Yala online peace conference screenshot 311.
(photo credit: Screen Shot)
Move over Camp David, Israeli-Palestinian peace is going virtual. Monday at 10 a.m., the first-ever online peace conference commenced on Facebook, hosted by the Yala Palestine Initiative, a group aimed at creating dialogue between Israelis, Palestinians and Americans.
The "Yala Young Leader's Conference for Peace" features dignitaries such as President Shimon Peres, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and peace negotiator Dennis Ross. Actress Sharon Stone and Barcelona football coach Pep Guardiola will also make an appearance.
"I am delighted to send greetings to all of you who have gathered in this virtual space to help shape the future of the Middle East," Clinton said in a pre-recorded video statement, projected on a YouTube billboard in a virtual park.
Noting the role of technology in fomenting the revolutions of the Arab Spring, Clinton commended the Israeli and Arab conference participants for using the Internet to promote peace through dialogue.
"You come to the table with the hope that you can look past your differences and lay the foundation for peace, and I admire your resolve to engage in these very difficult discussions," Clinton said. "Yours voices will continue to be invaluable in the process."
"Peace," said Peres, Israel's elder statesman, "is not necessarily a monopoly of governments. It can be and should be peace among people. So let the government negotiate, let the administration build, but you make the people come together: straight, directly, openly."
In a written message to the conference, Abbas said, "Watching the force of reason, dignity, and courage takes us through leaps of hope into a brighter future."
The conference, also sponsored by the Shimon Peres Center for Peace, took place through a Facebook software platform called Shaker, which creates a virtual space for users' online avatars to walk around, interact, and view conference material together.
Users can even "buy one another" drinks, a social courtesy the more religious of the Palestinian participants may not appreciate.
The conference, scheduled to last for over six hours, aims to fulfill the Yala goal to "seek political action today AND foster grassroots efforts of cultural understanding to impact future political change."