ROPES’s flagship program, the Middle East 2030 summit series has for the past three years brought together emerging leaders from Israel/Palestine and the Arab world for 3-4 days of learning, bonding, discussion, and shared action. Participants in the organization’s 2019 Paris pilot summit, its 2020 virtual summit, and its 2021 Vienna Summit included current and former members of parliament, diplomats, journalists, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and other changemakers between the ages of 24 and 44. ROPES plans to hold its fourth Middle East 2030 summit in Manama, Bahrain, in early 2023.
Having regional Arab emerging leaders visit Israel/Palestine is a great first step to getting them involved in the peacebuilding process. This past summer, ROPES brought a one-week pilot delegation of emerging leaders to visit Israel and the West Bank. The participants–representing the UAE, Jordan, Morocco, Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia–visited East and West Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem, Rawabi, Israel’s northern borders, Nazareth, Haifa, and Tel Aviv-Jaffa. In the process, they gained a first-hand understanding of the situation on the ground and connected with peacebuilders on both sides of the Green Line who are fighting to make things better. ROPES plans to bring four specialized delegations–in politics, business, environment, and media–over the course of 2023.
Fundamental to ROPES’s vision of a new Middle East is a regional mechanism – modeled after the European Union’s Erasmus Program – that gives Israeli, Palestinian, and regional Arab students the opportunity to spend a semester or year studying abroad in an environment that will forge relationships across borders and challenge stereotypes (for the student and for those encountering the student). In March 2022, with the support of the Rothschild Foundation in Paris, ROPES carried out its one-week “Afaqona” education pilot program in Dubai for a group of 12 university and post-graduate students from Israel, the West Bank, Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco. The organization has begun discussions with universities and education ministries in the region with an eye toward launching its first cohort of long-term exchange students in late 2023.
One of the greatest ways to build people-to-people ties in conflict zones is to focus on shared challenges, such as climate change in the Middle East. Since the 1990s, the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies has been doing just that, bringing together Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians to learn about and work together on environmental protection. And so, ROPES is pleased to have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Arava Institute for joint environmental programming bringing together Israelis, Palestinians, and regional Arabs. ROPES and the Arava Institute recently co-hosted a webinar with Israel’s Minister of Environmental Protection and look forward in 2023 to partnering on further virtual and in-person events in advance of the United Arab Emirates’ hosting of the COP28 Summit.
The media had too often inflamed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by polarizing discourse and reinforcing harmful stereotypes. ROPES seeks to reclaim media as an engine of peace by arranging interview opportunities for high-profile Israeli, Palestinian, and Arab moderates in the media outlets of the other. In June 2019, ROPES facilitated the first-ever interview of an Arab minister on Israeli television, when the foreign minister of Bahrain spoke to Channel 13 reporter (and ROPES advisory-board member) Barak Ravid. During the 2021 Gaza conflict, the organization also arranged for former Israeli defense-intelligence chief Amos Yadlin (also a ROPES advisory-board member) to be interviewed on Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya.
ROPES Webinar Series
The onset of COVID-19 forced all peacebuilding NGOs to think creatively about new ways to foster connections and shared understanding. In the summer of 2020, ROPES launched its popular Webinar Series that–over 18 installments–has given a chance for its alumni, supporters, and allies to hear from a variety of Israeli, Palestinian, Arab, and international voices who have shaped, are shaping, and will shape the course of Arab-Israeli relations. Past speakers have included former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, veteran U.S. Middle East envoys Dennis Ross and Dan Shapiro, Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki, and both the Emirati and Bahraini ambassadors to the United States (Yousef Al Otaiba and Sheikh Abdullah bin Rashed Al Khalifa). And timely expert panels have covered topics from the 2021 Gaza conflict, President Biden’s Middle East visit, and the 2022 Israeli elections.