Israelis, Palestinians looking for ‘one voice’

The One Voice initiative is based on the premise that there is a silent majority among Israelis and Palestinians who want a negotiated settlement to their conflict and an end to the cycle of violence.Israelis, Palestinians, Jewish and Arab-American leaders …

The One Voice initiative is based on the premise that there is a silent majority among Israelis and Palestinians who want a negotiated settlement to their conflict and an end to the cycle of violence.Israelis, Palestinians, Jewish and Arab-American leaders and an impressive list of Hollywood stars have signed on to a new international initiative, which will try to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace from the grassroots up.

The program, known as One Voice, is being supported by a wide range of organizations and individuals in the U.S., including businessman and World Jewish Congress chairman Edgar Bronfman, American Arab Institute president James Zogby, and Hollywood celebrities like Jason Alexander, Danny Devito and even the glamorous couple Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.

The initiative is based on the premise that there is a silent majority among Israelis
and Palestinians who want a negotiated settlement to their conflict and an end to the cycle of violence and that this majority needs to make its voice heard.

The program was initiated by Jewish businessman Daniel Lubetzky and is an extension of the work of his U.S. organization PeaceWorks, which promotes business cooperation in volatile regions. The group will maintain offices in Ramallah, Gaza, and Herzilya.

Mohammad Darawshe, regional director and co-founder of One Voice, told The Jerusalem Post that despite the recent upsurge in terror attacks and ongoing fighting in the territories, there was clear evidence that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians want a peaceful solution to the conflict.

“The aim of this project is to awaken the voice of the silent majority on both sides and involve people in helping to solve the main issues by getting their input,” Darawshe, explained.

“The first stage will be to collect signatures on a proclamation of principles, which will be the gateway for engaging in a dialogue on the way
to drafting proposals for overcoming obstacles on the path to peace.

“Those who sign the proclamation will then be eligible to participate in a truly public referendum, via e-mail, phone, and traditional door-to-door canvassing that we hope will reach hundreds of thousands if not millions of
people. They will be asked to give their views on proposals formulated by experts to resolving the 10 key issues.”

The panel of experts, composed of 15 Israelis and similar numbers of Palestinians and international specialists, is to be chaired by former Under-Secretary of State Stuart Eisenstat. The panel is slated to meet in
August to draft the proposals for solving the key issues. The latter include the question of Jerusalem, borders, Palestinian refugees, water allocations, and other major issues, such as economic, social, and cultural ties.


“The issues and the proposals for resolving them through negotiations will be made public and Palestinians and Israelis, who signed the proclamation, will be invited to submit their views based on a grading system,” said
Darawshe.

“To this end we will be distributing hundreds of computer terminals to community centers, schools, and offices of non-governmental organizations in Israel and the PA areas.

“People will also be able to use interactive voice registration technology via land lines and mobile phones to make their opinions count. After about two years, all the findings will be collated and the original proposals will
be revised in light of the results by the panel of experts.

“The results will give us a graph on how people stand on the issues as well as a demographic description of what is more important in what areas, be it borders, water or land, and special emphasis can then be given to finding creative, localized solutions.”

Israeli leaders who have signed on to the unique project include deputy Industry and Trade Minister Michael Ratzon, Labor MK Matan Vilna’i, and Rabbi Michael Melchior.

On the Palestinian side, leading Palestinian Islamic cleric Sheikh Tayseer Tamini Yasser Abbas, son of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), are included among the list of names of those who support One Voice.

As for the Hollywood connection, Lubetsky won over former Seinfeld star Jason Alexander at a dinner party at Danny De Vito’s house.

“I loved and was enchanted really by all that Danny had to say that evening,” explained Alexander in an interview with the Hebrew newspaper Al Hasharon. “I think that the program is very smart and exciting. And I said I would do anything he wanted – I was at his service.”

Alexander believes that “the Israeli majority and the Palestinian majority understand that they there have to be two states that will live peacefully with each other and that there must be an agreement and a way to get there that is acceptable to both sides.”

The concept of promoting the views of the “moderate majority,” he says, is the message of the One Voice project. “But because of the intifada, the terror attacks, and the tension of the last two years the Israelis don’t believe that they have a partner on the Palestinian side, and the Palestinians don’t believe they have a partner on the Israeli side.”