Ron Prosor and Gerry Adams: road to peace

By Marcus Dysch in Belfast, May 7, 2009
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Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams with Ambassador Ron Prosor in Belfast

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams with Ambassador Ron Prosor in Belfast

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has said he “would like to help” advance the Middle East peace process using his experience from Northern Ireland.

His comments came as Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor made a two-day tour of Belfast this week.

When Mr Adams visited the Middle East in March, Israeli officials refused to meet him after he held talks with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza.

But he offered Mr Prosor a warm welcome to Ulster ahead of an hour of private talks on Wednesday afternoon.

The pair discussed parallels between the Troubles and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr Adams said: “I would like to help. The situation is dreadfully bad and needs encouragement. The Israeli and Palestinian people can make peace in a two-state solution.”

He claimed to be “modest” about the assistance he and other Irish politicians could offer and said: “It’s up to the people to do it. Leaders have to lead and we need a peace settlement”.

Mr Prosor later travelled to a Nationalist area of East Belfast for a tour of the peace walls. More than 40 walls were constructed during the Troubles, but many have now been renovated and feature murals designed by children.

Walking close to Newtonards Road, once a major sectarian flashpoint, he paused to take a closer look at the paintings and reflect on their impact.

“These walls now make people good neighbours,” the ambassador said. “They allow them to come together. If terror had continued, life could not have been sustained.”

But he said Israeli and Palestinian officials should not attempt a direct copy of the Irish peace process.

“There are many differences.Even the craziest people in Northern Ireland did not claim London as their capital. But I really believe we can learn something from every conflict.

“These are walls of peace and in Israel this is what we are trying to do.”

He was told that Belfast residents took a close interest in developments in Israel.

During January’s conflict in Gaza, Nationalist families in the Falls Road area displayed Palestinian flags, while Loyalist supporters in and around Shankhill Road flew Israeli flags.

Earlier, Mr Prosor enjoyed a guided tour of Stormont, home of the Northern Ireland Assembly. During lunch he invited William Hay, speaker of the Assembly, to visit Israel.

On Wednesday evening, the ambassador attended an event hosted by the newly-formed Northern Ireland Friends of Israel (NIFI) group.

Chaired by the UJIA’s Mick Davis, it included a performance by Israeli-born Tube busker Hadar Manor, who sang Hebrew songs for around 200 guests.

Steven Jaffe, NIFI co-chair, said the group was delighted to have attracted such a high-profile guest so early in its existence.

“It’s a big honour for us to be hosting Mr Prosor. He was keen to come after hearing of our launch event in March.

“Around 90 per cent of the group are not Jewish. They are based all over Northern Ireland and some will have made round trips of 180 miles to be here. Their commitment is touching.

“Many of them are Christians who support Israel as a matter of their religious beliefs, but there are also academics and representatives of all the major political parties.”

Mr Jaffe said the support of leading members of the English community, such as Mr Davis and Board of Deputies president Henry Grunwald, who attended NIFI’s launch, had been vital.

Belfast’s Orthodox synagogue has around 100 members. Its representative Leon Litvack said Mr Prosor’s visit would have “a real impact” on many communities in the city.

    Last updated: 3:42pm, July 13 2009