Since 2004, Base for Discussion (B4D), Interpeace’s initiative in Israel, has been facilitating dialogue among groups that have traditionally been excluded from the peace process.
Decades of violence and failed peace initiatives have left public opinion within Israel sharply divided on key issues related to peace. In addition, most initiatives have focused on those in Israel who are already part of the peace camp. If a future peace accord is to bring lasting peace, it is essential to bring side-lined groups into the peace process.
The overall goal of Interpeace’s programme in Israel, B4D, is to address this gap by contributing to the development of a common vision for peace within Israeli society. By engaging the Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel, the Russian-speaking community and the traditional religious population, B4D is filling a critical void on the path to peace. Together, these groups represent more than half of the Israeli population.
B4D works with the mid-level leadership. This group not only has a direct influence within their communities but also impacts higher leadership levels. Additionally, members of this group may assume top leadership roles in the future.
Since 2013, B4D has been establishing a safe dialogue space for the three communities it has been engaging with. In January 2015, all the participants decided that in order to have a dialogue space that is strategic and reflects the realities on the ground, they need to broaden it and include the moderate Religious Nationalists and the traditional right wing camp. This was an important moment for the programme since it showed that all the participants from all the communities were comfortable enough, and felt that the space that B4D created for them was one that they all owned, were part of and were safe in, so as to jointly and unanimously decide the next steps for the programme. It also highlights the level of trust which has been created among the three groups, who were willing to open up the process and include two more groups with whom they have fundamental differences but who play a key role in Israeli society. Having such a space is particularly crucial now that Israel has become more isolated and that the voices for peace are much weaker. It has become more difficult to form alliances between the groups who want to challenge the status quo and who hope for a change.