First Published: 2011-06-29

 

The Israeli Uprising

 

The seeds of the uprising in Israel may be fomenting now - a growing demand for the government to save Israel from a future of endless warfare and to propose a two-state solution along the 1967 borders, says Naava Mashiah.

 

Middle East Online

Geneva - “What Israel now needs is an uprising.” This is the comment I heard on the side-lines of the discussions at a conference called “Enriching the Economic Future of the Middle East VI” that took place in mid-May in Qatar.

Over 600 participants from 80 counties gathered to discuss the implications of the recent Arab uprising and the future economic prosperity of the Middle East and North Africa. Although talk of an Israeli uprising was not the main theme that emerged from the two-day conference, it had the ears of the handful of Israelis in attendance ringing.

When talking about an “uprising”, the speakers were not calling on Israel to transition to a democracy, since Israel is already considered a democracy by most of its citizens. The comments were referring, rather, to the absence of an Israeli voice of peace, or a perceived Israeli indifference towards solving the conflict.

I feel a responsibility as an Israeli to correct this skewed impression. I wanted to tell the participants – many of whom are leading political and business figures in the Arab world – about the Israelis who are working hard to make peace a reality and are now gaining momentum. Their actions may not yet constitute an uprising, but their emergence is a symptom of the growing concern amongst left-wing but also left-of-centre people across Israel over the absence of a government-led peace process.

A major initiative that I tell people about is the Israeli Peace Initiative (IPI), established under the leadership of Koby Huberman, a leader in the Israeli high-tech industry and a civil society entrepreneur; Yaakov Perry, former head of Israel’s General Security Services; and Yuval Rabin, son of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The IPI’s mission is to urge the government to accept the extraordinary Arab Peace Initiative from 2002 – which offers an end to the conflict and full normalisation in exchange for Israel’s complete withdrawal from the Occupied Territories – as a basis for regional negotiations.

It may be only a civil movement at this time, comprised of prominent citizens and business leaders. However, civil movements have a record of influencing public opinion and generating pressure which governments cannot then ignore. The members of the IPI are also keenly aware of the “Economic Intifada” by the Palestinian community to pressure international businesses to withdraw from economic cooperation with Israel, and are warning that the lack of a political process could prove destructive for the currently thriving Israeli economy.

The seeds of the uprising in Israel may be fomenting now in meeting halls and private salons, and are also being given some attention in the media. It is a growing demand for the government to save Israel from a future of endless warfare and to propose a two-state solution along the 1967 borders.

I have been talking about the IPI in public forums and in private discussions with my Arab colleagues. There is a thirst to know about these initiatives and we need to help disseminate the message.

Straddling the fence between the Arab world and Israeli society, I repeatedly encounter the need to dispel the ignorance which each side displays about the other. One recent impromptu encounter drove this home with particular force.

In a Sheraton Hotel lobby in Doha, a group of young Israeli participants congratulated young Egyptian revolutionaries for their courage. The Egyptians were surprised, since they did not know that there are Israelis who applaud the revolution. The exchange between these young people continues via Facebook and hopefully will expand to include other Israelis and Egyptians.

There is an urgent need to create channels of communication between “ordinary” Israelis and Arabs, not just governments. It is not difficult to imagine how perceptions in the Arab world would shift toward Israelis if many more knew about exciting initiatives like the IPI. At the same time, Israeli attitudes towards their Arab neighbours would also change if they knew about the real desire pulsing through the Arab world to live according to democratic values and cultivate economic and individual freedoms. Yes, there will always be extreme elements amongst us. However, we should harness the moderate voices on both sides and bridge these streams of goodwill.

Knowing that the other side is not a monolithic society but is rather comprised of many different groups with competing values and priorities, including large segments of society who actually want to live in peace with each other, could begin to shape a Middle East which is a healthier neighbourhood for all its inhabitants.

Naava Mashiah is CEO of M.E. Links, Senior Consultant at ISHRA and Editor of MEDABIZ economic news. Sherif El Diwany contributed to this article. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

 

US says Iran supplied ballistic missile to Yemen rebels

UN 'appalled' at mass execution of jihadists in Iraq

Palestinians call for protests against Pence Jerusalem visit

Over half Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in 'extreme poverty'

Palestinian activist killed in Gaza protests

Palestinian billionaire detained in Saudi Arabia

Egypt opens Rafah crossing for four days

Turkey court releases 7 suspects in New Year attack trial

Foreign fighters a worry as IS struggles to survive

Palestinians killed in continuing protests over Jerusalem occupation

Bourita: Extraordinary meeting between ECOWAS, Morocco to be held beginning of 2018

Saudi-led air strikes, clashes as Yemen forces battle rebels

Sahel force funding shows terrorism fight is Saudi 'priority'

Iraq's Sistani says Hashed should be under government control

Middle-class Egypt adapts as costs soar

Somalia's budget meets IMF terms

Israel PM questioned in graft probe

Lebanon approves bid for oil, gas exploration

US to present 'irrefutable evidence' of Iran violations

Istanbul 'to remove Gulen links' from street names

Iraq hangs 38 jihadists

Pence to visit Middle East despite controversy

Hamas chief calls for continued Jerusalem protests

EU to repatriate 15,000 migrants from Libya in two months

Syria Kurds fear US ally will desert them after IS defeat

Israeli drugmaker Teva to cut 14,000 jobs over two years

Turkey rescues 51 migrants stranded on rocks

Saudi, UAE hold talks with Yemen Islamists

18 killed after bomber strikes Mogadishu police academy

Israeli air strikes target Hamas military facilities

US-led air strikes kill 23 civilians in Syria

Israel union calls nationwide strike over pharmaceutical giant job cuts

UN envoy urges Putin to press Assad for elections

Yemen's Huthi rebels release pro-Saleh media staff

Israel intelligence minister invites Saudi prince to visit

Saudi-led strikes kill 30 in rebel-run Yemen prison

Saudi king says Palestinians have 'right' to Jerusalem

Erdogan urges world to recognise Jerusalem as Palestinian capital

Saudi King says determined to confront corruption

South Sudan needs $1.7 billion humanitarian aid in 2018

UAE oil giant floats 10 percent of retail arm to strong interest

US skeptical about Putin's declaration of military victory in Syria

Growing concern about rise of far-right in Austria

Saudi, UAE seeks to help West Africa fight terrorism

Somali journalist dies after Mogadishu bombing