Israel's yearning for peace:
The example of Sderot mayor Eli Moyal

Published: 16 April 2005
Briefing Number 139

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Summary: Eli Moyal, the mayor of the rocket-battered Israeli town of Sderot, is leading a proposed dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian mayors. Moyal’s determination to improve relations with Palestinian society, despite the traumatic experience of Sderot citizens, is a tangible demonstration of how much Israel’s people yearn for peace. This Beyond Images Briefing summarises Moyal’s involvement, quoting extracts from a recent media interview he gave

Sderot under attack 2003-5

In the last two years, the southern Israeli town of Sderot, which lies adjacent to the Gaza strip, has been the target of over 500 Qassam rocket attacks by Palestinian squads operating from inside the Gaza Strip (see Beyond Images Briefing 130). These rocket attacks are completely indiscriminate. Several children have been killed. Many residents have been wounded. The town has been turned upside down.

Dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian mayors

Against this background, it might be expected that Sderot mayor, as representative of its citizens, would be opposed to dialogue with Palestinian counterparts, and advocate a tough military response. The reality is the opposite.

Sderot mayor Eli Moyal is leading a project to create a dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian town mayors. According to a report on Ynet News ( (7 April 2005), the initiative was launched by an Israeli businessman, and is so far set to involve 25 Israeli and 25 Palestinian mayors. The Israelis include the mayors of Beer Sheva, Ashkelon and Kfar Sava (each the subject of Palestinian suicide bomb attacks). The Palestinian mayors are led by the mayor of Nablus Dr Hussein al-Araj.

“Crossing oceans for peace…”

Moyal’s comments to a journalist about his own involvement are particularly important:

“A ceasefire begins on the ground. Even though I’m against Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, and still a right-wing Likud member, I’m obligated to move forward….

I’m prepared to cross oceans and give up every ounce of respect. I’ll leave my respect at home for the sake of peace… Who else but me and the residents of Sderot, who have experience suffering, know how important a ceasefire is….”
[our italics – Beyond Images]

Our comments

As at today’s date, the initiative has yet to begin in earnest. It may bring results. It may fail. The purpose of this Briefing is not to gaze into a crystal ball, but to highlight the attitude of Eli Moyal. Far from rejecting dialogue he is advocating it. Far from fuelling a so-called “cycle of violence” or calling for revenge for the 500 attacks Sderot’s citizens have endured, he is looking to reinforce a ceasefire.

Israelis across the political and social spectrum yearn for peace. Government Ministers and opposition politicians debate rival peace plans; retired Israeli army generals initiate plans of their own; so do womens’ groups; religious groups; grass-roots Israeli citizens groups, students, schoolchildren and sporting stars. This reflects a society yearning for peace, and seeking out Palestinian leaders and society ready to respond.

Eli Moyal’s project to bring mayors together is a demonstration of this yearning. Moyal’s words should be quoted to those who question the sincerity of Israel’s quest for peace and for a better future.