I thought I knew it all. I had been to numerous and important peace conferences and gatherings: the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993; thereafter the international donor conference for the establishment of a new Palestinian Authority with Clinton, Arafat and Peres; and in the following years, the Casablanca and Amman conferences on regional economic cooperation with Arab kings and presidents, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Bill Clinton. These were significant conferences that also made political progress, but they did not result in a process of social reconciliation or economic cooperation. They hardly touched the people of the region.
The YaLa Young Leaders Conference did. ( YaLa Conference Link)
Hundreds of thousands saw posts on peace on our Facebook page, thousands watched video greetings from world and regional leaders, and most importantly, hundreds dialogued with each other.
It is this human encounter that is the most important consequence of the conference. Peacemaking is about humanization; both from an ideological perspective and from a pragmatic interests.
I was deeply impressed by the thousands of dialogues at the conference. They should be taught at the Harvard School of Negotiation. These talks are actually leading to peaceful coexistence between people who understand that they have a common destiny and that one’s future cannot come at the expense of the other’s. On Facebook, on YaLa, nobody is superior, nobody is rejected, nobody is violent, and everybody – Palestinian, Egyptian, Israeli, Saudi – can be friends and study together at the YaLa Academy.
I also take away from the conference the critical aspect of peace. YaLa in its three years has developed a YaLa persona – a persona identified with the MENA region and its future. The YaLas understand the link between independence and interdependence. With the creation of an independent Palestine (within the 1967 lines), regional cooperation must take a concrete form and be led by the young leaders of the region. As such, with time, a vision of MENA should evolve, as the EU did after WWII.
The creation of a regional persona, ongoing dialogue and collaborative study must lead to strong Israeli-Palestinian peace advocacy to affect outdated political leadership.
In the age of social media, the conference teaches us that it is possible. To my YaLa friends I say: “Well done, lead the way, rebel against the past and create a new future.”
Founder of YaLa Young Leaders and Co-Founder of the Peres Center for Peace