By Howard Sumka*
The Palestinian plan to request UN recognition of its statehood has created intense controversy and challenged OneVoice. How should we position ourselves on the UN initiative? How could we place it in a broader perspective? And most importantly, how could we play a positive role in shaping the aftermath?
OneVoice always strives to bring ordinary citizens into a constructive conversation about the conflict and to mobilize them for action. During this tense period, we continue to work to reduce the frustration and pessimism on both sides and channel people’s energy into nonviolent actions that advocate for a two-state solution – the only stable, viable, and peaceful future for the beleaguered people of Israel and Palestine. No matter how the UN initiative is resolved, that will remain our course.
Only good faith negotiations will produce a mutually acceptable, comprehensive and permanent two-state solution – of that we remain certain. President Mahmoud Abbas agrees, having said last week, “Our first, second and third priority is negotiations. There is no other way to solve this. No matter what happens at the United Nations, we have to return to negotiations.” He also added, “We don’t want to isolate Israel but to live with it in peace and security. We don’t want to delegitimize Israel. We want to legitimize ourselves.”
OneVoice Palestine (OVP) launched its campaign to support the Palestinian bid with the primary intent to mobilize thousands of Palestinians behind the two-state solution. Their activities will lay the basis for nonviolent and constructive responses in the aftermath of the vote. OneVoice Israel (OVI) will soon begin their own campaign to keep the two-state solution alive, spotlighting the potential benefits for Israel of recognizing a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with all its neighbors.
Our Israeli activists are urging their leadership to take positive actions that can turn the UN initiative into a win-win for both sides and rekindle negotiations. Prominent members of Israel’s political and security elite, including OneVoice Israel board members, believe that a resolution that addresses issues of concern to Israel and paves the way for renewed negotiations would preserve the country’s interests and the two-state solution.
Bringing the vision of a Palestinian state closer to realization is vital to counter absolutist agendas. We have watched with alarm the growing Palestinian disillusionment with the two-state solution, which threatens a peaceful and stable future for Israelis and Palestinians. We have seen growing frustration on both sides at the lack of tangible progress, all set against the backdrop of worrying developments that endanger the security of the entire region.
OneVoice continues to advocate for a negotiated resolution to the conflict, and we hope this Palestinian initiative can produce positive developments that are far superior to stagnation and prevent a steep deterioration into violence and extremism.
*Dr. Howard Sumka is CEO of OneVoice, leading the movement's efforts toward a two-state solution for Middle East peace. He was director of USAID's Mission to West Bank-Gaza. You can follow him on Twitter @HowardSumka.