Israelis, Palestinians, Jewish
and Arab-American leaders and an impressive list of Hollywood stars have
signed on to a new international initiative, which will try to promote
Israeli-Palestinian peace from the grassroots up.
The program, known as One Voice, is being supported by a wide range of
organizations and individuals in the U.S., including businessman and World
Jewish Congress chairman Edgar Bronfman, American Arab Institute president
James Zogby, and Hollywood celebrities like Jason Alexander, Danny Devito
and even the glamorous couple Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.
The initiative is based on the premise that there is a silent majority
and Palestinians who want a negotiated settlement to their conflict and
an end to the cycle of violence and that this majority needs to make its
The program was initiated by Jewish businessman Daniel Lubetzky and is
an extension of the work of his U.S. organization PeaceWorks, which promotes
business cooperation in volatile regions. The group will maintain offices
in Ramallah, Gaza, and Herzilya.
Mohammad Darawshe, regional director and co-founder of One Voice, told
The Jerusalem Post that despite the recent upsurge in terror attacks
and ongoing fighting in the territories, there was clear evidence that
the majority of Israelis and Palestinians want a peaceful solution to
"The aim of this project is to awaken the voice of the silent majority
on both sides and involve people in helping to solve the main issues by
getting their input," Darawshe, explained.
"The first stage will be to collect signatures on a proclamation of principles,
which will be the gateway for engaging in a dialogue on the way
to drafting proposals for overcoming obstacles on the path to peace.
"Those who sign the proclamation will then be eligible to participate
in a truly public referendum, via e-mail, phone, and traditional door-to-door
canvassing that we hope will reach hundreds of thousands if not millions
people. They will be asked to give their views on proposals formulated
by experts to resolving the 10 key issues."
The panel of experts, composed of 15 Israelis and similar numbers of Palestinians
and international specialists, is to be chaired by former Under-Secretary
of State Stuart Eisenstat. The panel is slated to meet in
August to draft the proposals for solving the key issues. The latter include
the question of Jerusalem, borders, Palestinian refugees, water allocations,
and other major issues, such as economic, social, and cultural ties.
"The issues and the proposals for resolving them through negotiations
will be made public and Palestinians and Israelis, who signed the proclamation,
will be invited to submit their views based on a grading system," said
"To this end we will be distributing hundreds of computer terminals to
community centers, schools, and offices of non-governmental organizations
in Israel and the PA areas.
"People will also be able to use interactive voice registration technology
via land lines and mobile phones to make their opinions count. After about
two years, all the findings will be collated and the original proposals
be revised in light of the results by the panel of experts.
"The results will give us a graph on how people stand on the issues as
well as a demographic description of what is more important in what areas,
be it borders, water or land, and special emphasis can then be given to
finding creative, localized solutions."
Israeli leaders who have signed on to the unique project include deputy
Industry and Trade Minister Michael Ratzon, Labor MK Matan Vilna'i, and
Rabbi Michael Melchior.
On the Palestinian side, leading Palestinian Islamic cleric Sheikh Tayseer
Tamini Yasser Abbas, son of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud
Abbas (Abu Mazen), are included among the list of names of those who support
As for the Hollywood connection, Lubetsky won over former Seinfeld
star Jason Alexander at a dinner party at Danny De Vito's house.
"I loved and was enchanted really by all that Danny had to say that evening,"
explained Alexander in an interview with the Hebrew newspaper Al Hasharon.
"I think that the program is very smart and exciting. And I said I would
do anything he wanted - I was at his service."
Alexander believes that "the Israeli majority and the Palestinian majority
understand that they there have to be two states that will live peacefully
with each other and that there must be an agreement and a way to get there
that is acceptable to both sides."
The concept of promoting the views of the "moderate majority," he says,
is the message of the One Voice project. "But because of the intifada,
the terror attacks, and the tension of the last two years the Israelis
don't believe that they have a partner on the Palestinian side, and the
Palestinians don't believe they have a partner on the Israeli side."