BY JUDY SIEGEL | Seeds of Peace, a New York based organization that promotes coexistence programs for young people from regions of conflict, has announced plans to convene a Middle East Youth summit to be attended by Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian and Egyptian youths. The summit convening in Villars, Switzerland from May 1 through May 7 will feature speakers such as Jordan’s Queen Noor, former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, coalition whip MK Meir Sheetrit (Likud), Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, Egyptian undersecretary and political adviser to the president Osama el-Baz, and UN assistant secretary-general Vladimir Petrovsky.
Officials from the US and Israeli government have also been invited. “We are seizing this moment as a time when the Israeli-Palestinian talks are stymied to give the next generation of Arabs and Israelis a chance to send a message to their leaders,” Seeds of Peace President and founder John Wallach said in announcing the summit Friday at the US Consulate in East Jerusalem.
“The young people who gather for this summit are committed to making the personal effort to show their leaders that there is a better way,” Wallach said. The summit is to be funded by Novartis, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company which is headquartered in Basel.
Alex Jetzer, of the Novartis Board of Directors, said his company (formed by the merger of Ciba and Sandoz) is constantly seeking ways to improve social welfare.
“By supporting this summit, we hope to help the next generation of leaders plan for a brighter and more secure future,” he said.
Since 1993, when youngsters participating in Seeds of Peace events were guests at the historic White House signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles—also known as the Oslo Accords—the foundation has brought teenagers from the Middle East, Bosnia and other trouble spots to its US summer camp and conflict resolution program. The organization plans also to launch a program for Greek and Turkish youngsters from Cyprus this summer.