Welcome to the first Elders blog. As part of our visit to the Middle East, we are trying something new and will be recording our impressions and thoughts through blogs and videos as much as we can. We will also invite those we meet to join and continue the discussion. I hope you enjoy following our visit this way and that this small step will encourage wider conversations to take place between communities and individuals.
This is one of the main reasons we are here. At this important time, as efforts are underway at the highest diplomatic level to restart negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders – the Elders feel it is especially important to listen to the aspirations of people on the ground.
We believe that to enhance the possibility of peace, there must be the belief that peace is something that can be achieved. We know that the majority of people, both Israelis and Palestinians, support a two-state solution to end the conflict. But we also know that the past years have made it harder for them to believe that peace is possible. We are ready to talk to different segments of Israeli society and Palestinian society about their concerns – and to help ensure that those concerns are better understood by the other side and reflected in diplomatic efforts.
We are looking forward to meeting young people from all over Israel and the West Bank, as well as business leaders, civil society leaders and people from all walks of life. We hope to share some of their stories here so you can read and hear them too.
Unfortunately we will not be able to visit Gaza this time but hope to do so very soon. Even though we cannot go there, we plan to speak to people in Gaza via video link – and will make sure we highlight the very serious human rights and humanitarian situation for those 1.5 million people.
Fernando Henrique Cardoso, delegation leader for the Elders visit to the Middle East, August 2009