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Shalom, this is Jibril

Excerpts from lead (front page) article in supplement of Israel’s leading daily, Yediot Ahronot, covering the Geneva Initiative campaign, by Alon Goldstein

29.08.10

I arrived in Ramallah on invitation by the Geneva Initiative activists. They have come to shoot a new campaign with Palestinian Authority officials. Using short clips and large posters, the Palestinian leaders will try to convince us, the Israeli public, that the ball is in our court. The campaign was launched on Sunday, first on the internet, and in the coming days also in ads in newspapers and on billboards. In the lead roles: Jibril Rajoub, Saeb Erekat, Yasser Abed Rabbo and more. The target audience: The Israelis. The message: "We are partners for peace. What about you?" The funding, by the way, totaling millions of shekels, is mainly American.

Gadi Baltiansky, director-general of the Geneva Initiative's Israel headquarters, and director Ron Asulin are in charge of filming....Asulin asks Erekat to open with the word "Shalom" in Hebrew. "It would be effective," he explains in English. And, action. Erekat speaks in a reconciling tone, and immediately admits that he know the Palestinian leadership has let us, the Israelis, down, over the past 20 years. "But I know it is still possible," he says. "Let's save Palestinian and Israeli lives." The crew members are pleased. "That was perfect," Asulin declares. "I believed you, bring a treaty and I'll sign it on the spot."

“What is the purpose of the campaign?” I ask Gadi Baltiansky.
"The perception in the Israeli public is that there is no partner for peace on the Palestinian side," Gadi responds. "We all want peace, but don't believe there is anyone to talk to. We are trying to change this perception, to explain that there is a partner, and that the problem is actually with us."

And what about a campaign in the Palestinian Street?
"We are carrying out a campaign of leaders, the Palestinian leadership. With the message of two states for two peoples. We are arguing that it's important to reach a permanent settlement, urgently. We did not take Israeli leaders because the parallel layer of Israeli leaders doesn't feel this way. Most of the Israeli leaders even object to negotiations. This is not the case with the Palestinians. With the exception of Hamas, they are all speaking in the same voice."

How do you think the campaign will be received by the public in Israel? Do you really think Rajoub, with his problematic past and aggressive tone, will convince us that there is a partner?
"Look, you don't have to love them, but their messages are credible. We are not trying to whitewash. Our goal is that the Israeli public address the matter at hand. It doesn't have to identify with or love the Palestinians. We got used to calling an abnormal life normal. I want to shake the indifference off of us."

Read the complete article on YNet News.