Between the 25th-26th of June, Forward Thinking facilitated discussions in Dublin between Palestinian political representatives and Israeli religious figures and senior political advisors from the Ultra Orthodox community.
The meetings offered a space in which they could explore current dynamics in the conflict and what steps can be taken in the current context to improve the conditions for peace.
Both sides accepted that there is a profound ignorance of the other and an enormous gap in understanding of the two people’s history, narrative and interests. These dynamics are exacerbated by elements of the media and some politicians, contributing to misperceptions. All recognised there is an urgent need to bridge this gap in understanding, but accepted that there are barriers to dialogue because of the depth of mistrust. This makes spaces for confidential dialogue especially important.
Given the lack of trust that exists between Israelis and Palestinians, some felt that confidence building measures need to be identified and enacted. However, others expressed fears that – unless they were rooted in the wider framework of negotiations and a peace process – efforts to improve relations at a grassroots level could have limited impact.
There was broad agreement that a two state solution remains the best options for a sustainable peace and giving both communities the space to pursue their aspirations. However, concerns were expressed that the window of opportunity for a two state solution may be closing due to factors of demography and the growth of settlements. As a result, participants recognised there is a need for leaders to urgently take steps towards a two state solution before the current trends make it impossible to be realised. Individuals with influence and constituency support should signal to their political leaders that they support negotiations, in order to give them greater space to move.
At the request of participants, Forward Thinking will now explore facilitating further discussions between the two groups in order to build upon the foundations established at this meeting and identify potential areas for action.