New York, October 13, 2011—MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima), the first Ethiopian Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict head-on to an active audience at OneVoice's New York headquarters on Thursday.
Speaking candidly on such setbacks in negotiations as Israeli settlements and the Palestinian right of return, MK Molla also encouraged youth leaders Gabi Avner and Anas Ashqar on the need for grassroots activism to propel the peace process forward.
As a Jew restricted from purchasing property in Ethiopia, MK Molla spoke not only about his support for Palestinian statehood, but his compassion for Palestinian suffering. “I personally suffered as a Jew in Ethiopia,” said MK Molla. “I have a very deep sympathy for Palestinians who need their own authority, own culture, and own state.”
MK Molla’s support for the two-state solution came with a call for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to give up their preconditions for peace as the only way to reignite negotiations. While he expressed that Israel should remove its demand for recognition as a Jewish state, MK Molla also stated that Palestinians need to relent on the right of return, despite the overwhelming difficulty.
"A greater Israel will always have a place in my heart, like Hebron, that’s where my history is from, and I shouldn’t have to give up my history just like I can’t ask Anas to give up historical Palestine,” said Avner, on why he does not need Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. “It’s a people question, not a political question.”
Even with MK Molla’s significant political clout, he reflected that it is the grassroots that has the power to see the two-state solution advance. “Leaders are not making peace, the people are making the peace,” said MK Molla. “The first time in the Israeli Knesset there is a caucus for a two-state solution.”
Not only is the Israeli Caucus for the Two-State Solution the first of its kind, but the briefing witnessed mutual recognition of Israeli and Palestinian challenges in a space where Ashqar was able to address MK Molla.
“I saw this as an opportunity to bring together political leadership and grassroots activism,” said OneVoice’s CEO Howard Sumka, “and for Gabi and Anas to talk with Israeli leadership, to have Anas sit with a member of the Knesset and share his views as a Palestinian.”