Last week, for the second year running, NIF co-sponsored Haaretz’s Peace Conference in Tel Aviv. Over 1,400 people attended the event, including journalists, politicians, ambassadors, key NGO leaders, NIF board members and donors, and members of the public.
The speakers covered all sides of the political map and generated headlines in the Israeli media. Here are some of the highlights:
President Reuven Rivlin: “The goal of this generation is to build trust between Jews and Arabs. Even if we won’t end the conflict, we must build trust between both nations, such that the next generations won’t start, as we are, from scratch…It seems that both sides of the political map have ignored the fact that the Arabs and Palestinians in Israel are already here. They’re here, as they have been in the past, and they aren’t going anywhere, just as we believe that we aren’t going anywhere.”
Knesset Member Ayman Odeh: “[What is the difference between the Zionist left and the right-wing Yisrael Beitenu] which says that as many Arabs as possible must be gotten rid of, even Arabs who are citizens of the state…The peace process must go together with Jewish-Arab cooperation within the State of Israel. We are 20 percent of the population. We can’t succeed alone, but without true democracy, social justice and true peace cannot be attained.”
Ambassador Martin Indyk: “Why not freeze the settlements? Does it affect your security? I can tell you, from personal experience, they [the settlements] are the problem. The alternative to not trying [to make peace] is what we are facing today.”
One of the most popular speakers was NIF President Talia Sasson, who gave an inspirational speech in which she charged the audience to stand up to the way conservatives have managed to delegitimize the left while turning democracy into a dirty word. “Everyone has to come out of the closet and speak their mind,” she said. “Apathy and despair can’t work. NIF stands at the front of this battle, and we’ll continue to support groups fighting for these causes – come and join us.” Her speech was greeted with thunderous applause, and she was also interviewed in English by Haaretz after the conference.