Paris Peace Conference: Chess without players

Paris Peace Conference: Chess without players

On Sunday 15 January crowds had gathered to watch another game of chess between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. French referee Hollande had invited all the Ministers of Foreign Affairs from the EU, the G20, and the Arab League, of which more than 70 attended. Yet the players themselves did not show up.

The cancelled match had become a repetition of familiar moves, a ‘remise’ as the chess world would call it: no step forward. “We didn’t expect a lot more than this” was the response from one of the delegates from the Youth Peace Initiative (YPI), an initiative started by Dutch youth aimed at facilitating dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian youths on matters of peace.

Progress has been scarce in the peace process led by the current generation of Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Some blame this lack of progress on prejudice and lack of trust. “With us that’s not the case,” a YPI delegate from Israel vigorously explained to the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bert Koenders, just after the conference. “We love our country, we believe in a solution that fits for both sides and that’s why we, in contrast to our leaders, did come to Paris.” The Minister payed close attention to her story as she talked about the rounds of negotiations they had engaged in with Palestinian youth at the Clingendael Institute and about ‘Our Common Future’, a document that that presents the delegations’ shared vision of the future.

The trust between the younger generations of Israelis and Palestinians will form an important foundation when their leaders pass the baton. At the moment, the youth still feel left out of the process that shapes their future, the future of their country, and the future of the region at large. A solution requires leadership, vision, and especially mutual trust, which is why the new generation can have such a pivotal role to play. The reluctance of current leadership to make their move at the conference in Paris has made it clear once more: it’s time for the new generation to take a seat at the table.


YPI at Paris Peace Conference where delegates met with Bert Koenders (Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands)

After the Paris Peace Conference, YPI and its delegates met with The Netherlands’ Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders.