NGOs launch campaigns ahead of talks

Activists duel in high-profile public campaigns targeting Israelis.

Obama Netanyahu Abbas 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Obama Netanyahu Abbas 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Israeli, Palestinian and American officials were not the only ones preparing their strategies for this week’s planned peace talks in Washington, as activists on both sides of the political spectrum launched dueling high-profile public campaigns targeting Israeli audiences Sunday in advance of the talks.
Settler activists protested outside of the weekly cabinet meeting, and hung massive banners above Israeli roads in an effort to try to force right-wing ministers to live up to earlier statements promising an end to the partial building moratorium in Jewish West Bank communities.
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The “Building on your Word” campaign highlights statements by 13 ministers, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in which the ministers promised that building would begin immediately with the conclusion of the moratorium order, which expires on September 26.
The campaign features the quotes and the dates they were said.
Likud ministers were also the target of Sunday’s protest, in which right-wing activists, including Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria chairman Naftali Bennett, carried signs with the names of “gratitude neighborhoods” that would be built in West Bank communities, named after Likud ministers.
Among the communities suggested were “Erdan Heights” in Ma’aleh Adumim in honor of Environment Minister Gilad Erdan, “Silvan Terraces” in Alfei Menasheh in honor of Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom and “Livnat View” in Efrat, in honor of Sport and Culture Minister Limor Livnat.
On the opposite end of the political spectrum, the Geneva Initiative unveiled a campaign partially funded by the USAID in which Palestinian leaders speak to the Israeli public in video clips, telling Israelis that there is a Palestinian partner for an agreement.
Thus far, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the PLO Executive Committee Yasser Abed Rabbo and Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub have recorded short messages, all of which begin with a personal address to the Israeli public which includes the word “shalom” in Hebrew and conclude with “I am your partner. Are you my partner?”
In the clips, the Palestinians speak about what they label missed opportunities and ensuing disappointments as well as potential perils of missing the current opportunity to reach an agreement based on the two-state solution. Like the Yesha Council campaign, the three-week-long Geneva Initiative campaign will utilize the Internet, printed press and billboards.
Gadi Baltiansky, Geneva Initiative Israel director, explained that the campaign aims to counter the myth that there is no partner on the Palestinian side and to stir a debate as to whether the Netanyahu administration represents a partner for a two-state solution.
“There is a Palestinian partner and we will witness this,” said Baltiansky. “Whoever views the clips and sees the Palestinian leaders will realize that if we don’t reach an agreement with them quickly, we will miss both them and the chance of dividing the land in an agreed way, thereby securing Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”