No one knows what the aftershocks of this month’s European Parliament elections will be once the dust settles in the months to come. What is clear is that the face of European politics has been drastically changed and we must face a new reality. With the Euroskeptic and extreme right gaining momentum there is a sense of an impending standoff regarding the future of the European Union. How will this affect Israel and its ever fluctuating relationship with countries across Europe?
Israeli diplomacy stands to lose serious ground in the ongoing battle for recognition that has led to hard earned cooperation and collaboration with numerous European countries in a variety of fields. Israel’s complex political situation stands to be a prime target for the recently elected radical politicians who now carry a loud minority vote.
But what can we do? This question (or statement) resonates through our collective mindset like an inevitable fact of life which we have already conceded. If moderate European leadership found it difficult to find common ground with Israel, what are we to expect from the respective incoming parliament members? So long as we leave the job to connect Israeli and Europe to the Office of the Foreign Minister and the Hasbara [Israel advocacy] ‘experts’, there is little room for individual influence and creativity.
However, these pressing issues are not the burden of government bodies alone. Social media and instant access to people throughout the globe give individuals the ability to act like never before on an international scale. In order to conduct this interaction we must clarify that we are serious about our beliefs and are interested in engaging people in dialogue regarding the hot button issues. Nothing can be off limits and there needs to be a genuine concern for what our contemporaries are saying, thinking, believing and feeling.
This is exactly why my friends and I from Hebrew University have decided to join together and create a change in mindset. We have been taking part in the yearlong Stand With Us Fellowship which covers pressing issues of public diplomacy for the betterment of Israel. As a group we felt that the issue of Israeli- European relations has come to a head and is in danger of boiling over. Our group includes emerging leaders from across the full spectrum of Israeli society and that has led to heated debate regarding the message and contents of a project we wanted to take. However, we are all bound by a deep connection to the State of Israel and want to ensure that it is fairly represented on the international stage.
The fruit of hours of discussions, study and seminars together was the creation of Parley, a five day conference in August which will host European parliamentary assistants in Jerusalem. The purpose of the Parley Conference is to expose young key figures in European leadership to the social political arena in Israel and give them a unique opportunity to learn about what is happening here in a balanced and informed manner. These budding diplomats are similar in age and life stage, and most have yet to formulate a staunch opinion regarding Israel and the myriad of issues it faces.
International public opinion on Israel will not change overnight. Meeting this challenge is complex and should be done in different arenas by different people with different approaches. However, we believe that a dialogue and conversation between young, fresh and diverse international political players may brighten the image of Israel in a positive way in the long term. Exposing young leaders to the complex reality in our region will ensure that we don’t let the outcome of the elections be the sole determinant of Israel’s image throughout Europe.
Are you interested in learning more about the conference? Please email us at email@example.com
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