The Field Trip 2015 led the members of the Körber Network Foreign Policy to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Against the backdrop of the numerous crises and challenges in the Middle East, it intended to give the participants some specific insights into the current political, economic and social situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories and to discuss the foreign and security policy challenges in the region.
After their arrival in Israel, the members of the Körber Network Foreign Policy spent one day in Tel Aviv. The agenda included appointments at the National Institute for Security Studies (INSS) and the Non-Governmental Organization NATAL (Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War) as well as meetings with Jeremy Saltan, media consultant of the Jewish Home Party, Amos Gilad, Director for Policy and Political Affairs at the Israeli Ministry of Defense and the Ksenia Svetlova from the oppositional alliance “Zionist Union”. The very diverse program reflected a wide picture of different views and opinions. Main topics of discussion were – apart from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – the civil war in Syria and the threats posed by the Islamic State.
On the following day, the participants of the Field Trip drove to the North of Israel to the Israeli-Lebanese boarder. A briefing at the Northern Command of the Israel Defence Forces gave them interesting insights in the circumstances on-site. In the following, they met with Sheikh Mwafak Taref, the spiritual leader of the Druze Community in Israel, who discussed with them the close relations of the Druze population to the State of Israel.
During the following two-day stay in Jerusalem, the group talked, amongst others, with Yossi Cohen, National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Israel, and Benjamin Dagan, Deputy Director General and Head of the Center for Policy Research at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, about Israel’s current foreign and security policy challenges. Once again, the civil war in Syria and the Islamic State as well as the nuclear negotiations with Iran were main points of discussion. During a meeting with Adina Bar Shalom, the group talked about the ultraorthodox Jewish Haredi community and the role of women within in. Furthermore, the participants were invited by Judge Salim Joubran to visit the Israeli Supreme Court and spoke with him about the rights of Arab minorities in Israel. Of course, the program also included a guided tour in the museum of the memorial site of Yad Vashem as well as a guided tour of the Old City of Jerusalem.
After three days of interesting and diverse insights in the domestic as well as foreign policy of Israel, the group set out for Ramallah, with the aim to get to know the Palestinian view on current developments and challenges. A joint breakfast with Peter Beerwerth, Head of the Mission at the German Representative Office in Ramallah, marked a great starting point for the group’s stay in the Palestinian territories. Afterwards, they went on a geopolitical tour with Danny Seidemann from Terrestrial Jerusalem, during which he gave insights into the situation in the divided city as well as the problems of a possible two-state solution. The group also met a member of Fatah. He advocated a two-state solution and pointed out that this would be the only possible way to bring about sustainable peace. A joint dinner with young Palestinian leaders completed the stay of the group in Ramallah.
At their last day, the participants met Saeb Erekat, Chief Palestinian Negotiator of the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, in Jericho. Afterwards, the group visited the “Palestinian College for Police Science” to learn more about the professional training of Palestinian Police Forces. Tania Hary, Director of Gisha (Legal Center for Freedom of Movement) informed the participants in a venue close to the Gaza Strip about the current situation in Gaza. During the meeting, the participants also had the chance to talk to a resident from a close-by Kibbutz. She advocated – despite the constant threat of missile attacks from Gaza –a peaceful coexistence of Israelis and Palestinians within the scope of a two-state solution. The particularly diverse and interesting week in Israel and the Palestinian Territories ended with a joint dinner with the German Ambassador Clemens von Goetze at its starting point Tel Aviv.