From its inception in 2002, OneVoice has focused on leveraging a critical but largely untapped resource within the Israeli and Palestinian public: the centrist mainstream who support resolution of the conflict through a negotiated and mutually-acceptable two-state solution. Click on the years below to learn how our activities have evolved over more than a decade.
The spring of 2002 was a time of hopelessness in the Middle East. The peace process had collapsed, and each day brought news of more violence between Israelis and Palestinians.
Like many with ties to the region, entrepreneur Daniel Lubetzky was frustrated and disheartened by this downward spiral. He had founded PeaceWorks, a Section 501(c)(3) charitable organization, on the principle that economic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians would result in stronger relations, but now it seemed that this goal was further away than ever. Despite the ongoing violence, however, Daniel recognized that the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians supported the right of the other side to independence, sovereignty, and justice, but lacked a forum to express their views. With several Palestinian and Israeli colleagues, he launched OneVoice to meet this need and to amplify the voices of moderates who seek peace and prosperity for both sides, empowering them to demand that their leaders work to achieve a two-state agreement and take ownership of the process.
In 2004, the Citizen Negotiations Platform was launched after extensive research by a panel of Israeli, Palestinian, and international experts. Over 180,000 Israelis and Palestinians voted on 10 issues at the heart of the conflict and provided feedback on how to resolve each. Through grassroots outreach, person-to-person recruitment drives, online campaigns, and mobile voting kiosks, we ensured that Palestinians and Israelis aged 15 and older representing all communities – including refugee camps and kibbutzim – had the chance to express their views. The initiative succeeded in educating people on the art of negotiation and served as a gauge for popular opinion on the core issues of the conflict; contemporaneous polling data indicated a high level of consensus on both sides, with 76% of Israelis and Palestinians affirming their support for a two-state solution that year.
Recognizing the need for a human infrastructure to catalyze support for the two-state solution, we launched the Youth Leadership Program, training thousands of promising young Israelis and Palestinian activists in the leadership and organizational skills necessary to mobilize the moderate non-violent majority in their communities. Over 6,000 Israelis and Palestinians have since graduated as Youth Leaders.
After five years of grassroots mobilization, OneVoice launched a bold campaign: “What Are You Willing To Do To End the Conflict?” The campaign aimed to inspire average Israelis and Palestinians to take responsibility for driving the agenda toward the two-state solution.
We united a variety of social sectors – from Palestinian farmers to Israeli kibbutzim, prominent religious figures to the leaders of refugee camps – to demand decisive action from their leaders. This evocative campaign was the launch pad for several subsequent events, including a groundbreaking presentation at the World Economic Forum the following year.
At the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, OneVoice’s Youth Leaders were given center stage before 2,000 dignitaries to present video statements on “What Are You Willing to Do to End the Conflict?” Attendees included Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, then-Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and then-Israeli Vice-Premier Shimon Peres.
Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, noted that it was the first time that ordinary citizens had addressed their leaders directly at the Forum, calling it the “key session, if not the most important, at this year’s meeting.”
Throughout the year, we continued to challenge Israelis and Palestinians to ask “What Are You Willing to Do to End the Conflict?” and partnered with women’s groups, farmers, and others to reach every sector of society. We even worked with IBM to develop a cutting-edge, multilingual platform to connect individuals and organizations that were taking action to support the two-state solution.
Through outreach and public campaigns, we grew the signatories to our mandate from 250,000 to 600,000. To mark the launch of negotiations that November, we led a delegation to Annapolis, Maryland to express the support of the overwhelming majority of Israelis and Palestinians for the two-state solution and to demonstrate our solidarity with their leaders as they committed to reaching an agreement within one year.
We then started a 365-day countdown for civic action—one year of holding ourselves and our representatives accountable. We installed 11 digital screens – five in Ramallah and six in Tel Aviv – displaying countdown clocks set for one year: one year to end the occupation, one year to achieve an independent Palestinian state at peace with Israel, one year to end the violence and the conflict, and one year for citizens to take a stand in support of the negotiations.
As the Annapolis negotiations continued, we focused on empowering the grassroots and their leaders to make the bold decisions necessary for a comprehensive agreement and a permanent end to the conflict. We launched “Imagine: 2018” to transform apathy into inspiration among average Israelis and Palestinians by asking them to visualize what the region would look like in 10 years if a peace agreement were signed.
In cooperation with the Palestinian and Israeli ministries of education, OneVoice launched an essay contest in classrooms throughout Israel and the West Bank. From 2,500 submissions, winning essays were chosen on their potential to inspire citizens to build a future based on two states for two peoples.
A variety of new opportunities and unforeseen challenges in 2009 and 2010 altered the political landscape in the Middle East - a war, elections, and new leadership in Israel and the United States.
The tragedy of the Gaza War (Operation Cast Lead) in early 2009 widened the rift between Israelis and Palestinians - a schism that was acutely felt by OneVoice’s Israeli and Palestinian teams on the ground, threatening the very fabric of the Movement. None were more affected than our Gaza staff, who had to be evacuated following the war and who were temporarily relocated to the West Bank. We needed to rebuild trust and so engaged in a considered process of introspection, self-evaluation, political assessment, and strategic consultation to devise a way forward.
OneVoice partnered with the foremost experts in public opinion polling from Israel, Palestine, and the international community to develop an iterative methodology to gauge public opinion as well as engage the public in crafting a consensus on the issues at the core final status issues. Download the report.
Using the results of the poll, OneVoice launched a series of town hall meetings across both societies, revealing the often private views of the majority in each society and demonstrating that there was a partner on the other side despite the recent violence.
We also focused on the need for both sides to take courageous steps through a continuation of our “Imagine 2018” campaign, which included a joint event with the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) in Bethlehem, creating unique messages through art in Israel, and on an international tour throughout the U.S.
Having demonstrated successful mobilization through our taboo-breaking town hall meeting series, we now created a forum for Israelis and Palestinians to speak directly to their leaders. OneVoice Israel co-founded the first caucus in the Knesset that worked exclusively for a two-state solution and an end to the conflict. Former OneVoice Israel Youth Leader, then MK Yoel Hasson, chaired the caucus, the latter of which received applause and support in Israel and worldwide. In parallel, OneVoice Palestine took to the streets in support of Palestinian national unity and the PLO’s quest for statehood at the United Nations General Assembly.
OneVoice’s “Imagine 2018” campaign ended with a bang. OVI received third prize in the Effie Awards’ non-profit organizations category, and the most creative and provocative essays from “Imagine 2018” were published in Hebrew and Arabic and disseminated to dozens of top Israeli and Palestinian leaders. OneVoice asked leading Israeli, Palestinian, and Hollywood filmmakers to select one essay as the inspiration for a 1-5 minute short film, two of which can be viewed below.
We launched several creative community initiatives to confront the frustration and hopelessness felt across both Israeli and Palestinian society and re-launched our activities in Gaza. During several demonstrations in the height of the Israeli summer, Youth Leaders donned heavy winter coats to symbolize the need to freeze the settlement policy and to unfreeze peace talks. Youth Leaders, staff members, and politicians took part in a “freeze mob” in Jerusalem’s Zion Square to show the need to restart negotiations. And in an unprecedented partnership with the #J14 social protest movement, OVI created an “ice wall” to protest the cost of living prices and the amount of funds supporting the occupation.
In addition, OVI worked with the Two-State Solution Caucus in the Israeli Knesset, to bridge the gap between the centrist mainstream and their leaders. The Caucus remains a cornerstone of our efforts to leverage grassroots mobilization into constructive political action.
OVP once again organized a large campaign to support Palestinian President Abbas’ United Nations bid for statehood. Youth Leaders went from town to town, village to village to encourage Palestinians to support this step. OVP launched a series of workshops to explain the U.N. bid and then organized town hall meetings to connect the people with the politicians. Youth Leaders planted trees in contested areas of the West Bank and launched thousands of balloons over the border with Israel with the text of the Arab Peace Initiative on little notes.
We began the year with a nationwide election campaign in Israel and a multimedia effort underscoring the inextricable link between the conflict and Israel’s most pressing national issues. Over 500 citizens participated in town hall meetings within the first month of the campaign, and hundreds more cast mock ballots distributed by Youth Leaders to raise awareness of the conflict’s pervasive nature. OVI’s “Wake Up Daddy!” video went viral as it urged people to vote for parties that support two states and challenged 1,000,000 Israeli viewers to be active citizens.
In Palestine, we continued to expand our Youth Leadership Program, ushering in our first graduating class of Youth Leaders in Gaza since 2007. In Nablus, we established the Siaseh Political Café, a new venue that hosts political experts and guest speakers, serving as a forum for OneVoice volunteers and community members at large.
Our longstanding outreach to the Knesset culminated in the inauguration of the Caucus for Ending the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Established by Deputy Speaker of the Knesset Hilik Bar in partnership with OneVoice, the caucus swelled to become the Knesset’s largest with 42 MKs and was a platform for an historic July meeting between MKs and the Palestinian Authority during which the Israeli and Palestinian flag flew side by side in the Knesset for the first time in over a decade. Three months later, we helped to facilitate a visit by 10 MKs to President Abbas in Ramallah.
In the midst of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to re-start the peace talks in the summer of 2013, we began planning two cutting-edge campaigns support the negotiations.
In Palestine, under the banner “Wake Up! What is Your Role?” OVP is energizing the centrist, Palestinian mainstream to take their future into their own hands and support the Palestinian negotiators to secure an independent state. Through youth initiatives, TV and radio shows, town hall meetings, and issue-based discussions, the campaign aims to break the state of apathy about negotiations and demonstrate that non-violent resistance can be successful in securing Palestinian rights while connecting everyday Palestinians to their leaders. The “Wake Up” campaign launched with OVP’s “Banner Initiative” in late November 2013 in Jericho near the Jordan Valley.
In Israel, OneVoice is spearheading nationwide initiatives to build a broad coalition of those who share our vision—across civil society, the private sector, the Knesset, and the governing coalition. OVI has cultivated a large and active social media presence reaching hundreds of thousands of Israelis alongside an ambitious advertising campaign to be unveiled in late March 2014 that targets mainstream, centrist Israelis in their 20s and 30s who are supportive of the two-state solution but largely alienated and indifferent to the peace process.
Our achievements and updates throughout the year are captured in the OneVoice 2013 Annual Report.
The beginning of 2014 saw the American-mediated negotiations, led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, continue on its nine-month track to bring about a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. In early January, the Israeli government announced additional settlements, and funded – through the pro-settlement Yesha Council and Binyamin Regional Council – a campaign to mock Kerry’s efforts, which OneVoice brought to the attention of the media.
In response to the announcement, OneVoice Israel (OVI) activists called out Yesh Atid Chair and Finance Minister Yair Lapid for his lack of action, demanding he cease funneling money to the settlements. 10,000 shekel notes with Lapid’s face were distributed throughout Israel to make the point, and less than a week later Lapid told Israel’s Army Radio that he would not transfer any more money for new settlement construction.
With the knowledge that most Israelis are not aware of the economic costs the conflict have on each and every citizen, OVI commenced “Peace,It Also Pays Off!” utilizing proactive social and traditional media outreach to ask Israelis what they would rather do with 32 billion shekels – the amount the Israeli government spends each year on the conflict – and a cost that comes straight from Israeli pockets at the expense of social and economic programs. Youth leaders took to the streets with giant checks to demonstrate in a tangible way that each Israeli loses one month’s rent or one semester of university tuition to the conflict each year.
OneVoice Palestine (OVP) saw a continuation of its November 2013 “Wake Up! What is Your Role?” campaign, and activists throughout cities in the West Bank brought everyday people a message of non-violent resistance to the occupation. OVP activists distributed coffee cups emblazoned with the campaign message to locals, and held “political cafes” with community members and among themselves in an effort to keep the hope for an independent state alive.
However, the negotiations failed, and the kidnappings and murder of three Israeli settler teens – and the subsequent revenge murder of a Palestinian teen days later – spurred a major conflict between Hamas and Israel over the summer. We had to close our Gaza office and evacuate our Gaza director and his family to Jordan and then Ramallah because of the shelling in his neighborhood. OneVoice activists and volunteers, while deeply affected by the hostilities, also pulled through and launched interim campaigns with the objective of guiding the national conversation toward an end to the round of violence.
OVI’s “Abbas, Not Hamas!” launched in early August and urged Israelis to take a fresh look at Abbas’s non-violent roadmap for a two-state solution, while OVP’s “Unity” campaign saw their activists asking locals to support the national leadership as they sought an end to the violence in Gaza.
As the summer’s intense violence subsided, we continued to amplify the voices of those who support a two-state solution.
“The Land is Ours” builds off of the successful 2012 OVP campaign, “The Land is Ours, Leave Us Be.” OVP encouraged young Palestinians to focus on non-violent resistance to end the occupation after the devastation in Gaza. The campaign features olive harvests and tree-plantings, protesting the ever-expanding settlement
compounds. In November, OVP activists gathered north of Hebron, on hotly contested land near the village of Beit Oula. In response to an Israeli order to confiscate nearly 1,500 dunums of agricultural space, OVP activists planted 200 olive trees, asserting Palestinian rights to the land.
OVI held its first annual conference on November 13 at the Einav Center in Tel Aviv where 500 Israelis listened to former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Labor Chair MK Isaac Herzog, Yaacov Peri of the Shin Bet, journalists Ben Caspit and Nahum Barnea and more speak to the economic implications of Israel’s current policies toward the conflict, occupation, and negotiations with the Palestinians.
After gaining the interest of local Tel Avivis at the conference, OVI took the opportunity to expand “Peace, It Also Pays Off” to bars and homes across Israel. This gives young Israeli professionals a chance to to spend their evenings in a social setting engaging and conversing about issues that affect the majority of Israelis but are otherwise thought of as completely separate. Col. (Ret.) Miri Eisin, a former Israeli communications officer, and Gershon Baskin, OVI board member and founder and co-chairman of the Israel-Palestine Creative Regional Initiative (IPCRI), topped off the list of guest speakers as the series began.
With the year at a close, there are already changes to the political dynamic on the horizon. On one side, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition collapsed, leading to the dissolution of the Knesset and snap Israeli elections in March. On the other, the Palestinian Authority is pursuing a United Nations resolution for a gradual Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territory.
We are actively gearing up for what will be an important year for Israelis, Palestinians, and the future of a two-state solution. We will use an informed, data-driven approach that builds on our past successes to cultivate and mobilize primed audiences in 2015. Informed by recommendations from 270 Strategies, we ramped up our organizing model and grassroots network to place ourselves in the position to capitalize on this significant moment. Our strategy will enable us to develop the capacity, visibility, and communications expertise required to make sure this key centrist constituency prioritizes a swift resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
We depend on donors like you to support our vital work to empower everyday Israelis and Palestinians to make the two-state solution a reality – showing them that peace is indeed possible and within reach. In furtherance of its mission, OneVoice conducts and supports charitable, educational, and advocacy-based projects and activities. The Movement is supported by PeaceWorks Foundation, a Section 501(c)(3) charitable organization, PeaceWorks Action, Inc., a Section 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, and other individuals, charitable institutions, and advocacy organizations across the globe. Together with your important financial support, we are able to give our Youth Leaders the tools to take action and create a better future for Israelis and Palestinians alike.
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