Since 2012 Forward Thinking have facilitated visits to Northern Ireland for delegations of senior Israeli and Palestinian politicians to study the Irish experience of conflict and peace. The purpose of these visits is not present the peace process in Northern Ireland as a model that can be replicated elsewhere, or try to encourage participants towards a predetermined solution. Instead, the Northern Irish experience is used to enable a broader discussion on the challenges of ending a protracted conflict and to explore if this then helps participants to arrive at a deeper understanding of their own conflict.
To build on this work, in August we organised a series of separate workshops in Israel and Palestine for some of the individuals who have participated in these visits. To inform the discussions at these meetings, members of the Forward Thinking team were joined by Pat Hynes. Pat is a former member of the Fianna Fail National Executive and a former Vice Chairman of the party’s youth organisation during the 1990’s. Politically active for over twenty five years, he participated in the Glencree Political Dialogue Program for over 12 years from 1994 and worked with the Irish government unofficially in the back channels of the peace process. He also participated in Glencree’s Middle East Programme between 2003-2007 which was supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs. For the past two years, he has worked on the legacy of the conflict issues in Glencree and is also part of the adjunct faculty at the Kennedy Institute for Conflict Resolution in Maynooth University.
On the 29th, workshops were conducted with national religious MK’s and a group of religious zionist women, both of which had previously been on a Forward Thinking delegation visit to Ireland.These groups were interested in understanding the role played in the conflict by international actors and the relevance of this for the Arab-Israeli conflict. The women’s group were also keen to explore what the role of women in the conflict can be, given most violence is perpetrated by men. The need to manage and confront the legacies and trauma of conflict were also discussed in depth.
The trip was concluded with an interactive workshop in Tel Aviv with fellows from the Negotiation Strategies Institute. Several Fellows and Pat explored the case of Ireland in depth, debating if the various techniques deployed there might be relevant to Israel today.