A New Opportunity to Revive the Peace Process, Palestinian and Israeli Youth at the Table

  • Youth must be involved in the peace process – they want less talk and more action
  • Erekat and Livni agree that there is a “huge opportunity” to work together in the region towards achieving peace
  • Two states for two people is a reasonable expectation; Arabs need to “stand tall” and revisit education, good governance and rule of law
  • The region cannot continue “business as usual” – the message going forward should be one of hope, not negativity
  • For more information about the meeting: http://wef.ch/mena17

Dead Sea, Jordan, 20 May 2017 – The US president’s trip to the Middle East this week has resulted in “a lot of talk about reviving the peace process,” said France24’s Marc Perelman in a session on the opening day of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa. The notion that peace is achievable was confirmed by Saeb Erekat, Member of the Executive Committee of the PLO, Palestinian National Authority, Palestinian Territories, and Tzipi Livni, Foreign Minister (2009-2012) and Co-Leader of the Opposition, Knesset, Israel.

Erekat and Livni agreed that there are great prospects for the Palestinians and Israelis to work together in the region towards achieving peace. “I believe there is a huge opportunity to work together,” said Livni, “Two states for two peoples is reasonable. I am not ready to give up yet.”

“No one stands to lose more with the absence of peace than the Palestinians,” Erekat said. “It is a realization today that all of us [need peace]. It is a genuine need for Israelis, Palestinians and all Arabs. You cannot defeat ideas with bullets. Ideas cross borders without visas.”

Erekat said there are two conditions for peace in the region. First, the leadership of the state of Israel must recognize the state of Palestine. Second, it is important to recognize that 55% of the Arab population is under the age of 25; they have expectations and needs that must to be fulfilled, particularly the opportunity for employment. “As Arabs, we need to revisit education, good governance and the rule of law. We cannot continue business as usual,” he said.

Erekat noted that it is impossible to defeat terrorism in the absence of education and economic structure. He added: “This is the new reality. If US President Trump wants the ‘ultimate deal’ he needs to avoid the approach that US administrations have taken since 1993. He needs to move from what is possible to what is needed. We need to ‘live and let live’ with a two-state solution and full normalization … one state with two solutions is not sustainable. That is the honest truth.”

Livni said there are two options on the table: one is two states and the other is one state. She said it is important to end a conflict that started before the state of Israel was established. “The role of Arab states is very important for both sides. The game-changer is the Arab world. Peace across the region is important for change within the region.” She pointed to “narrow but deep gaps” in the peace negotiation process. Livni said it is time to stop “the blame game” and speak about the future.

Erekat countered that is important to stop the settlement activities: “We need to have a means of de-escalation and de-conflict. We expressed our readiness to engage seriously, but it is not about sitting down to talk or about negotiations. It is about decisions. We need a prime minister in Israel who is willing to put a map on the table to define borders, security and water.” Erekat continued: “Once we have a peace treaty, we can talk about prisoners, water and the borders. We need to reach an agreement that is fair. No one can dictate an agreement to us. That will not satisfy the Palestinians,” he said, calling for a “culture of peace”.

Livni pointed out that it is important to keep out the “background noise” during negotiations. “In the past, we had an understanding about what is needed for cultural peace. This is a good place to start.” She pointed to the fact that once peace is in the minds of both peoples, it will be achievable.

A young Global Shaper, part of a community of young people organized by the World Economic Forum to bring youth’s perspectives to world stage, pointed out that the title of the session is A New Context for Peace. “We need new methods and genuine directions,” he said. “We are bored with talk; we want action. The hope of young people in the Middle East is being killed. We need new thoughts and we need to stop the wars. We need to encourage young people to become more involved in society.”

The World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa is taking place at the Dead Sea in Jordan on 19-21 May. With the full support and presence of Their Majesties King Abdullah II and Queen Rania Al Abdullah, this year marks the Forum’s ninth meeting in Jordan and the 16th meeting in the region. More than 1,000 business and political leaders and representatives from civil society, international organizations, youth and the media from over 50 countries will participate under the theme, Enabling a Generational Transformation.