'My challenge is whether a truly diverse group of game changing businessmen and women can join together to try to move Israel, the West Bank, even Gaza, the Middle East and the whole world forward in one positive way.’.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
I looked up a list of American billionaires who have invested in Israel, some to promote peace, some to promote security, some to promote education and some to promote the occupation. Of course there are Israeli billionaires and millionaires too, as well as Europeans and many others, including Palestinians, who also have invested in the future of Israel, Palestine and the Middle East. My short list of American investors only represents a start: Larry Ellison, Michael Bloomberg, Sheldon Adelson, Michael Dell, Leslie Wexner, David Green, Sam Zell, Robert Kraft, Ira Rennert, Donald Trump, Isaac Perlmutter, Daniel Gillbert, Haim Saban, Lynn Schusterman, Leon G.
Cooperman, Ronald Lauder, Bernard Marcus, Henry Samueli, S. Daniel Abraham and Paul Singer. There is a lot of power in this list of Forbes billionaires – which includes the president of America – who have a deep involvement in the future of Israel.
My challenge is whether a truly diverse group of game changing businessmen and women can join together to try to move Israel, the West Bank, even Gaza, the Middle East and the world forward in one positive way by co-investing in a public dialogue across the length and breadth of Israel and the Palestinian territories, to change the perception of Israelis toward Palestinians and Palestinians toward Israelis and over time involve enough people to require the political process to take notice and put peace back on a table that will accommodate final-status negotiations and can engender the creation of a real and lasting peace.
It’s a big ask! But these are all big people with big companies, big egos and big dreams – many of which are being realized. It is easy to separate the Left from the Right and break down the ability of this very special Working Group, disabling it on any number of policy points. But underneath it all the one thing that is desperately lacking in Israel-Palestine is an orientation promoting a full airing of the story of the “other” which amounts to two stories of enemies that not only need to be heard, but need to be listened to deeply enough to promote understanding and even the beginning of something that transcends that. It is only this peoples dialogue process that can guarantee to lower the temperature of the boiling pot of problems, anger, hate and fear that is always on the edge of exploding all over Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and the entire Middle East.
That I sincerely believe is something tangible enough to unite the 20 named exceptionally diverse billionaires, and many others, in an effort to remake the Middle East from the ground up by remaking relationships between the entire population one conversation at a time.
There are plenty of individuals, academic and not-for-profit institutions engaged in planning and conducting dialogue between diverse groups in the Middle East, here in America and around the globe (and I have named a number of incredible programs before). The challenge is not who gets selected but to enfranchise the process so that the governments formally endorse it and do so in a way that is built to carry beyond any single leadership until two peoples have made an existential leap in the way they envision their lives as neighbors, friends and economic partners sharing the wealth and a territory that truly becomes a Holy Land for all.The author is president of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace, a NGO located in suburban Philadelphia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.