New York, October 11, 2011—OneVoice Israel brought top Israeli figures from across the political spectrum to engage the public in conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at Tel Aviv’s Cinematheque Plaza on Tuesday.
More than 500 participants joined 30 roundtable discussions ranging from the role of women in peace building to Israel’s relationship with Turkey. Moderators included political leaders Nino Abesadze (Kadima), Daniel Ben-Simon (Labor), Eitan Cabel (Labor), Yoel Hasson (Kadima), former Labor Party leader Amram Mitzna, and former intelligence head Ami Ayalon.
“The goal was to replicate the success of the social demonstrations in Israel this past summer and to extend that discussion to the conflict,” said Tal Harris, executive director of OneVoice Israel. “We hope we imparted understanding to the people that their political fate is in their own hands.”
OneVoice Israel partnered with Blue White Future and the Council for Peace and Security to initiate open communication between Israeli leaders and the people in a showcase of empowerment to the masses. Many of the speakers were able to raise unique perspectives to an audience willing to talk and play a role in resolving the conflict.
“On my table, we discussed what we call coordinated unilateralism,” said Ami Ayalon. “It is ok if the Palestinians are demanding unilaterally a Palestinian state—Israel should not be against it; it’s ok if Israel will act unilaterally in order to achieve a reality of two states, as long as it is coordinated with shared vision.”
Another discussion led by Amram Mitzna focused on Israel’s borders and security. “Once you agree on borders and security measures, then there is a way to establish a Palestinian state even if we don’t reach an agreement on refugees and Jerusalem,” said Mitzna. “We have to make borders our target... then we can diffuse the time bomb that we are sitting on here in the Middle East.”
The design of the roundtable discussions was not to choose sides in Israeli politics, but to talk frankly. Moderators, including representatives from Im Tirtzu and the New Movement-Meretz, ran the gamut of political opinion in Israel.
“We believe that the conflict is not between left and right, not even between Israelis and Palestinians, or Muslims and Jews—it is between small groups of fanatics,” said Harris.
The event, attended primarily by Israeli youth, generated increased optimism for the guest speakers, who were able to hear for themselves the public’s desires for a renewed call to peace. “One girl said that she now believes we have an Israeli leadership that can promote a peace process for a two-state solution,” said MK Hasson, head of the Knesset’s Two-State Solution Caucus.
Following this event, OneVoice Israel hopes to continue forthcoming conversations between Israel’s leadership and its people. “This is a match that we are throwing into the political sphere, maybe it will catch on fire and lead to bigger events,” said Harris.