From Steve Masters, Chair and Diane Balser, Co-Chair
Advocacy and Public Policy Committee

This is the second in a series of updates on Brit Tzedek's National Campaign in support of the Spirit of Geneva.

June 2004

Brit Tzedek's "Spirit of Geneva Campaign," initiated in December 2003, seeks to bring the American Jewish community a message of renewed hope for a negotiated two-state resolution of the conflict such as that modeled by the
Geneva Accord, the People's Voice Initiative, and OneVoice. The Spirit of Geneva means that peace is possible, that the details of a just and viable two-state solution for both Israel and the Palestinians are clear, and that there are partners for peace on both sides.

The title for our campaign takes its inspiration from the Geneva Accord, a detailed model of what a tenable peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians could look like. For more than two years, moderate Israeli and Palestinian politicians, security experts, grassroots leaders, and intellectuals negotiated a detailed draft final status agreement that would satisfy the needs and conditions of each side. The model is being used as a grassroots organizing tool to stimulate discussion in Israel, the occupied territories and internationally. Read background information on the Geneva Accord.

Brit Tzedek has been engaging the hearts and minds of the American Jewish community around the Spirit of Geneva through small gatherings across the United States in private homes, synagogues, and Jewish community organizations and institutions. Brit Tzedek's
Spirit of Geneva House Meeting Guide, includes event planning instructions, talking points, and hand-outs. The manual is supplemented by a 20-minute video including footage at the Geneva Accord commitment ceremony in Switzerland.  Brit Tzedek member Jeff Albert developed a color map, detailing the territorial exchange proposed in the Geneva Accord. A detailed Geneva Accord PowerPoint was developed by Brit Tzedek member Zvi Ladin. Read more about Brit Tzedek's Spirit of Geneva Campaign.

Brit Tzedek chapters in Atlanta, Austin, Bloomington, Boston, Chicago, Durham/Chapel Hill, Louisville, New Haven, Northern New Jersey, Olympia, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, St. Louis, Seattle, and Vermont have hosted house meetings and/or other community events on the Spirit of Geneva. Menachem Klein, Member of Knesset (MK) Amram Mitzna, MK Yuli Tamir, and former MK Naomi Chazan - Israelis involved in the Geneva peace negotiations - were featured in public events at synagogues in Boston, Chicago, New York City, and Philadelphia. Brit Tzedek co-sponsored some of these events with Americans for Peace Now, Habonim Dror North America, Hashomer Hatzair, the Labor Zionist Alliance, and Meretz USA.

For more information on hosting a house meeting, to obtain a copy of the video or printed copy of the map, or for other inquiries, write info@btvshalom.org.  

The Palestinian Peace Coalition - Geneva Initiative [PPC-GI] has been established as the Palestinian NGO promoting the Geneva Accord with an office in Ramallah. PPC-GI staff includes Executive Director Marwan Jilani (a former chief aide to Marwan Barghouti) and Project Development Manager Hussein Yassin. PPC-GI is developing an
English language website to supplement their Arabic language website.

Last fall, PPC-GI published copies of the Geneva Accord as supplements in the two largest Palestinian daily newspapers - Al Quds and Al Ayyam, which reached close to 300,000 Palestinian readers. In addition, copies of the Accord were mailed to religious and political leaders throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In partnership with Palestinian non-partisan civil society organizations, PPC-GI has conducted over 100 workshops on the Geneva Accord reaching a total audience of over 5,000 Palestinians since the public commitment ceremony last December. The workshops have taken place in villages, cities, and refugee camps throughout the West Bank and have presented the details of the Accord, including borders, and refugees.

As part of its broad educational mission, PPC-GI has issued statements condemning suicide bombings and advocated non-violent resistance to the construction of Israel's separation barrier inside the West Bank. To read news from PPC-GI and statements issued by them click here.

PPC-GI has an ambitious program of activities planned for this summer aimed primarily at educating Palestinian youth about the Spirit of Geneva. In partnership with the Palestinian Youth Union, local youth groups and clubs, PPC-GI will be operating 120 summer camps on the themes of the Geneva Accord for over 10,000 young people throughout the occupied territories.

PPC-GI has also been meeting monthly with the leadership of Education for Peace - Israel in Jerusalem to coordinate strategies and develop joint initiatives. One of their first endeavors will bring together Israeli and Palestinian singers to produce a musical CD this summer featuring Israeli and Palestinian songs for peace, which will be distributed worldwide.

Education for Peace - Israel, the Israeli NGO promoting the Geneva Accord, sponsored 95 public events reaching over 10,000 Israelis during the first 100 days following the December 1st commitment ceremony in Geneva. These events, featuring presentations by architects of the Geneva Accord, have taken place throughout Israel, from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat, and even in the settlements. While most went off without a hitch, in Mitzpe Ramon, MKs Yossi Beilin and Amram Mitzna were confronted by a mob of 100 yeshiva students who succeeded in preventing the event from taking place. In the aftermath the mayor of Mitzpe Ramon expressed profound apologies and offered to host the two negotiators at a later time. In addition to these presentations, the Geneva architects are also appearing in debates with speakers from right-wing political parties.

Following on the heels of the Likud party's vote against Prime Minister Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan, a broad coalition of the Israeli peace camp held a massive peace rally on the evening of Saturday, May 15th in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, where 150,000 Israelis joined together under the banner of "Evacuate Gaza and Resume Negotiations."  Participating organizations included Peace Now, Education for Peace, the United Kibbutz movement, the Labor party, Yahad-Meretz party, and the One Nation party (Am-Ehad). Read speeches by the featured speakers, Geneva co-architect Yossi Beilin and by People's Voice Initiative co-author Ami Ayalon.

The Geneva Accord continues to exert significant pressure on the Sharon government. The day before the Likud's referendum on his plan for unilateral disengagement, Prime Minister Sharon stated on Israeli TV that a loss in the referendum would be equivalent to endorsing the Geneva Accord.

This summer in Vienna, Austria, Education for Peace - Israel and PPC-GI will host a Palestinian/Israeli Student Conference at which 150 Palestinian and 150 Israeli students will gather together for workshops and lectures as a concrete demonstration of peace.

Later this year, the city of Lyon, France, will host an international conference of mayors to promote dialogue and understanding in the Middle East and to stress the need for a bilaterally negotiated settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict along the lines of the Geneva Accord, as opposed to the unilateral strategy advocated by Prime Minister Sharon.

Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabbo have continued their travels throughout Europe, visiting France, Hungary, Paris, Scandinavia, England, Germany, and Italy.

After the assassination of Sheik Yassin, the Arab League postponed its summit, where they were expected to express their formal endorsement for the Geneva Accord. The rescheduled summit, which just concluded, was preoccupied with responding to the events in Rafah and to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, preempting serious consideration of the question of supporting the Geneva Accord.

The Geneva Initiative has been featured in news stories over the past month.

Geneva coalition to push peace initiative.
By Marc Perelman
The Forward, April 30, 2004

Geneva Accord calls for resumption of talks.
By Etgar Lefkovits
The Jerusalem Post, May 4, 2004

Geneva initiators say unilateral moves doomed to fail. Following Sharon's defeat in Likud poll, Beilin and Abed Rabbo see an opportunity to renew negotiations.
By Marwan Athamna
Maariv International, May 4, 2004

Movie star Richard Gere to arrive in Israel to promote Geneva Initiative. "I'm ready to contribute anything I can to peace," said Gere, Yossi Beilin's new friend.
By Menachem Rahat
Maariv International, May 6, 2004

As of today, the People's Voice petition campaign has 140,000 Palestinian signers and 184,000 Israeli signers. Together, this would be equivalent to roughly nine million American signers! Below is a summary from the People's Voice Initiative of some of their recent activities. To read more, go to the
People's Voice website. 

People's Voice volunteers continue to gather signatures in Israel and the occupied territories through grassroots field activity including community booths and gatherings in private homes and community venues. The People's Voice Israeli and Palestinian Public Councils have been continuing to meet. Councils provide a public forum for input into the People's Voice and encourage an active community role in increasing public awareness. At the most recent Israeli Council meeting, they set up work teams to focus on public relations, special events, volunteer recruitment, community outreach, and other areas.

People's Voice co-authors former Shin Bet leader Ami Ayalon and Professor Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem, met with leaders of the Jewish community in London in early May. Later in the month, they toured in Toronto, New York City, Kalamazoo and Detroit where they met with Arab and Jewish community leaders. Ayalon and Nusseibeh received an award for their peace efforts at the New School in New York City.

A team of Israeli and Palestinian political, civic, and business leaders who have been involved in previous rounds of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations developed a one-page, 10-point plan that serves as the basis for a series of questions being voted on by both Israelis and Palestinians. The results of this extra-governmental multi-stage polling process are intended to demonstrate the predominance of moderation on both sides. The findings will then be synthesized in order to develop a proposal acceptable to the majority of both peoples. 

The first results of the voting were released on May 25th, 2004.  Below is an annotated summary of these results from OneVoice. To read more, go to the OneVoice website.

Over 35,000 ordinary citizens in this first-ever vote on ten essential questions for how to resolve the conflict. Over three quarters accepted the most fundamental proposal to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, according to preliminary results from the OneVoice public negotiations process.

Specifically, 75.6% of Israelis and 75.8% of Palestinians unconditionally accepted the proposal that "there will be two viable states: Israel will be the state of the Jewish people and Palestine the state of the Palestinian people, each recognizing the other as such, both democratic and respecting human rights, including minority rights." 

Outreach workers canvassed and engaged Palestinian and Israeli citizens everywhere from refugee camps to universities, in spite of a charged atmosphere over the last two months. 

The proposals that elicited the most contention were, predictably, on settlements, refugees, and Jerusalem, but borders and security also met some challenges.

The proposal that met the most Palestinian opposition was the one on settlements. "Do you agree that any peace agreement will be based on the principle of evacuating the settlements, excluding settlement blocks?" met with 74.4% opposition from Palestinians (and 37.16% opposition from Israelis). The main feedback that Palestinians provided on this issue was that the proposal was not clear or detailed and they didn't know to which "settlement blocks" the question referred.

The proposal that met the most Israeli opposition was the one on refugees, even though the language was extremely basic. The proposal "Do you agree that no peaceful solution will be achieved without a solution to the Palestinian refugees?" met with 48.37% of opposition among Israelis and 39.62% opposition among Palestinians.  The most prevalent qualitative feedback from those that rejected the proposal was that it wasn't clear enough and many Israelis felt uncomfortable opening that door without knowing exactly what it would entail. Several complained about "ambiguous" and meaningless language.

The Jerusalem Proposal was accepted by a bare majority on both sides: 53% of Israelis and 51% of Palestinians accepted the formulation that "Arab East Jerusalem will be under Palestinian sovereignty while Jewish neighborhoods will be under Israeli sovereignty, and that each State shall have the right to establish its capital within its sovereign territory, recognized by the other and internationally." 

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