward the peace?
Answers to questions (sorry I don’t have the questions, but I was on line.
1 – No, the actual system will not change. Israeli law requires an agreement of ALL parties involved to change the parliamentary system. That will never happen. The advantage is that the coalition is so strongly controlled by Netenyahu that he can do anything, INCLUDE MAKE PEACE, if he only ha the will.
2 – Millions spent on Peace programs have not been wasted. We are not there. WikiLeaks just reinforced peoples beliefs, regardless of content. However, the ability to discuss peace openly and without fear of reprisal, while not complete, is much stronger than it used to be because of that money spent.
3 – Idea of Palestinians pitching for a one state solution will rush Israel to a two state solution, it will lock them into opposing peace.
4 – My Q – answered by Scheindlin – Yes Egypt is a real opportunity. May bring Israel to promote stability through a peace process and Palestinians may look for it through elections if they happen.
On to the next session.
My big mistake. I have both Press and regular credentials, butI left the rgular credentials at the hotel, so the panel I wanted to attend next, Finding You Voice: Having the COnversation on Street and Israel in Your Community, I can’t – it is NO PRESS.
So instead I am attending Expanding the Tent for the Two-State Solution in Israel.
Chair: Rachel Steinberg – International Education Program Manager for OeVoice
Moderator: Attila Somfalvi – Same as last panel
Panel: Yoel Hasson – Member of Knesset (Kadima) and head of the Two State Lobby, Oren Magnezy – Former Avisor to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Dahila Scheindlin (see last panel)
Ask each for their overview:
Scheindlin: 45% Right, 27% Center, 17% left, 12% DK/unidentified. 12% believed to probably lean right. Next slide is same slide from last panel showing how the center tends o agree with left on peae.
21% of Kadima make peace higher priority as compared to 14% labor and 11% Likud ( onl Shas is lower with 5%) However 70% of Kadima think Peace is essential, only 34% of Likud (again, only Shas worth with 31%)
Hasson: Two State Peace is an idea of the Center, not the left or the right. Sharon built the fnc reluctantly out of acknowledgement that their needs to be a real border. Now the center can bring it about.
Somfalvi interrupts to oint out that Kadima heaed a pace negotiation that failed.
Hasson respons that if you look at the Palestinian Papers you can see that Kadima was ready, the Palestinians were not. A real “politicians answer”, more adressing what the can do in the center than what they failed to do.
Somfalvi points out that Oren and Yoel started on the right and have moved center.
Magnezy: Headed Likud Youth movement. Parents were Libyan refugees, first language was Arabic. Easy for someone like him to keep Peace for granted. This “experiment” has been going on for 63 years, and it needs change to go on. Could not stay in a party whose “platform starts with the word ‘No'”. No change on his belief of what is right, just in the level of need to get it done now. A lot of it is about how you reach the center, which may not appeal to J street, even if we have to challenge on issues like water rights.
Somfalvi: Are we perhaps pushing a process that nes to develope over time. What is the urgency?
Scheinlin: Back to status quo question: only 30% believes Israel risks becomig single state/arab majority. Being on the left has become “toxic”. Israelis do not think in terms of long term viability. Israelis think in the moment, and feel in this moment that they are safe maintaining the status quo.
Magnezy: Issue for Israelis is fear of returning to the past dangers. That is the interest.
Somfalvi: Interest of Sharon was disengagement, not peace. Unilateral exit from Gaza was disengagement, not negotiation.
Scheinlin: Politicians have a way of saying one thing and doing something different. That both Kadima and Likud are guilty of speaking about peace and then taking actions that torpedo it.
Magnezy: If Israelis vote for the center it will not be because of the Palestinian peace, but because Israel’s perception of itself as starting to suffer in it’s place in the world and ability to deal with its own issues. The real poll question, more than sum of all of the issues, is “Do you believe that the country is going in the right direction?” Parties in Israel don’t win. other parties lose. People decide the current government is failling and gives the other a chance (Author’s not – true in US too). If you fight to change the economy and at the same time make clear that the Palestinian Peace Process ties into that, you have possibility. If you leave the Palestinian Issue as just one of human rights it dos not have traction for Israeli’s not because they are cruel but because they are facing their own economic problems.
Q & A: One person points out we have not discussed what the Palestinians think in his panel.
Scheinlin: Israelis need to see that Palestinian Statehood is on its way. Settlement issue must be addressed FIRST if Palestinians are going to take a two state solution.
Hasson: We KNOW that in a final agreement that most Settlements will have to go. But some people want to use the settlements as a bludgeon. All building is us for nedeed room at this point an Israel knows they will have o abandon them. (Author’s note: Does not address why Palestinians should believe that.)
Magnezy: We in Kadima need to do a better job of coming up with new ideas and making people hear that they HAVE good ideas. More Israelis need to see that there is a Palestinian Middle Class.
1.What about US support? Does the US actions in the UN, etc., really effect things in Israel.
2. How do you increase Arab vote in Israel?
3. -Street called onUN not to veto UN Resolution. How does that help or hurt J-Street perception in Irael?
4 – Why do issues of human rights and Palestinians resoate so poorly, especially with the youth.
5 – Couldn’t peace proces lose vote amongst ews?
6 – What do you mean exactly by a two state solution in terms of final status issues?
Scheinlin: New youth study -rising sense of patriotism and zionism, that has become the code to their patriotism which puts them against some NGOs. They came to age over a decade of little or no hope. 2nd intifadah started when they were 10. Since is their reality, the sense of resignation. Since Human Rights Orgs equate Zionism wih Racism leaves Non-racist Zionists in the cold.
Magnezy: On Security Council, UN not part of Peace Process, US is plus Israel and Palestinians. The Veto is not a tool that should be used or not used as a tool in the peace process. (Author’s note I do not agree)
Hasson: On Obama: Thinks he made a mistake in his message to Israel in that he applied pressure, not choice. Choice makes people take positions, while pressure just makes people push back.
Plenary Session: History Before Our Eyes: Broader Implications of Democracy Movements in the Arab World
Chair: Ambassador Samuel Lewis, Former American diplomat and former head of the US Institute for Peace
Moderator: Steve Clemons, Senior Fellow, New America Foundation
Panelists: Mona Eltahaway – Journalist, Ron Pundak – Director General, The Peres Center for Peace, Robert Serry – United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.
Lewis: Describes events as Tsunami, biggest events in Arab world since 1967 War.
Serry: Only international envoy actually based on the ground, in Jerusalem. Starting with standard plattitudes from UN about peace through non-violence, respecting human rights, need to end violence in Libya, and that UN has referred Libya to international criminal court. Need to make sure revolutions are democratic and not “hijacked by radical forces”. A breakthrough in Israeli/Palestinian conflict would move this forward, while a lack thereof makes it more difficult. Secretary General visiting Obama tomorrow. Came THIS close to acknowledging Iran as an existential threat to Israel, bt just fell short (‘understands the concerns’).
Says that Palestinians have built a state in waiting at this point, but this will disintegrate without a contiguous land in which to enact it. We must aid the Palestinians by helping the Palestinians to settle their own internal differences so they can assure non-violent solutions. Th new rocket fire from Gaza must stop, and urges Israel to exercise restraint. Israel must in a world of uncertain Arab Change secure itself by increasing world support and lowering local liabilities, which can ONLY be achieved through peace based on popular consent.
Israel cnnot tak the talk without walking the walk. Palestinians can only believe what Israel says abou settlements if thy are not tearing down the Shepards Hotel in East Jerusalem and approving 2,000 new settlement units n the West Bank. They cannot expect the Palestinians to just sit down and talk, there must be actions of substance to find a way back to the negotiating tables.
Pundak: “Unfortunately in Israel we do not have as thorough a discussion” as this conference and hopes they can “export what J Street is doing” to Israel.
Best reccomendation for Israel would have been to shut up, but out Prime Minister has a paranoid obsession that everything that is happening can only be looked at in terms of how this will harm Israel. They are obsessed in dealing with the past. Everything is looked at as anti-zionist, anti-semitic, or anti-something. As King George had much to say and no capacity, Netenyahu has “zero to say yet much capacity.” His parents came in 48. “Our government is eopardizing our beautiful, succesful wonderful zionist project”. Says an “honest deal” has never been offered by ANY Israeli Prime Minister (Author’s note: not sure I agree). Also, need to integrate the 20% Israeli Arabs fully into society. Such a working plan exists – what came out of the Geneva Initiatives, but we don’t have an ISRAELI partner, an Israeli leadership that will create the cornerstone for better relationships with the new Egypt, the new Tunisia, and even Iran. A solution including Jerusalem is reachable.
He believes, an may be the only one in Israel, that believes that Iran is using Israel as an excuse, but the nuclear program is NOT an Iranian-Israeli issue. All efforts to avoid a nuclear Iran should continue, but the fact is that the midle East can absorb and survive a nuvlear Iran through programs around the worl already in place. In the meantime Israel alienates Turkey, an ally, based on creating a “false enemy” in Iran.
This administration (Obama) must understand that the current Israeli Gov’t will never put a plan on the table. The US should put a plan on the table of its own. Let Israelis know there is a possibility for a Peace Plan that does NOT require action by Netenyahu – could help the Israelis get rid of Netenyahu.
Eltahaway: Pissed off when Israel’s first question in Tunisia was “what does this mean to Israel” when the real question is about the Tunisian people. It is not about Israel, it is “about us for a change. Don’t be so narcissistic. Be happy for once it is not about you.” Each step of the way, the next step has been called impossible. To think this will magically stop at the border of the Palestinian Territories is ridiculous. The Arab world, regardless of the next government, will not want to go to war with Israel but the hatred of Israel will not end until Palestinians are treated with the freedom of dignity deserved of all human beings. The new Egyptian generation did not grow up during war, but they did grow up seeing the palestinians. She is an example. Her heart is in the middle east but her mind is in the west. She wants to be partenrs with the west, she wants western values, but she can’t be a partner of the west while the west allows the Palestinians to suffer. All the dictators who tried to stop this change were “10 days too late” in addressing them, don’t let Israel be “10 days too late.” It is a people’s movement an it does not stop and it IS NON-VIOLENT. Two dictatorships have been taken apart non-violently. Agree to march non-violently for freedom and dignity for palestinians an arabs will be there with you. Call for that March and I will be there.”
Is there a way for Israel to secure it’s interests with the new governments coming forward, is it possible to do i without resolving Palestine? anto Serry, UN has a ba rep towards Israel with American Jews – is it deserved? What can america do, should we put a plan on the table?
Elthaway: I do not believe that ANYTHING will be resolved without resolving the Palestinian issue. There is no way you can create a “black hole” where Gaza is still under seige and talk with governments that have just thrown off dictatorial governments. They will insist on a resolution.
Pundak: That message needs to go to Israeli people and “cowards” in the Knesset who would not come here, and not to the government because the government dominates from the far right and will be extremist until it is done. “I would like to see an uprising of the Israeli people against OUR government”. Pressure today must come from the Jewish voices of th world on the Israeli govt that if it continues on this path Israel will wind up with a government like Mubarak or Ali.
Serry: UN has complicate relationship with Israel, but do not forget that UN brought Israel into existence, created an international resolution acknowledging the Holocaust. Also the work they do in Gaza helps Israel as well.
Question to Elthaway: How does Muslim Brotherhood involvement in Egypt Government effect resolution of Hamas/PA split? Is a democracy led by a Muslim party a possible full democracy? Can it work with Israel?
Elthaway: Muslim Brotherhood leadership are old men and this revolution sweeps out old men. The support for the revoluton from MB came late and came from the MB youth. The MB is now going to have its own internal battles, will be tested to come up with a real platform. Mubarak Regime played a role in the suppression of the Gazan people, and this will not ust be forgotten.
Question to Pundak: How DO you get a conversation like J-Street going in Israel?
Pundak: We lack serious progressive think tanks an brave politicians. He thinks Israelis will recognize that, SEPARATE FROM THE PALESTINIAN ISSUE, this government is an existential threat to it’s own form of government. Good news is that once you get a government that will make the moves, the people will support it. Peace between Israel and Syria is doable, and even the Palestinians support it. Now they believe it will help them.
Now the Palestinians are talking about declaring a state in September, and have been working towards it for two years. If this happens and no one has impoved the relationship between now and then in order to avoid another huge crisis.
Question to Serry: How do we move the process forward?
Serry: Quartet meeting next week. Can’t discuss specifics, but there is agreement that something more will be needed than telling everyone to go back to the table.
Question: If Israel does not act why don’t we ultimately impose a “soft deal” that it can blame on the US and the UN but thus act without taking the blame. Same as how we got Japan to liberalize their markets. Give them no choice but to do what they already know they need to do and let them blame us for doing it (Authors Note: On first thought that actually sounds like a good idea)
Pundak: Pressure and support in enforcing neeed, not a mandate.
Serry: What do you do if it doesn’t work? the absence of a hope for peace is dangerous? Doou come with a peace plan that you know will be rejected by one party or another? What does that cause? At the same time, he knows that 2011 is the year that the international community will be held accountable for it’s behavior ( Elthaway:or the west can become irrelevant – Gaza war, an unjust massacre of Gazans that the Israeli gov’t was tone death to the people on the ground aroud the world an how the worl was looking at Israel).
Question: Israel is always blamed for failure to peace? Are the Palestinian leaders also responsble? Any truth to talk of party change b Pundak? What are you most concerned/optimistic about from these changes,
Serry: Compares to Eastern Europe. Elthaway is right that this is a positive people’s agenda, but it will be shaped over time. Serry still hopes that it will be possible under US and Quartet leaership to salvage peace under this Israeli gov’t.
Eltahawy: Hamas was elected because the PA was corrupt and the US knew it and turned a blind eye. Nobody pushed for the space for the middle to talk because “we like strong dictators”. That era is finished. Hamas and PA will no survive it, what comes in it;s place? The youth have already signed a protocol saying essentialy FU Hamas, FU PA, FU Israel, FU US”.
Pundak: Many groups in Israel are working towards creating a united front that will make the change towards what Israeli peopl want.
Clemons (closing): All feels so urgent because of two forces, the changes in the Arab World and deterioration of Israeli democracy. US stand that Mullen is spreading coring to what White House told him is that “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk” That they cannot expect the US to prop them up if they violate the social contract with their own people. We need to say the same to Israel (Author’s note: Not sure I would put it quite the same way, but he has a point)
And NOW – LUNCH!