OneVoice Balloons for Arab Peace Initiative

From a village near Jenin that borders on the 1967 line, OneVoice Palestine youth activists and locals released into Israel hundreds of helium balloons carrying the text of the Arab Peace Initiative on Saturday, April 28, drawing attention toward this historic opportunity.

OneVoice is an international grassroots movement that aims to amplify the voice of Israeli and Palestinian moderates, empowering them to demand a two-state solution. The movement educates and trains Israeli and Palestinian youth in leadership skills, non-violent activism, and democratic principles.

Hundreds of locals, wearing flag caps of countries supporting the regional peace plan, participated in the activity, which was co-sponsored by Jenin’s governor and the municipality, to mark the document’s tenth anniversary.

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They called on all Israelis to pressure their politicians into accepting the initiative as a framework for serious regional negotiations to achieve the two-state solution and end the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Jenin Deputy Governor Ahmad al-Qassam, Minister of Prisoner Affairs Ashraf al-Ajrami, Fatah spokesman Mahmoud Labadi, and other municipal officials also attended the event.

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“We’re urging the Israeli public to demand from their government a real response to the Arab Peace Initiative,” said Samer Makhlouf, executive director of OneVoice Palestine. “The document has never been withdrawn or rejected by any Arab state, but despite its apparent resilience, we cannot expect it stay on the table forever.”

Exactly 10 years ago, the 22 Arab League member states came together in Beirut to propose a peace plan to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Arab Peace Initiative offered a comprehensive resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the normalization of relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

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It represented an abrupt about-face, from the League’s refusal to engage with Israel to the potential for a new era of regional stability and cooperation. While not an end-point for negotiations, the document sets a positive new starting point, believes OneVoice.

Unfortunately, it says, Israel never accepted the Arab Peace Initiative as a basis for peace discussions. Among Ariel Sharon’s 14 reservations to the 2003 Road Map, reservation #10 explicitly rejected the Arab Peace Initiative. Since then, it has lain dormant.

“Accepting the Arab Peace Initiative as a framework for serious regional negotiations is a far better approach than outright rejection wrapped in unsupportable assertions that Israel has done everything it can for peace over the past 64 years and the Palestinians have only been obstructionist,” said OneVoice CEO Howard Sumka.

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From tree plantings in Hebron and Bethlehem and distribution of flyers and bumper stickers across the West Bank, to an online campaign with banners on top local news sites – OneVoice Palestine is creating momentum for the peace plan.

Separately, OneVoice Israel is complementing the effort though parallel action, igniting conversations about the Arab Peace Initiative across their eight university chapters, from Haifa to Sderot.

Next month, they will mobilize people in the heart of Tel Aviv, bringing prominent public figures to make soap-box speeches while a giant ice cube containing the Arab Peace Initiative text slowly melts away.

Working with the growing Two-State Solution Caucus, they will then deliver their message loudly in the Knesset.

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Rakesh Raman