Between November 2-5, I was one of 24 young professionals who participated in Israel Policy Forum’s second annual Charles Bronfman IPF Atid Conveners Summit, where we deepened our understandings of Israel and the broader Middle East region in order to identify the latest prospects for (and threats to) a future two-state solution. We attended sessions with Israel Policy Forum professional and lay leadership, policy and security experts, and current and former government officials involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We also had the opportunity to learn from each other. Our cohort was made up of a diverse collection of new and existing IPF Atid leaders, exposing ourselves to a variety of perspectives on  issues and ideas on how to bring back what we learned to our respective communities. When reflecting on the summit overall, I came away with three overarching themes — forthrightness, perseverance, and partnership — that best characterize what we learned and what we can do to help make positive change.

One theme that often came up during our discussions was “forthrightness.”We were not led to view the conflict through rose-tinted goggles, and needless to say, we did not come away feeling the two-state solution would be happening any time soon. We discussed how Israeli annexationist parties have found themselves in leading positions of government in recent years and how the most recent realistic scenario two state supporters can hope for coming out of recent elections is a unity government between Likud and Kahol Lavan — hardly a recipe for an immediate peace agreement. We also learned about how the Palestinians are more divided than ever and why Israel cannot negotiate a two-state solution with them so long as their leadership in the West Bank and Gaza Strip remain divided.

We also covered the role of the Trump Administration and how it has undermined the prospects for two states by emboldening Israeli annexationists and alienating the Palestinians.

Despite the frank conversations we had, we still came away cautiously optimistic, with a deeper understanding of the importance of perseverance. We met with Ilan Goldenberg at the Center for New American Security – one of Israel Policy Forum’s key partners -who discussed some of the core issues that would need to be addressed during negotiations, such as security, and went over the creative ideas his team and Commanders for Israel’s Security came up with together on how to realize these objectives. I recently wrote an article for the Jerusalem Post about these very proposals on how to secure the Jordan Valley without restricting Palestinian sovereignty.

It is important to have access to these resources and knowledge, not only so we know how pragmatic policies that are consistent with a two-state vision can be implemented, but also so we can make the case to members of our community as to why a two-state solution is needed and how it remains feasible, which leads to the third theme of the summit.

The final theme I took away from the summit was how we can bring what we learned from the summit back to our communities and start a conversation — the value of partnership. We often broke out into groups, brainstorming how we can create a space to begin these difficult conversations back home, modeled after our discussions at the summit. A few people mentioned that the summit was one of the only places where they felt comfortable saying the words Israel, Zionism, and Palestinians all together. I think creating that space, where people have access to educational resources and feel comfortable talking about things that are considered to be too sensitive elsewhere, is how we can raise awareness of why and how a two-state solution needs to be advanced and increase people’s motivation to make change.

We also brainstormed who we should include within these conversations back in our communities. We talked about not only including American Jews, but Jews from other countries as well, and those from different backgrounds, as well as Palestinian-Americans and other communities. The ability to branch out to such a wide range of people is reflected in the geographic and cultural diversity of our cohort.  As a result of the summit experience, I am now able to continue networking with young professionals from fourteen different cities, including Israeli-Americans, Canadian Jews, those with multi-faith backgrounds, and many more.

It is important to create a such a diverse community out of our initiatives for two reasons. One, by broadening our base outside of the mainstream American Jewish communities, we can help develop broad public support for pragmatic policies coming from the governmental level. Secondly, by engaging with the diaspora communities who are more directly connected to the region (Israeli- and Palestinian-Americans), we gain vivid insights into contemporary and historical barriers to peace, while developing a better understanding of how we (and they) can overcome them.

Sometimes resolving the most difficult, intractable conflicts simply starts with having a conversation. It can often be difficult to begin those conversations though because the issues may seem too sensitive, or people are deeply skeptical that the problem can be resolved. As Conveners, we can help provide the resources and spaces needed to overcome these obstacles and help more people within our communities realize that moving towards a sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is indeed possible.