Friendship Village
International Center for Education for Peace and Human Rights in a Multi-Cultural Society
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Young Politicians Peace Dialogue (YPPD) 2009-10

The turmoil and violence between Israel and the Palestinians has rendered nearly all grassroots attempts at cooperation between the two people impossible. In spite of the difficulties, however, the Israeli “Friendship Village” and the Palestinian "Center for Citizenship & Democratic Transformation" have developed a program promoting dialogue between young Israeli and Palestinian political and community leaders from the ages 20 to 35. Through a series of encounters that include lectures, discussions, workshops and study tours, participants of the project have an opportunity to discover the other’s perspectives and to achieve an understanding of their real mutual and divergent interests.

Although the possibilities for extended, open meetings are limited, project coordinators and programmers will implement YPPD through short-term bi and uni-national meetings.

It is important to note that while some of the project participants work in the political sphere, no political or governmental institution is involved; neither organizationally nor financially. The partnering NGOs are the exclusive organizers and coordinators of the Young Politicians Peace Dialogue.

Since its inception in 2005, the project has successfully completed five annual cycles, and has achieved its primary goals:

To develop a dialogue between young Palestinian and Israeli political and community leaders expected to hold positions in political bodies of decision-making.  The dialogues between the future negotiating partners provide the basis for trust and mutual understanding resulting from real knowledge of the other’s personal, cultural, social and political interests.
To introduce the participants to methods of negotiation and conflict management towards peaceful conflict-resolution.

Following the outburst of the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation in October 2000, the Gaza Operation in January 2009, and continued Israeli oppression of Palestinians, peace negotiations between the State of Israel and the Palestinian National Authority have virtually stopped. Powerful political forces on both sides have succeeded to eliminate almost every achievement of gradual peace emerging from the Oslo Peace Accords. The rival partners have resorted to their historic means for settling disputes: Brute force and violence. Unfortunately, these extremist forces garner support from their communities. Mutual hostility, fear and hatred run so deep, that any provocation from either side automatically leads to new waves of terror and violence.

Although a frustrating and perilous time, this situation has existed - with ups and downs- for almost a hundred years with almost every effort to resolve the conflict encountering enormous resistance and difficulty.  Nevertheless, there are many who believe that peaceful coexistence and cooperation - based on mutual respect and equality - is both possible and vital for the survival of both peoples. The main –and constant - obstacles are mutual suspicion and mistrust. Furthermore, no formal agreement between politicians and leaders will be successful if the majority of the respective constituents don’t accept or recognize the context for its terms.  Norms, values and entrenched habits must first be changed in order to make any movement towards peace and stability in the region possible.  A sustainable peace will only be established within the context of a “culture of peace,” and it is the younger generation who will be responsible for heralding in the new era.

Conflicts between people are composed of different factors, mostly propelled by material interests, a struggle for power, status, respect and dignity. These components can be approached from their cognitive aspects (trying to understand the reasons of the conflict, learning its history, personal and group background, interests, thinking over and discussing possible solutions, etc.) or from their emotional aspects (mistrust, fear, hatred, prejudices, stereotypes, hostility, etc.). When bringing together people from two (or more) ethnic, national or cultural groups that live in a state of conflict, both approaches have to be taken into consideration in an effort to solve the conflict – or to bring it to a level that both sides can accept.

Friendship Village offers a unique approach to inter-ethnic dialogue programs. Through “dynamic workshops” the cognitive factors of the conflict are used as a basis for raising the problems and concerns that are later elaborated on in the emotional work between the parties. It is by understanding the cognitive aspects of the conflict that the emotional aspects can be exposed and treated on the personal and group level. This is the beginning of the process permitting long lasting understanding and cooperation, and entry onto the road of peace.