The One Voice Movement has proposed a series of propositions, sort of a petition, for which it wishes to get a million Israeli and Palestinian votes. They believe that the great majority of both peoples are moderates who reject violent extremism and who want a two-state solution, and that their poll expresses the sense of this great peaceful majority.
The propositions represent a mildly left-wing position, but they contain key ambiguities which will be interpreted in totally different ways by both sides. Without clarification, the statements become meaningless. For example, what are ‘minority rights’? Who are ‘political prisoners’? What is a ‘fair and just’ settlement for refugees?
Another thing to keep in mind is that the sample of people who vote here is self-selected. Because the whole project seems to tilt leftwards, few right of center Israelis would choose to take part. So the results have to be taken with a large grain of salt.
My impression is that the ambiguous questions along with the self-selection of the sample make this project more of a public-relations effort intended to give the impression that a large majority of Israelis and Palestinians agree on the general parameters of a solution to the conflict, than an actual attempt to move toward a solution.
The deliberate ambiguity of the questions is reminiscent of a similar PR exercise, the recent Zogby poll of Arab and Jewish Americans, which attempted to give the impression that both groups were in general agreement about Middle East issues (and indeed, James Zogby of the Arab-American institute, one of the sponsors of that poll, is a member of the One Voice advisory board).
Here are the One Voice propositions. My comments are interspersed, preceded by numbers which represent the percentage of Israeli and Palestinian respondents (respectively) who agreed unconditionally with the statement:
1 Two states – Do you agree 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?
70/70. The devil here is in the phrase ‘minority rights’. Both sides have reason to beware the ambiguity. The present Israeli Arab conception of just minority rights seems to imply the conversion of the Jewish state to a binational one. From the Palestinian point of view, should Jews living in Hebron, for example, have minority rights in what will be Palestine?
2 Borders – Do you agree that the 1967 borders are the basis for an agreement, while border modifications will be used to accommodate the territorial and security needs of both sides?
61/77. I’m actually surprised that the degree of agreement is so low, given the self-selection of the sample. I think both sides are wary of ‘border modifications.’
3 Settlements – Do you agree that settlements will be evacuated and that land exchanges along the border will permit inclusion of a limited number of settlement blocks?
62/84. The Palestinians really want the settlements gone. Again, ‘land exchanges’ are worrisome.
4 End of occupation and terror – Do you agree that Israel shall completely end the occupation, within the context of a comprehensive peace agreement and a cessation of all terror and violence on both sides, at which time all political prisoners will also be released?
59/80. Lots of issues here. Israel withdrew from Gaza and got increased terrorism. So maybe they’re not so happy about the idea about not specifying that terrorism has to stop first, before withdrawal. And what’s this about “violence on both sides”? Are police activities the same as terrorism? And “political prisoners” — are mass murderers like the Barghoutis and Samir Kuntar political prisoners who should be released?
5 Security – Do you agree that the Palestinian state shall be demilitarized for an agreed upon period, but will posses a strong security force, and each state shall ensure that its territory is not used to threaten the security of the other?
59/69. What is a ‘strong’ security force? After the demilitarization period is over, do they get tanks and missiles from Iran or Syria? Have the Palestinians ever succeeded in suppressing ‘unofficial’ terrorism against Israel?
6 Jerusalem – Do you agree that Arab East Jerusalem will be under Palestinian sovereignty while Jewish areas 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?
49/67. Israelis do not want to redivide Jerusalem. Palestinians think that some of the ‘Jewish’ areas mentioned belong to them.
7 Holy Sites – Do you agree that both States will guarantee security, access and freedom of worship to all significant religious sites giving due regard to the established customs of each religion?
66/82. The Palestinians believe that the Temple Mount, the Kotel (Western Wall), and everything nearby belongs to them, and their established customs do not include allowing Jews in that area. And of course these sites are in East Jerusalem.
8 Refugees – Do you agree that the refugee problem must be resolved in a humane, fair, just and practical manner in the final Status Agreement?
63/68. The ambiguity is deafening. Israelis fear that this includes a right of return; Palestinians fear that it doesn’t.
9 Education and reconciliation – Do you agree that, in order to build reciprocal understanding, education against incitement, terror, hatred, fear and racism should be an integral and enforceable element of the permanent agreement; that Palestine and Israel shall foster economic, social and cultural cooperation in order to improve the lives of their citizens; and that physical barriers should not serve as an obstacle for this?
65/74 What physical barrier do we think they are talking about? Why should this be linked to education? What does ‘enforceable’ mean here?
10 End of Conflict – Do you agree that a permanent peace agreement shall constitute the end of the conflict and must be implemented and democratically approved, and that then both governments will irrevocably renounce any further claims?
64/76 I presume the Israelis are worried that if this is implemented and there is still terrorism, they will have no recourse. And some Palestinians won’t agree to anything that could be construed as limiting their ownership of all of ‘Palestine’, even if they practically don’t posses it.