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'OneVoice Initiative' Group Supports Grassroot  Initiative for Mideast Peace - 2003-05-14

A group of prominent Israelis, Palestinians and Americans is throwing its support behind a grassroots Internet campaign to help end the conflict in the Middle East.

The son of the newly appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, members of the Israeli Knesset and the chairman of the World Jewish Congress are among the 1,500 political and business leaders who have signed a document in support of the rights of Israelis and Palestinians to a peaceful, two-state coexistence.

The "OneVoice Initiative," kicked off at a press conference in New York Tuesday, is aimed at encouraging Israelis and Palestinians to sign the same document via the Internet, a toll-free number and at kiosks in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

The IBM International Foundation is backing the campaign by developing software that would allow people to communicate on the Internet on issues ranging from water rights, to borders, to refugees.

"I believe that what we're sitting on here is not only an important part of peace in a very important region in the world, but an instrumentation for peace in many parts of the world," said Feisal Abjul Rauf, the Imam of New York's largest mosque and a supporter of what is being called the "People's Road Map Initiative."

Daniel Lubetzky, a Mexican-born Jewish businessman, the founder of the PeaceWorks Foundation, which is spearheading the grassroots initiative, hopes the campaign will give Israeli and Palestinian moderates the chance to voice their opinions and be part of the peace process.

"These opportunities of freedom, and peace and dignity for everybody in the region are not going to come to fruition without the mobilization of the people on the ground," he said. "If we are to achieve a better future for the region, we need to make sure that extremists are isolated and exposed for the false messiahs that they are, and we need to strengthen moderates to amplify their voice, to strengthen their power, so they can seize back the agenda for conflict resolution."

After securing the signatures of 10,000 Palestinians and Israelis, a minimum of 5,000 from each side, a committee of politicians, educators and business leaders will help generate a list of 10 core issues related to the peace process. That list will again be circulated via the Internet with the intention of securing broad-based support.