It has been nearly two decades since the inauguration of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and there is a great deal of skepticism surrounding their chances of producing a two-state solution. According to Ahmad Omeir and Danny Shaket of the OneVoice Movement, despite this reality, it is important that both the Palestinian and Israeli publics are prepared for the two-state solution's attainment and are empowered so that their voices of support for a resolution are heard.
On September 29, 2010, the Middle East Program hosted a panel discussion entitled, "Envisioning the Two-State Solution: Young Political Leaders from Israel and Palestine," with Ahmad Omeir and Danny Shaket, youth leaders for OneVoice Palestine and OneVoice Israel, respectively. Haleh Esfandiari, Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, moderated the event.
Omeir and Shaket discussed their personal histories in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and their reasons for joining the OneVoice Movement. Omeir is Palestinian but was born in Kuwait and came to live in the West Bank in 1992. For him, life under occupation was an entirely new experience. Shaket was born in Netanya, Israel near Tel Aviv and, by his description, grew up a "regular" Israeli in a pro-peace household, insulated from the realities of the conflict. Both became acquainted with the conflict's ill effects. Bombings in his hometown during the Second Intifada made Shaket and his family fearful to venture outside. During the same period, Omeir personally witnessed the death of one of his friends. Though these experiences left them emotionally scarred and pessimistic for the future, Omeir and Shaket joined OneVoice because they, like a large number of their peers, are fed up with the constant state of conflict and want to help bring it to an end.
Before joining, the two were skeptical of OneVoice. Speaking to both sides' suspicion of indefinite negotiations, Shaket remarked that he wanted to not only talk but influence the situation for the better. Omeir had similar misgivings: he was not interested in yet another "dialogue group." Yet, they ended up seeing that OneVoice had a practical objective that both found appealing. OneVoice is a grassroots organization. It has offices in Israel and the West Bank, made for and staffed by Israelis and Palestinians, respectively, that work together and in parallel to help build consensus among the two national groups. As the two speakers noted, one of the biggest obstacles to a two-state solution has been the oppositional efforts of extremists on both sides. To counteract this, OneVoice Palestine and OneVoice Israel aim at amplifying the voices of the majorities in both societies that desire two states living side by side in peace and security.
Shaket says that he fears for the future of his country if an agreement is not reached between Israel and the Palestinians. Omeir, however, expressed some optimism despite his colleague's fears. He remarked that a large portion of the Palestinian community¬—63 percent—is between the ages of 15 and 35 and are generally more amenable to a compromise aimed at a two-state solution. Both speakers have a positive attitude towards a resolution of the conflict and reflect the aims of the OneVoice organization.
By Luke Hagberg, Middle East Program
Haleh Esfandiari, Middle East Program