A group of Israelis and Palestinians, numbering 40,000, have joined a grass-roots initiative to resolve the long-standing conflict in the Middle East. Initial findings of a survey have been released in New York.
Ordinary Israelis and Palestinians crafted a peace plan through the One Voice Campaign, in which they voted on terms of a future agreement. Daniel Lubetzky, a Jewish-American businessman, and Mohammed Darawshe, an Israeli Arab peace activist, founded the campaign.
Palestinians and Israelis cast ballots on ten specific proposals, including contentious questions dealing with the status of Jerusalem, Israeli-Palestinian borders, Israeli settlements, terrorism, security, and refugees.
Mr. Lubetzky says early results of the yearlong voting effort prove there is a silent majority on both sides who want to end the fighting, and favor Israel and Palestine having states of their own. ?You are having citizens truly, deeply engaged in thinking through the issues of how to resolve the conflict and you really are building a mandate that for the first time in history Palestinians and Israelis are helping to forge by the tens of thousands,? he said.
Mohammed Darwashe, an Arab who is a former member of the Israeli parliament and co-founder of the One Voice Campaign, said that three out of four Palestinian and Israeli participants agreed on a two-state solution.
?The ultimate majority of Palestinians and Israelis want peace and know what the price of peace is,? he added. ?We want to demonstrate that and we want to empower that silent majority to become an active majority and not just keep taking the back seat, allowing extreme radicals to continue running the agenda in the Middle East.?
United States Secretary of State Colin Powell formally backed the One Voice initiative, along with several Palestinian and Israeli dignitaries. The organization hopes to involve 250,000 people in the voting effort by the end of 2004 and then present the results to Palestinian and Israeli leaders.