In a week where the United States started a new push for Mid-East peace, OneVoice sought to ensure another big player - the European Union – stepped up to play its role.
On May 7, while OneVoice Europe (OVE) staff were in Brussels gathering support from politicians, OneVoice Palestine (OVP) youth leaders in Ramallah were paid a visit by Dr. Andreas Reinicke, the EU’s Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process.
Dr. Reinicke – appointed by the EU to push for a two-state solution – chose OVP as the first civil society representatives he has met in the West Bank. In an hour-and-half-long discussion, Reinicke and OVP youth leaders seized the opportunity to quiz one another on the status of the two-state solution.
Reinicke wanted the view from the grassroots: what do Palestinian youth think of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s new peace plan?
“The economic path to peace is good, but it must be followed by a very serious effort on the political level,” said Mohammed Asideh, OVP's field coordinator and senior youth leader.
While Reinicke said he agreed, Samer Makhlouf, OVP’s executive director, wanted to underscore this point.
“Palestinians need a guarantee that Kerry is talking about real peace - and an end to the occupation - not just economic peace,” he said.
Dr. Reinicke was also keen to know what Palestinians want from the EU. The youth leaders in the room had a long shopping list for Reinicke – more consensus across EU states that the occupation should end now; more pressure on the US to be a truly neutral mediator; a more visible role in negotiations by the EU itself; and for the EU to set the parameters of the peace process, based on the Arab Peace Initiative and international law.
As the meeting ended, Dr. Reinicke thanked OVP for its time and efforts in Palestine.
''It was a pleasure meeting all of you today," he told OVP. "I have written down some notes and I assure you your inputs were very valuable."
Meanwhile in Brussels, OVE was meeting MEPs from across the political spectrum – Greens, Socialists, and Conservatives – to garner support for OneVoice’s work in Israel and Palestine. Dr. Hans-Gert Pöttering MEP, former president of the European Parliament and a supporter of the movement since he hosted OneVoice youth leaders at a session of the Parliament, reiterated his support for OneVoice to keep pushing the political leaders toward ending the conflict.
John Lyndon, OVE’s Executive Director, and Anthony Silkoff, OVE’s Advocacy Coordinator, were told by Pöttering they could count on his support to increase momentum toward a two-state solution now, before it becomes too late.
OneVoice Europe Executive Director John Lyndon (left) and Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator Anthony Silkoff (right) with Dr. Hans-Gert Pöttering MEP, former president of the European Parliament, in Brussels.