Less than four weeks ago, we unveiled results from the first-ever public citizen negotiations, through which 113,000 ordinary Palestinians and Israelis remarkably achieved consensus on ten essential pillars for conflict resolution after three intense rounds of voting. (September report.)
The obvious question that many of our members and supporters asked was, what is the next step? What are ordinary Israelis and Palestinians to do now to amplify their voice and propel their political representatives to follow their clear will for conflict resolution?
Little did many of us know that the question would so swiftly acquire such grave historical urgency.
The passing of Yasser Arafat was mourned as the very personal loss of a valiant forefather by our 58,000 Palestinian members, while most of our 55,000 Israeli members saw the passing of a bitter terrorist enemy.
Common ground amidst such stark dissonance could be easily overlooked once again. Yet the dominant thought on both peoples’ minds, as well as among our 6,000 international supporters, is the same: a hope that tomorrow will bring one more chance for a comprehensive negotiated agreement, and a growing determination that this time we cannot be silent lest we once again fail the call for peace.
So what is the next phase for the OneVoice movement – and for the people of the region? Ironically, it had begun on the eve of Arafat's passing in Ramallah with 68 exceptional young Palestinians. They were selected after a rigorous interview process for OneVoice’s Leadership Development program, which aims to inspire and train hundreds of Palestinian and Israeli citizen leaders on nonviolent means to motivate and mobilize their fellow citizens to ensure political accountability through grassroots civic participation.
This training seminar took place as everyone in Ramallah awaited the impending announcement of their President’s death, and as they fasted for Ramadan. Their mood was at once reflective and resilient. They criticized the military occupation, but were receptive to meeting Israelis and working in a parallel partnership towards ending the conflict. They questioned whether they could ultimately make a difference through nonviolent action, but their intense gaze answered their own questions with resonating determination to try. Participants included women and men ages 18 to 28, all of them articulate and full of poise, with a diversity of political affiliations – Fatah, PFLP, Nidal and at least two from Hamas.
OneVoice was conceived in the aftermath of the second Intifadah, amidst an air of gloom and despair, to inspire ordinary citizens to stand up against extremism, and to recognize their duty to actively defend their vision, lest it be hijacked forever by absolutist agendas of the violent few.
We recognized that in the era after the Barak-Arafat debacle, legitimacy for a breakthrough agreement would necessitate grassroots support, and one day would come when the time would be ripe for mobilization – so we started to prepare. The Mideast never disappoints those who expect swift shifts. It may well be that we are granted a rare opportunity for a comprehensive agreement among Israelis and Palestinians sooner than expected – but only if WE ALL STAND UP firmly in favor.
The NEXT STEPS in the OneVoice methodology, designed by hundreds of Israelis, Palestinians and international advisors over the last 3+ years, and refined and re-calibrated over the last 6 months of review, include the following:
• DEEPEN THE IMPACT: Train a core group of civic society leaders on how to motivate and mobilize their brethren through the Civilian Leadership Program
• BROADEN THE REACH: Sign up at least one hundred thousand more members and reach millions more through public workshops, televised civic negotiation broadcasts, internet campaigns, and people-to-people signature drives
• MAGNIFY THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE: Deploy a creative communications campaign including Public Service Announcements and Public Events geared to force the Media to showcase the will of ordinary citizens to resolve the conflict
• ADDRESS THE EMERGING ISSUES: Continue forging broad-based consensus on issues important to the people of the region and highlighting them to their political representatives as well as to policymakers worldwide.
The above programs HAVE started. We will NEED YOU TO BE A PART OF THIS HISTORIC DUTY. Seldom do we get second chances or third chances. We, the people, did not rise up to our duty as citizens and sufficiently support our leaders when they took courageous steps for peace in the past. This time we all cannot fail peace again. Over the next months, we will provide more information on the above, and we hope you will find your way to contribute to this effort.