Over the last decade, there has been a gradual decrease in the interaction between Israeli and Palestinian societies, alongside a continued stalemate in official negotiations. The lack of public awareness about the other side feeds a cycle of misconceptions, in which neither side trusts or understands the other. Each side finds it as a taboo to acknowledge the other’s needs, and any partnership is perceived as futile or meaningless. Furthermore, lessons from other conflicts from across the world seem irrelevant, while every side is trapped by its own national narrative. As a result, this public ignorance is utilized by extremists to demonize the other side and thus it makes it less likely for policymakers to pay the price of engaging in developing a fruitful peace process. If this division and misinformation will continue, the minimal contact between the Israeli and Palestinian publics together with their growing ignorance of the other side ensure the continuation of repeating rounds of violence.
Open forums are one of the main motors for dealing with this situation. They involve both Israelis and Palestinians in an active process to identify new points of view and encourage them to examine their reality in a broader context, instead of laying blame for the conflict on the other side. In light of the violent escalation and the rise of extremists in both sides, it is of utmost importance to create a foundation of public knowledge through which members of the public can educate themselves about the conflict and the reasons for the violence. For decreasing the violence, both public debates must be cognizant of the reality and aware of other lessons from across the world, as well as the priorities of the other side, so as to willingly and fairly offer solutions for answering the needs.
On June 1st, IPCRI launched its new series of forums, focusing on the various dimensions of the conflict. In the inaugural event, titled "Saving Gaza - What are the future prospects for Gaza?", over 50 participants from various embassies and local organizations gathered to listen to Dr. Steen Lau Jorgensen, Country Director, West Bank and Gaza, World Bank; Dr. Shaddad Attili, Former Palestinian Minister of Water; Audrey Adams, the Team Leader at the Office of the Quartet; and Dr. Kobi Michael from the Institute for National Security Studies. The discussion focused on central concerns regarding the future of Gaza and identified potential opportunities for international partnerships.
The second IPRCI gathering dealt with the topic " Trade not aid- the economic opportunities for a sustainable future". The speakers' list included Dr. Bashir Bashir from the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, Barak Greenapple - Political and Economic Adviser at the local Office of the Quartet, Samir Hulileh - Chief Executive Officer of Palestine Development and Investment Ltd. (Padico) and Sivan Keren - Project Manager at the Peres Center for Peace.
In September 2016, IPCRI hosted a fruitful discussion on the "The 3rd IPCRI Forum on the Current Role of Women In the Peace Process". With opening remarks from MK Ksenia Svetlova, Nivine Sandouka - Co Director at IPCRI and Expert in Gender Mainstreaming, Netta Loevy- Coordinator at Itach Maaki and Alexandra Rydmark from the Embassy of Sweden the 3rd forum focused on UNSCR 1325 and the role of women in the peace process.
On Wednesday, November 16th, 2016, IPCRI held an open forum that focused on the peace process in Northern Ireland and the lessons that can be learned regarding the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. Entitled “From Extremism to Inclusion: How Hardliners Joined the Peace Process in Ireland” it focused on the root causes of extremism and included guest speakers Rev. Dr. Gary Mason, Dr. Dalia Scheindlin, Mrs. Ariel Heifetz Knobel, and Mr. Aziz Abu Sarah.
In December, IPCRI gathered prominent speakers in order to discuss "The US Elections and the Future of the Middle East". After opening remarks by Dr. Gershon Baskin, Co-Chairman of IPCRI, and Dr. Nimrod Goren, Head of the Mitvim Institute, the participants Dan Rothem, Rebecca Bornstein and Mofid Deak presented their assessments on American foreign policy in the Middle East under the presidency of Donald Trump. The forum was chaired by Suheir Jamil, a former researcher at the International Crisis Group, and was supported by the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Most recently, IPCRI held a forum on Jewish Radicalism entitled "Violence, Revenge and Redemption". The discussion was moderated by Natan Odenheimer, a journalist and Mandel Scholar at Hebrew University. It took place thanks to the participation of Tehila Frideman-Nachalom, Pnina Pfeuffer and Perle Nicole, as well as to the questions of the public.