Israel Conference on Peace last Thursday brought together an impressive roster of speakers, whose opinions matter. There were Israelis and Palestinians, representatives from the left and from the right and even several statesmen like Tony Blair and Martin Indyk who are involved in the peace “industry”. They all spoke to a full house that was waiting for some encouraging message of hope.
Still if we need a proof that the Israeli left is out of touch with the life of most Israelis, we could start with the location of the conference and the price of registration.
The conference was held at the luxurious David Intercontinental hotel in Tel Aviv. It is true that the place was accessible and there was plenty of parking in the area. But finding a place outside Tel Aviv, still within easy reach, like Ramla/Lod for example, could have been a more appropriate venue to discuss the plight of our Palestinian neighbors and the chance to end occupation and to promote peace.
The registration fee of 180 ILS is not affordable for many peace lovers who pay out of their own pocket. Although it included a lovely breakfast and lunch and refreshments throughout the day, there was no reason for those extravagances. A more modest event could have worked just as well.
But what bothered me the most was the choice of speakers.
In the early afternoon Ravit Hecht chaired a forum which discussed the “bi-national state and alternatives maneuvers to obtain peace.” The members included, among others, Professor Shlomo Ben Ami, who was directly involved in the peace process, and Judge Saviona Rotlevy from Women Wage Peace who represents a movement of 15,000 women which is constantly looking for ways to renew negotiations with the Palestinians. Another member in the forum, Malka Pyoterkovski, was referred to in the program as “a woman of the Halacha.” She is also a settler from Tkoa. As far as I know she is not a peace activist and was invited to speak in her role as a right-wing settler. Her contribution to the discussion was to present Caroline Glick’s thesis in the book The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East. Pyoterkovski talked about the need to annex the whole of the West Bank. While she supports the idea of giving the Palestinians citizenship and equal rights, she insists that Israel remains a Jewish state. Needless to say that another member of that forum, MK Ahmed Tibi, was not thrilled with her idea.
At some point in that discussion a member from the audience burst in, and there was some commotion. That man was a representative of the Parents Circle-Families Forum (PCFF), an Israeli/Palestinian group of bereaved family members of those who died as a result of the conflict. This group has been working, for years, on promoting understanding between Israelis and Palestinians in order to bring about peace.
I don’t know why a representative of the Parent Circle did not take part in this discussion (or in any other forum throughout the day). How is it be possible that a conference which is so careful to give an equal voice to an inconsequential Halachic scholar, does not include the Parents Circle? I hope that there is a good reason for this omission,
Everyone agreed that Israel Conference On Peace was a great success, and probably it was. But at that moment I felt ashamed to be part of it and had to leave.
P.S. After making inquiries I found out today that indeed a representative of the Parents Circle-Families Forum was not invited to speak at the conference.