Fri. May 19 - some four hundred women – half Israeli, half Palestinians - will today hold grassroots peace negotiations, aiming to formulate solutions to the conflict. Held at the corner of Rothschild Boulevard and Shenkin St. in downtown Tel Aviv, the deliberations will be open to all, also chance passers-by would be welcome to join in for a part or the whole event. The congress will be held in the presence of international observers.
. The congress is designed to involve the people in the peacemaking efforts. A few days before the highly publicized Middle East visit of US President Trump, the idea – as with previous such events – is to show that ordinary Israelis and ordinary Palestinians – sitting together and having no other assets than common sense and bit of good will – can successfully tackle even the most difficult and sensitive issues. This should send a message to the leaders and politicians – those who are authorized to reach a binding agreement and implement it but who so far failed to do so.
Ultimately, the goal is the establishment of a major Israeli-Palestinian Public Negotiating Congress – a powerful peacemaking institution that will operate over a period of time and motivate the leadership, on both sides, to conclude agreements.
There were already numerous earlier such events, in conference halls in Israel and the West Bank, and in central public places in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The present Grassroots Negotiation Congress is different from 33 earlier ones in being a specific Congress of Women. This is an unusual and powerful event in the Middle Eastern social conditions. Women initiated the ‘Congress of the Women’ and they will lead it. It is noteworthy that the initiative to adopt that format was taken by Palestinian women, enthusiastically reciprocated by Israeli women.
The initiative is led by Dr. Sapir Handelman - an Israeli who received the Peter Becker Award in Peace & Conflict Research, who was involved in various conflict-solving initiatives at leading universities around the US and Canada and then moved the focus of of his activity to the streets of Israeli and Palestinian cities.
The congress is sponsored by the Leon Charney Resolution Center, which was established to help different communities cope with social crises and prepare the young generation to handle conflicts by peaceful means (see www.charneyresolutioncenter.com).
The late Leon Charney played an important role in the Camp David Accords, which led to the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Leon, who dedicated a major part of his life to back-channel diplomacy, understood that the road to peace and stability required peacemaking activities in multiple dimensions. Leon and his wife, Tzili, established the center in order encourage, develop, and initiate activities that can create the foundation for a better world.