Between the 18th-22nd of February Forward Thinking facilitated a visit to Ireland for a senior Palestinian delegation to explore the ongoing peace process in Ireland, in all its current complexity, and to explore its potential relevance to the Israeli-Palestinian experience. The delegation was formed of diverse and influential Palestinian political and academic leaders from Hebron, Nablus and Ramallah that each represented different political, generational and institutional constituencies.
The aim of the visits was not to present the Irish experience as a prescriptive model to be adopted and followed. Rather, through meetings with senior Republican and Unionist figures and other constituencies involved in the conflict, participants were able take a close look at some of the challenges, mistakes and achievements of a relatable process. The Irish conflict, peace process and subsequent political settlement thereby provide a mechanism for provoking a deeper consideration of the challenges facing the delegates in their own context.
Several themes emerged over the course of meetings. The challenge of internal negotiations in a peace process was acknowledged and it was suggested that this could prove more difficult than finding an agreement with your opponent. This can only be addressed through constant communication, especially between the political leadership and grassroots supporters, to ensure the ground is prepared for the compromises that must be made.
Another central lesson from Northern Ireland any political settlement must be accompanied by a “social peace process” if the settlement is to be durable and not gradually undermined.
Meetings also provided an opportunity to explore current Irish and European foreign policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and what the role of the international community should be in light of the Trump presidency. If also afforded a space for a Palestinian conversation over strategic direction.