New York, December 30, 2011—Challenges abounded as OneVoice Palestine (OVP) staff and senior youth leaders met in Ramallah to discuss several political obstacles and outline the street campaigns and activities they will carry out in the coming year. Two issues took center stage in their discussion: the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation and Israel’s settlement policy.
A reconciliation agreement could pave the way for Palestinian elections in 2012, giving OneVoice Palestine the chance to advocate for the two-state solution. “A lot of people think that with the reconciliation the situation on the ground for Palestinians will become better and easier” said Abdullah Hamarsheh, director of the OVP’s youth leadership program. “While that is the hope, we have to read the situation rather than see it. There are people lurking in the dark waiting to perpetuate the situation and we should be ready for them.”
OneVoice Palestine recognized the importance of ending factional divisions as a precursor to ending the occupation, establishing a sovereign Palestinian state, and as a result achieving lasting peace in the region. They launched major activities across the West Bank last March to channel the energy on the street into a cry for national unity.
Despite the initial push, the talks between the two rival parties stalled for months. Recent progress has left many OneVoice Palestine youth leaders hopeful for a resolution. “Reconciliation efforts now are more serious than ever,” said Bashar Shweiki. “We should embrace these steps as a means for strengthening and widening the base of support for the two-state solution.”
Adding to the difficulty of OneVoice Palestine’s advocacy efforts is Israel’s settlement policy and attacks by settlers in the West Bank that threaten the possibility of achieving a contiguous and viable Palestinian state. Israel recently approved the construction of hundreds of units on occupied Palestinian territory, eliciting condemnation from the European Union members of the UN Security Council last month.
“We call on the Israeli government to reverse these steps,” the statement by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal said. “The viability of the Palestinian state that we want to see and the two-state solution that is essential for Israel's long-term security are threatened by the systematic and deliberate expansion of settlements.”
“We should lead more demonstrations asking the Israeli government to take serious steps to move the peace process forward,” said Mohammad Asideh, OVP’s outreach coordinator and a former youth leader. “We shouldn’t rest until we achieve the two-state solution based on international resolutions, within clear terms of reference and a set time frame.”
Such reactions not only reflect the reality of the current situation, but also reveal the deep-seated desire to move past the status quo to a better future. “We have a major role, especially with a growing base of supporters,” Samer Makhlouf, executive director of OneVoice Palestine, told the youth leaders. “We must do all that we can to reach more people and make sure our message is heard loud and clear.”