Annual Letter to OneVoice Board

Jun 17, 2008 Published under Israel, Middle East, OneVoice Movement, Palestine

I thought I’d share the letter I shared with our Honorary Board and Trustee Advisory Council members on the occasion of OneVoice‘s 6th Annual Board Meeting in Jerusalem this last month..

Dear Friends and Board Members,

Negotiations for a two state solution are so frail, the mood on the streets so fatalistic, and geo-political conditions so volatile, that many wonder whether we’ll again miss a historic opportunity in 2008, as we did in the year 2000.  The parallels are stark.  Will we do something different this time?

Reflect for a minute on how far we’ve come since we founded the OneVoice Movement – and be proud of your role in building what many thought would be impossible:

Now reflect for a minute on how much further we need to go.  Be sobered.  But rather than feel despair towards the road ahead, draw strength from what we’ve built so far and visualize that we can, we must, and we will ultimately prevail.  Serious challenges indeed await us:

  • Forces of absolutism on either side will do everything in their power to prevent a historic compromise;
  • Regional players with hegemonic ambitions will seek to turn the Israelis and Palestinians into peons in their geo-political struggles for supremacy;
  • Ordinary citizens are paralyzed by apathy or despair, increasingly polarized by daily checkpoints, incursions, rocket attacks, and edicts of hatred magnified by media coverage; each side is immersed in false expectations buttressed by taboos, misunderstandings, and fears;
  • Politicians and political parties are focusing on their careers above the fate of their people, dividing their already-weakened leadership;
  • Professional teams solely dedicated to uninterrupted negotiations have yet to be appointed.

And yet, we have a unique list of ingredients that has helped us sign up over 640,000 and awaken millions to the reality that the other side is not an absolute enemy, and that the solution lies in mobilizing both societies towards mutual recognitionThe ingredients include:

  • An unwavering determination to achieve a comprehensive working solution that can improve the lives of the Palestinian and Israeli people;
  • The sobering realization that failure is not an option and that the alternative is too bleak and dangerous for all;
  • Recognition that we can tap a reservoir of goodwill from the millions of ordinary citizens who crave a better future;
  • A formula combining deep strategic analysis with grassroots work necessary to build a human infrastructure, including a youth movement that has trained thousands of Israeli and Palestinian activists;
  • A non-partisan approach that transcends politics and embraces a broad spectrum of citizens committed to mutual recognition;
  • Innovation and creativity that emanate from sincerity of purpose, from listening to and learning from the Will of the People;
  • A forward-looking, consensus-driven approach that focuses on personal responsibility and believes in both The Power of One and The Power of All.

Achieving an agreement in 2008 is admittedly a long-shot. But it is a shot.

It is an opportunity that did not exist when we launched the One Million Voices to End the Conflict campaign at the end of 2006 – in the aftermath of the Israel-Hezbollah war and the Hamas-Fatah fissure – when Israel and Palestine had no political dialogue.  Our language calling for a resumption of negotiations and demanding a framework agreement within a year was understandably discounted by many at the time.

At the World Economic Forum plenary session with the Israeli and Palestinian Heads of State in January 2007, OneVoice youth leaders challenged the complacency that had come to define Israeli-Palestinian non-negotiations and injected the concept of a one-year-timeframe into the diplomatic arena.

Every month thereafter, OneVoice began gathering signatories for its OneVoice Mandate, each time asking different constituencies, from Israeli Kibbutznikim to Palestinian farmers, from students to women, from tech entrepreneurs to refugee and village organizers, “What is Your Role towards Independence and Peace? What Are You Willing to Do To End the Conflict?New offices in Gaza were opened.  In the course of 16 months, we more than doubled the number of signatories that had signed on to OneVoice over the prior 4 ½ years.

And even the painful and hardening setback of having to postpone the OneVoice Summit provided an opportunity for introspection, evaluation and growth.  Indeed, we learned more from this setback than from many of our successes over the prior 6 years.  Most heartening and energizing was the steadfast support from donors, Board members, and partners

We continued to send the OV message and the hard work paid off, as the Annapolis Statement validated OneVoice’s Mission.  President Bush, President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert committed to almost exactly what the OneVoice Mandate had called on them to do, energizing us all to press on.

Now in 2008, as more and more discount the chances of an agreement, our efforts are all the more important.  After 6 years of building the Movement, with a rare infrastructure that includes offices in Gaza, Ramallah, and Tel Aviv, and chapters across Palestinian municipalities and Israeli universities, engaging people from scores of villages, refugee camps and cities, OneVoice is uniquely positioned to maximize the chances of an agreement.

A number of critical messages are advanced through our 2008 campaign:

  • Show There Is A Partner:  We will soon renew our Signature Drive efforts across Palestine and Israel, along with a series of events and summits designed to highlight the voice of the people;
  • Build The Human Infrastructure: We continue to strengthen our Youth Movement, through advanced leadership training, through a speaker series, through local budgets for youth-driven programs and through the election of a Youth Council that will help guide the Movement;
  • Visualize An End to the Conflict: Our Imagine 2018 Essay Contest and Film Campaign has already engaged thousands of Palestinian and Israeli kids who have dared to imagine what their lives would look like in 2018 if a peace agreement were signed in 2008; in order to mobilize citizens towards a goal, it is important they be able to visualize it;
  • Sense of Urgency and Personal Responsibility: An advertising campaign called Halas Nimas or Halas Bekaffi – I’ve Had Enough, And I Am Going to Do Something About It! – aims to awaken people to their personal responsibility to seize this unique window of opportunity;
  • Civic Education: Town Hall meetings across Gaza, the West Bank and Israel have already commenced in order to help citizens learn the possible contours of an agreement, the areas of hidden common ground, and the areas where taboos are still preventing consensus, preparing the people to come to terms with the hard compromises that their leaders may be required to make in order to attain the creation of a Free Palestinian State in Peace with the State of Israel.

What is the ultimate driver for an agreement in 2008?

If you think it is up to the politicians and that their leadership or lack thereof will ultimately determine how 2008 concludes, consider this:  If the overall mood of the region remains dour and the people antagonistic to the other, is it likely that politicians will be able to take the big risks necessary without a constituency to back them? Unless we change the mood and prepare the people, we may end up with no agreement at all, with a diluted agreement that will be dismissed as irrelevant, or with a substantive agreement that could provoke a backlash.  But if we inject hope and trust into the process and inspire the people to vocalize their support for an agreement by year’s end, 2008 can live up to its extraordinary potential.  The opportunity is real and the time is now.  Let’s make it happen.

Daniel Lubetzky

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  1. Dan Chazan said:

    There is a way to revitalize the peace process. It is to create a vision that both Israelis and Palestinians can actually believe in.

    Today for Israelis peace means leaving the West Bank and therefore Kassams from Jenin and Nablus. To Palestinians peace is an impossible thing because Israelis will never leave the territories so why waste time on it.

    To overcome these powerful images it is necessary to create a vision of a possible path which will guarantee that when the final status defined in the shelf agreement is reached there will indeed be a stable Palestinian state capable of implementing it and that both Israel and the Palestinians carry out steps needed to do reach the final status.

    There is a way to do this. It is for Israel and the Palestinians to agree NOW that when a shelf agreement is reached there will be negotiations for a detailed, staged implementation agreement which will allow the Palestinian state to come about as the implementation proceeds step by recoprocal step.

    To do all this it is necessary first of all to actually obtain a shelf agreement. But such an agreement will not be reached without the palestinians giving up on the “Right of return”. This can only happen in the framework of a regional agreement where all issues involving refugees are resolved as well, including compensation and resettlement.

    If this vision becomes linked with peace in the minds of both Israelis and Palestinians there is hope that they will be able to see it as an implementable process not something that is just hot air, as most regard the process today.

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