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Living Room Diplomacy December 01, 2007E-mail this story E-mail this story
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Mid East Peace
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Miriam Zimmerman and Elias Botto are members of the Living Room Dialogue Group, an organization based in San Mateo, Calif. The group's goal is to bring Jews and Palestinians together to talk about Middle East politics and to foster understanding. Weekend America host Bill Radke talks with Miriam and Elias to get their reactions to this week's Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Md.

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Elias Botto: I personally followed it very closely, even pre- the summit. And there were so many indications that were very positive, I was building my hope on, even though we'd been down the road before, and nothing really developed. But I hope this time is a little bit different.

Bill Radke: Miriam, what did you take away from this week's events?

Miriam Zimmerman: Well, to me the image that plays out in my mind over and over is the image of Bush between the two leaders, Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, holding their hand. And it seems to me that that's the wrong image. Bush needs to step back and put the two men's hands together. And what's excluded in that image is the people and that's what our living room dialogue group is all about. It's a public peace process. I'm not sure if politicians can really implement a lasting peace without the people somehow represented. And so Hamas is not represented. And that's Gaza, and that's part of the West Bank as well. I want to believe that it's a baby step forward, but that image that has stayed and played out in my mind unfortunately tells me what else needs to happen.

EB: Well, Miriam, you're right about the image of those our leaders. And this is only a segment of the whole situation over there. I think we need to address the people, the citizens of Israel, and the citizens of Palestine. And finally to me, to be honest, I mean, I'm very critical here, not against Israel or against the Palestinians, I'm very critical against America, American government, and American policy. I think they lend themselves 100 percent to support Israel, whether Israel is right in doing what they are doing, or whether it's good for Israel or not. The time has come

I'm trying to - you're pulling it back to what's happening over there. I'm very curious - I want to go to your living room. I assume that the peace talks will be the big topic of your next living room dialogue.

EB: You guessed it.

What is going to happen at that meeting?

MR: So we'll talk about what's going on in Annapolis, and it's not structured. We'll have the opportunity each of us to speak and listen. Our, I have a feeling if Elias said what he just said in the group there would be some protest. Sandra would probably disagree a little bit.

EB: We might, instead of being in enter into a dialogue at one of those meetings now maybe next time we meet, we might enter into an argument and start screaming at each other, yet, the final result when we leave that meeting that evening, we leave all as friends. Because we know where we come from, and we know better than to judge each other on that particular situation.

MR: The fact that we've created relationships, that will be the most important thing. That we can support each other in our differences. And again, I can visualize our group, we know one another pretty well at this point.

You've already mentioned Sandra.

MR: Yes. Oh dear, we'd better give equal opportunity. I can picture Lenn and Libby, also, with their input. And so whether we say America is biased towards Israel 100 percent, or 80 percent, or 50 percent, it doesn't really matter. The important thing is the respect, the character of our listening, and caring. Which is missing among our leaders. In my opinion, we are the missing link to this whole peace process. Our methods and our model. The politicians have a capacity to create peace on a large scale. But they're not going to be able to do it without the other half, without the people behind them, in this kind of relationship.

Elias and Miriam, thank you for this time.

MR: Thank you Bill for inviting us.

EB: It's nice to talk to you.