Interview: Uri Savir, Chief Negotiator of the Oslo Accords and founder of YaLa-Young Leaders يالا-يا قادة الشباب יאללה-מנהיגים צעירים

YaLa-Young Leaders is a peace movement of young leaders from Middle East & North Africa (MENA) who are fostering dialogue & change.

Established in 2011, the Facebook group “Yala-Young Leaders” brings together almost 1 millions of followers across the Middle East and North Africa. The majority of its members are Israeli and Palestinian. They were already some 2000 people from across the region who participated in various online educational programs. And the community is still growing.

The idea of Yala came to Uri Savir in the very same cafe where he’s receiving me for this interview. It all started a little over three years ago, during the Arab Spring and the Egyptian revolution. For some time already, he was thinking of a new way to encourage the youth of the Middle East to believe in and become actor of this peace he’s dreaming about since a young age.

This desire and need to make peace with his neighbors he said, he received it from his father who was himself an Israeli diplomat. And peace is really the battle and the dream of Uri Savir. He was always devoted to it, and he will always dedicate himself to reach this goal. We can easily believe it knowing his achievements: B.A in International Relations, Ambassador, spokesman for Shimon Peres, Chief Negotiator of the Oslo accords, author of the books “The  process: 1100 days that changed the Middle East” and “Peace first: a new model to end war.” He is also the founder and director of the “Peres Center for Peace” and regularly writes articles for newspapers such as Al-Monitor: The pulse of the Middle-East and Huffington.Post.

A bit more than three years ago, he begins to think about a way to make peace without politicians whose actions and results are not satisfying. During the Egyptian revolution, Uri Savir realizes how the youth of a country can mobilize itself through the Internet. Internet appears to be a way to communicate a message, but mostly to make communication happening between the youths –  new hope of the Middle East. He then decides to partner with a Palestinian organization, “Yala Palestine” and to work with young people who understand the internet and the world of Facebook. Yala Young Leaders is born!

YaLa is an industry of hope

What is Yala to Uri Savir? It is an opportunity that he wants to give to young people to make peace with each other, because he believes that currently, no one in our governments is brave enough to really engage in a peace process. “It’s not easy, it’s a struggle, but it is necessary, vital! We must first give hope to everyone in their country and throughout the region. We must humanize the other side!” he says with conviction. And this is actually one of the objectives achieved by the various programs offered by the Yala Accademy: citizen journalism program, study of peace program and the MENA Leaders for Change program, but especially meetings beyond borders in a region of the world where it is difficult to go from a country to another. Thanks to the Internet, young people from the MENA have the ability to communicate and exchange, to realize that they have indeed very common goals: Access to a better education, good employment status and equal rights. This is what Uri Savir himself had realized during his years of negotiations with the Palestinian leadership: “During those long hours of negotiations, I realized that we had the same fears, the same trauma, but also the same expectations.” These goals cannot be achieved when there is war. “Yala is an industry of hope offered to the young generation that has the right to live in peace.”

Passion and Patience: two ingredients for peace

I asked Uri Savir if he had a special receipt for peace to share with the members of the program. For him, two ingredients are essential: “passion and patience”. One of the main problems in this region is that there is a minority of fanatics much more passionate and involved in political life than a majority of moderate people, which unfortunately is under represented. This majority should be more implicated and committed. Thanks to YaLa Young Leaders, Uri Savir wishes to bring this majority to be more involved.

A last message for us young leaders? “Peace is needed, we need you to achieve it!”  

Today, YaLa is celebrating its 5th anniversary with a big online conference.

Happy birthday!

About the Author
French social educator, Chloe Perla Portheault didn't come to live in Israel because of anti-Semitism but in order to try to understand a country and and conflict that people talk so much about from afar. It's been a perpetual quest ever since.