In the Boston Globe, Our Generation Speaks’ Ohad Elhelo, writes of the need for young Israelis and Palestinians to take matters into their own hands and become the leaders of their future and of the region.
Founded in 2014, Our Generation Speaks operates as a fellowship program where young and promising Israeli and Palestinian leaders come together to build bonds of trust and shared values through entrepreneurship. The fellows spend three months at Brandeis University and MassChallenge creating social-impact startups and building the foundation for strong relationships and opportunities in the Middle East.
While the program has seen promising results, their timeline is slow and, as Elhelo points out, the region simply does not have time to wait. The millions of Israelis and Palestinians in the region are stuck in a limbo as the prospect of a two-state solution or even three-state solution fall flat.
As recent years have seen polarized opinions, dwindling solutions, and continued discrimination and inequality, it is obvious that the region is in desperate need for new and passionate leadership. Elhelo believes that it is time for young Israelis and Palestinians to take the opportunity to emerge as powerful and influential leaders in order to move beyond Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 20 years in office. It is time for these new leaders to take charge because both Palestinians and Israelis deserve better.
In order to create positive change, the region’s new leaders must work together to build trust and be committed to three main principles.
The first is the acknowledgement that this conflict is not equal. Israelis enjoy far greater freedoms and are much better off in the region. By acknowledging this truth and continuing with compassion, both Israeli and Palestinian leaders can bridge the barriers between them.
The second principle is for the older generation to speak up and engage in meaningful action, whether that be working with civic society organizations, the business community, or relevant parties. They need to take responsibility for the current state of the region and work to reach mutually beneficial agreements.
Furthermore, the leaders must commit to allow the settlers in the West Bank to return home and make sure the older generations understand that it is not feasible for them to return to their homes in Haifa and Jaffa. By closing the door on past wrongs, these leaders can forge paths into the future that are founded in just action and trust.
Finally, young Israeli and Palestinian leaders should not look outside of the region for help as they must rely on their own people to create a changed future.
In his conclusion for the Boston Globe, Elhelo furthers his opinion that the new generation of Israeli and Palestinian leaders must not look towards the international stage for help as he states:
There is not enough paper in Boston to record all the failures of the international community to bring the parties to a meaningful agreement. Solving this conflict should be the top priority of those who live in this troubled region every day. The Palestinians are interested in US-moderated peace talks to the same extent I am interested in seeing my dentist. The regional issues of Iran, Saudi Arabia, ISIS, oil, all trump the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and so, in the absence of priority attention by others, we need to deal with it. It begins with interaction. Then comes trust. Followed by engagement through public service, which remains the most effective platform to reach a large-scale change. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get it done.
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