KF to Collaborate on Developing Deliberative Decision Making in Israel

The Kettering Foundation has an exciting new opportunity to test deliberative decision making in a new and challenging environment --Israel. KF will be working with Udi Cohen and the Citizens Accord Forum as they plan to hold deliberative forums with Israeli Jews and Arabs on shared everyday problems, such as education. At least 600 Jewish and Arab citizens will be involved, including some ultra-Orthodox Jewish citizens. Cohen says the ultimate goal is to help begin to transform the Arab-Israeli conflict. "Of course, we are aware that 'peace' will not necessarily come as a result of this project," Cohen says. "However, we are convinced that it will contribute a great deal to the transformative conflict work that we have been conducting in recent years." Cohen has previously participated in and served on the faculty for KF's DDW workshops. He became convinced that deliberative politics could be helpful in Israel, where he describes the basic political problem as the difficulty of "decision makers and citizens from different backgrounds to make progress in reaching a transformative solution of the core issues and episodic problems in the conflict within Israel between Palestinian-Arab and Jewish citizens." Based on recent studies of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel, Cohen describes a complex and contradictory situation amongst citizens there, "where on the one hand the gap and the alienation between Jews and Arabs are consistently growing, and on the other hand both parties testify to a will for a different future of truly shared life in this country." The project also gives Kettering a chance to build in a number of its ideas about deliberative decision making into the learning process itself. Because deliberation is not an American invention, associates from around the world will be involved in helping Cohen to prepare for the forums. This has, in turn, required us to make use of technology whenever possible, which is another kind of experiment for us in how we work with others. A Skype call last week between KF president David Mathews, program officer Phil Lurie, and KF associates Igor Nagdasev (Russia), Ruby Quantson (Ghana), Idit Manosevitch, Uri Cohen, and his team on how to develop the practice of deliberation in citizens went very well and may have implications for other multinational exchanges.