08/13/2014 02:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Give Youth a Chance

In a region such as the Middle East, high hopes stand alongside great dangers. As a young Israeli, I remember waking-up to days of a new dawn and waking-up to days of thick fog, through which the future looked uncertain and full of hazards. Towards the end of a painful battle to which Israel was dragged and driven into the corner, it is about time for Israel to start thinking of initiating, for once, a political and hopeful move.

The current conflict in Gaza shows that a military action alone will not defeat the terror. If Israel had defeated Hamas in the Gaza strip, other (and maybe worse) organizations would have come to power. Therefore, a political process must come into the picture. A peace initiative is a clear Israeli interest based on the paradigm that strengthening the moderates will weaken the extremists.

Most of Israel's public is willing for such moves. For most Israelis, it is very clear who is threatening Israel's security (Hamas) and who may be a reputable partner for peace (Abbas). The young generation in particular, is keen to steps toward peace. I belong to this young generation; a generation which has been greatly influenced by the assassination of PM Yitzhak Rabin. I was born in 1996; a few months after the vile murderer had fired three shots at Rabin. As a former student in the Israeli education system, I remember very vividly how we used to stop our lives every November 4 (annual Memorial Day) to discuss Rabin's life and actions for peace. I belong to a generation which has grown up while feeling the historic missed opportunity of ending the conflict.


Photo Credit: Corbis

It is a tough neighborhood. Sudden changes lead to both threats and new opportunities. But -- we have no reason to lose hope for our future. The new generation is living through a drastically different world. The ability of the young generation to get to know the other is easy and accessible through the internet and the social networks. Barriers of prejudice and stereotypes fall. Dialogues can be built based on the curiosity and thirst for knowledge of the virtual social community members. Virtual peace movements such as 'Yala Young Leaders for Peace' (which I am a proud member of) are a catalyst for a true change. They create a real hope among the group members, a real hope which gnaws at the heart of the conflict.

I believe with great certainty that the young generation will play an important role in the coming peace process (which will definitely come). There are 12 million Israelis and Palestinian in the region. Half (6 millions) are under the age of 25. If the conflict between Israel and Palestine is not resolved -- we, the young generation, are those who will pay the price. If it is -- we are those who will enjoy the fruits of our labor towards peace.

Therefore, I call upon my Israeli friends and Palestinian neighbors to take the reins in our hands. Until we get to leadership positions, we can't afford ourselves to neglect the reality. Let's support the moderates. Let's sound a voice for reconciliation and better future. The fate of peace is in our hands. Let's not miss this opportunity. Let's leave our leaderships no options but to accede to our desire and hope.

To sign off this article, I would like to present a creative but constructive suggestion for the peace negotiators: When you come back to the negotiation room, bring with you some young people. They don't have to be professional but with experience of participation in dialogue programs and with an understanding of the conflict. Let Israeli and Palestinian "next generation" representatives talk with each other. Let them negotiate on less clandestine issues, such as water, economic cooperation and reconciliation programs for when the agreement is signed. Guide them on such issues. They will have good ideas, and most importantly -- they will change the dynamics of the negotiations. When you will get out of a tough negotiation session and see them talking and finding a common language, you will not let it fade.