In the face of continued talks of peace in the region, students came together Wednesday to discuss the potential of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Members of J Street U, an Israel-focused political student group, considered ways in which Israel and Palestine could present a two-state solution.
“In the context of what’s going on in Israel with John Kerry and others pushing peace negotiations, the issue could not be more important,” said Ilan Benattar, the president of the Binghamton University chapter of J Street U. “No question is out of bounds. If you want to bring a comment or disagreement, that’s what we want to hear.”
The event consisted of a video presentation and multiple discussions, where participants had the opportunity to present their ideas on how a diplomatic agreement between Israel and Palestine could be reached.
The video was divided into four segments with questions for the audience after each part.
“Do you think Jerusalem needs to be shared in a two-state solution?” asked Benattar, a senior double-majoring in Arabic studies and history. “I know from my perspective that Israelis would not accept a state without Jerusalem, and I can only assume Palestinians might feel the same way.”
Responses to each question prompted a variety of discussions, especially when the proposal to build a border through the city was raised. A majority did feel uneasy about dividing such a holy city.
“I don’t know what it is. It’s not about the aesthetics, but something worries me about building an actual wall through the social lines that might exist,” said Ashley Mashall, vice president of J Street at BU and a sophomore majoring in psychology.
Other students disagreed.
“There kind of is already a wall up,” said Hannah Robins, a freshman majoring in psychology. “When I was with Israelis in Jerusalem they said ‘Arabs live there. Don’t go there.’”
The video ended with the same question it opened with.
“Can Jerusalem be the capital for both Israel and Palestine?” asked the narrator. “We believe it can.”
After the video, students stood up and walked to different sides of the room to show what their stance was on questions relating to Israel.
“In order for Israel to keep on existing, it needs to change the way it educates people about solutions,” Mashall said. “It’s important to acknowledge something has changed and people have to make tough choices.”
The event was attended by 10 other members, but organizers said the discussion was still helpful.
“I’m glad we had a broad range of questions and people expressed their feelings about what are some very hard issues,” Benattar said.
Andrew Gordon-Kirsch, an organizer from J Street U’s office in New York City, also attended the event.
“I don’t normally come out to events like this, but I really thought it was interesting,” Gordon-Kirsch said. “We had some great discussions, and I hope more people can join this in the future.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article misquoted J Street U President Ilan Bennetar as saying “I know from my perspective that Israelis would not accept a state without Israel…” This version has been updated with the correct quote.