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OneVoice at Davos

by: Jake Hayman and Sayyeda Salam - Last updated: 2007-01-26

Mahmoud Abbas and Tzipi Livni

Mahmoud Abbas and Tzipi Livni

On Thursday at Davos, in front of around 2,000 world leaders of politics, business and religion Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Tzipi Livni came together for an unprecedented public meeting – laying out their negotiating positions and their desire to take this process forward.

They were brought together by a young but vastly expanding grassroots movement of Israeli and Palestinian citizens – OneVoice. OneVoice represents a rare coalition of Israelis and Palestinians from all sectors of society that are planning a civil movement to propel leaders back into negotiations. They are planning to make this the first of many diplomatic negotiations prompted by the grassroots of society.

Over 1,000 Israeli and Palestinian youth gathered in Ramallah, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and their leaders followed – appearing before them via video-link from the World Economic Forum in Davos to answer the questions ‘what do you need us to do?’ and, most importantly, ‘What are you willing to do to end the conflict?’.

President Abbas led with a bold statement that ‘we are ready as of now to start negotiations with our Israeli neighbors’ and Minister Livni was similarly forthright saying that it was not right that these leaders should be depending on the youth of OneVoice for hope that ‘it is our job to provide that hope (for our children)’.

It is hard to think of a time when so called ‘enemy’ leaders are brought together by their own populations and if a process for conflict resolution did gain momentum today it will set a new historical precedent for mass public negotiations between populations and show a new level of political consciousness sweeping the Middle East.

OneVoice announced at the Forum a commitment to start a series of mass public gatherings simultaneously amongst Israelis and Palestinians to bring moderate voices to the fore and hold their leaders accountable to progress made from the initiatives referenced today.

As Adi Balderman of OneVoice’s Israeli branch vowed: “Each and every one of us [needs] to take action and personal responsibility in ensuring a better future.  If the millions of moderate Israelis and Palestinians each take a small step, we will unleash the power of the people and reclaim our lives”

Nisreen Shaheen from OneVoice Palestine echoed her words, saying that even though so many of ‘Our families and loved ones have lost hope and are living in a cycle of frustration and despair’, we will not give up because change requires persistence and determination, and with you, we will achieve peace and make a promising future for our children.”

It seems that leadership on both sides are realizing they may have to listen.

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