PA president in Ramallah next weekDelegation of some 200 students from dozens of academic institutions to meet
A group of students at Bar- Ilan University have started a petition on Sunday against the
upcoming convoy of students scheduled to go to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas next week.
The delegation, of about 200 student leaders and heads of student organizations from dozens of academic institutions across the country, is a joint initiative by the Knesset Caucus and the National Union of Israeli Students to Resolve the Arab-Israeli Conflict, led by Ori Reshtick.
The event is intended to establish dialogue between student leaders and the Palestinian side, in order to raise some of the complex issues that are discussed in the peace negotiations.
During the meeting, Abbas will present his perspective with the students, who will be able to ask questions.
According to the BIU students against the initiative, the convoy is an example of how the NUIS has been politicizing itself over the past few years. “Not only have they been politicizing themselves, but they also have a very clear agenda to the Left,” Akiva Lamm, spokesman for the group, told the Jerusalem Post on Sunday, “It started a few years ago, with the social protests and Itzik Shmuli, but for us, this delegation is taking it to the next level.”
“A few days ago, Reshtick was quoted in an article saying that anyone who signed up for the convoy is expressing their trust in the peace process,” “Assuming that this delegation should be made of a variety of opinions, this statement is basically twisting their arm to agree to something they may not want to. We don’t want anybody to determine our opinion for us,” Lamm said.
Lamm added that “as the union is supposed to represent all students, politicizing it to a very specific agenda basically makes the voices of a significant amount of students “disappear.”
According to an on-line survey that the group conducted recently, among 1129 respondents, 75 percent are against the convoy.
“We responded willingly to the initiative to meet with the Palestinian Authority chairman because we believe it is important that the student population and the young people in Israel take an active and influential part in bringing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end,” Reshtick said, “It is in its ability of the delegation of students to rise above the disagreements and take part in this historic event.”
According to him, more than 1,200 students have signed up for the visit to Ramallah.
“For us this is a vote of confidence in the goals of the mission – to create an open dialogue that will include a variety of voices and opinions.”
Reshtick also said that the delegation will include representatives from across the political spectrum and will not be exclusively of the Right or Left.
“The student union is not affiliated with a party and the visit does not support a particular position concerning the Israeli – Palestinian conflict,” he told the Post.
MK Hilik Bar, chairman of the Knesset Caucus and charged to Resolve the Arab-Israeli Conflict, said in a statement that “Israel’s students are the future leaders of the country” and that the meeting is “an important step in breaking the ice and chipping away at the demonization that exists between the two societies.”
“As a young leader myself, I am aware of the disparity between the feelings that exist on the ground and the reality, and it’s incumbent upon us to do everything we can in order to reduce this disparity,” he said.
Students against the convoy have begun sending representatives to different universities across the country to collect signature for their petition. On Monday, they will attend a meeting with Likud MKs on the subject at the Knesset, in order to attempt to put a stop to the delegation.