Giving Israeli civil society a voice in diplomatic processes

On September 1, following his latest trip to the region, the EU Special Envoy to the Middle East Peace Process, Dr. Sven Koopmans, published a piece in Haaretz expressing the EU’s friendship and commitment to Israel, while stating that the largely stagnant peace process remains the major impediment slowing down the EU-Israel relationship.

Only two weeks ago I heard Dr. Koopmans make the exact same point from the Tel Aviv office of the Center for Jewish Impact (CJI).

Our organization – only a year old – was born out of a need to connect the voices of Israeli civil society directly with leaders and influencers such as the Special Envoy who come to the region with diverse knowledge, experiences, and beliefs, but rarely get a current look at the mindset of variety of individuals representing Israeli civil society.

In the spirit of this mission, we convened a group of leading Israeli thought leaders – experts in law, public health, national security, and beyond to hear from the Special Envoy and in turn, share their perspectives and ideas on the regional challenges and opportunities we face today. During this briefing — the third of its kind with the Special Envoy — Dr. Koopmans asked similar questions to the ones posed in his article, “How do I want to solve the conflict? What, in my view, would be an acceptable outcome? How would I have the level of security and rights I need? How would I address the legitimate concerns of the other side? What can my international friends contribute to achieving peace?”

Many answers were given, none of which looked the same. Yet the event demonstrated a crucial exercise in which Israeli citizens were directly consulted regarding their perspective and set of experiences in the region and in turn, this group felt it a valuable use of their time to engage. The meeting was an example of what the Israeli people ought to be replicating in building relationships with the global diplomatic community.

Israel is its most bold and brilliant when it feels that the global community is standing with us, not against us. Israelis want to be seen and heard by those sitting at the decision-making table. And Israelis want to be judged fairly, based on facts, not prejudice. That is why it is so important that individuals such as the Special Envoy ask such questions and have an address outside of official Israeli government channels to get a response.

This will be the key to progress in our diverse and critical relationship, as well as in finding solutions to our regional challenges.

We thank Dr. Koopmans for his openness and curiosity and look forward to continuing to work with him and the greater EU for the betterment of all our people. As he articulated, there is much to do. 

It was almost a year ago that the EU presented its strategic plan to fight antisemitism and foster Jewish life. The EU has placed a significant budget and emphasis on the plan. The responsibility lies largely within EU member states to implement it in the field. This is something we Israelis are carefully following. 

In the Middle East, two years following the Abraham Accords, the region is opening and new strategic partnerships – around energy, economy, security, and beyond — are rising exponentially. There should be room enough for everyone to benefit from these advancements. 

Sven, we look forward to bringing about a better reality in the region, working closely with civil societies, governments and international institutions in the US, Europe and around the world.

About the Author
Robert Singer is the Chairman of the Center for Jewish Impact, Chairman of Board of Trustees of World ORT, past CEO of World Jewish Congress and member of Governing Board of CAM.
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