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(photo credit: AP [file])
More than half a million Israelis and Palestinians have signed a petition calling on the Israeli and Palestinian governments to reach a peace agreement within the next year based on a two-state solution and an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines.
The petition is being organized by a non-partisan organization called the OneVoice movement, which is planning to hold simultaneous rallies in both Tel Aviv and Jericho next week that will be broadcast around the world in an effort to garner support for the two-state solution.
The moves come as Israeli left-wing organizations with similar ideologies, such as Peace Now and backers of the informal "Geneva Initiative" proposed by Yossi Beilin, have become marginalized in Israeli society following the breakdown of political negotiations at Camp David seven years ago, and the subsequent outbreak of Palestinian violence.
"Every minute delayed in ending the conflict is a minute gained by forces of militant absolutism committed to erase the possibility of a two-state solution," said Daniel Lubetzky, 38, the Mexican-born founder of the OneVoice Movement.
"If the Israeli and Palestinian heads of state demonstrate progress over the coming months, they will be able to eventually reverse the debacle in Gaza, by pointing to a positive alternative that will undermine extremism," Lubetzky, a son of Holocaust survivor and a Texas resident, added. "But if they don't, the opposite will happen and fundamentalist extremist ideologies will spread to the West Bank...and the world."
The organization, which maintains offices in both Tel Aviv and Ramallah, has enlisted the support of nearly 600,000 Israelis and Palestinians - in about equal numbers - for their petition which calls a peace agreement to be reached within a year based on a two-state solution according to the 1967 lines, with a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem.
"The voice of the people is the critical element in reaching a viable solution for the region that has been missing in the resolution process thus far," said Dr. Fathi Darwish, General Director of OneVoice Palestine. "If the Palestinian people want to end the occupation, and if the Israeli people want to ensure security and normalization with the Arab world, then each individual must play a real role to bring that about."
The group, which was established six years ago, had originally aimed to get a million signatures on its petition - which is accessible on the Internet - by their public event next week, but now hopes to reach that figure by the end of the year.
The Tel Aviv rally, which is scheduled to take place next Thursday evening at Hayarkon Park, will include a greeting by Israel's Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, and musical performances by rock star Bryan Adams as well as Israeli acts.
More than 60 academics, religious leaders and parliamentarians serve on the group's honorary board of advisers, including former Ben-Gurion University President and Labor MK Avishay Braverman; Interdisciplinary Center President Uriel Reichman; Rabbi David Rosen, International Director Interreligious Affairs at the American Jewish Committee; Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom; MK Ephraim Sneh (Labor); MK Colette Avital (Labor); MK Rabbi Nissim Dahan (Shas); Meimad leader Rabbi Michael Melchior (Meimad); and MK Gilad Erdan (Likud).
On the Palestinian side, these include Palestinian Deputy Minister Ahmad Majdalani; Imad Shakur Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council; and Sheikh Taysir al Tamimi, Chief Palestinian Islamic Justice.
Former US Deputy Secretary of Treasury Stuart Eizenstat; Ambassador Martin Indyk, Director, of the Washington, DC-based Saban Center for Mideast Policy; Ambassador Dennis Ross of The Washington Institute and Jim Zogby Executive Director, Arab American Institute also are on the board.
The group lists among its partners and sponsors the media advocacy group ISRAEL21c, as well as an array of Israeli Palestinian and international peace groups and an impressive listing of international companies such as Yahoo, Wikipedia, IBM and Continental Airlines.
Following the violent takeover of Gaza by Hamas this summer, the organization froze its signature drive there, and enlisted Palestinian supporters primarily in the West Bank which is run by Fatah, the group's founder said.
"What is happening in Gaza and Iran should scare all of us. Either we will defeat them or they will defeat us," Lubetzky concluded.
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