Ladies and gentlemen, President and members of the Nobel Institute, Dear audience, Dear friends, I greet you all, and thank you for your invitation. I am honoured to speak afore this important institute, and afore personalities with an experience and interest in Middle East issues, in a country that had contributed historically by signing the first Israeli-Palestinian agreement, called the Oslo Accords, or the Declaration of Principles in Oslo.
It is an agreement that would not have seen the day without the tremendous, exertive efforts, and long hours spent by a number of Norwegian officials, under the leadership of the late ex Minister of Exterior, Mr. Johan Jorgen Holst, along with Jan Egeland, Mona Juni, and the dynamic man who does not tire to achieve a goal he believes in, Mr. Terje Rod-Larsen.
I have led our negotiation’s team under the supervision of the late President Mr. Yasser Arafat, which took place secretly, and that were finalized by my signature along with Shimon Peres'', then Israeli Foreign Minister, during the historic celebration at the White House on 13 September 1993.
You undoubtedly remember the amount of media coverage the signature of the accords entailed, and the tremendous hope pinned by the entire world on resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which is the base of the Arab-Israeli conflict. This was in the hopes that peace will prevail in the Middle East, with the existence of two states standing on historic Palestine, namely Israel, and Palestine, co-existing in peace and safety.
Anyone interested in reading the history of this conflict, realizes that the Palestinians have offered many compromises, which would have been impossible with the absence of a courageous, transparent, Palestinian leadership. We have agreed, as per the Oslo Accords to which we are still committed, to establish our Palestinian state on 22 percent of historic Palestine’s area, which includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, which were occupied by Israeli in 1967.
Since the signature of these accords, opposing negative forces have emerged from both sides. While the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) who signed the accords, remained to lead the Palestinian Authority, the opposite took place on the Israeli side.
The assassination of the ex Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin, led to Binyamin Netanyahu taking office as prime minister, he was opposed and against these accords.
He followed the policy of evading the application of these accords, starting with accelerating the settlement expansion on our Palestinian land, securing the siege on East Jerusalem and changing its features to isolate it from the rest of the West Bank, and passing various discriminatory legislations to compel the Palestinian citizens in the city, Muslims and Christians alike, to desert it.
In addition to that, the Palestinian economic situation has deteriorated dramatically. On the one side, obstacles were set afore the Palestinian labour force working in Israel and from the other, we lacked the proper conditions to build an economy of our own that could absorb all the labour force that has lost their jobs, mainly that we are deprived to have our own gateways to the outside world.
Indeed, we do not have an airport or a seaport, and since Israel controls our borders with the neighboring Arab countries, which has relatively changed in the past year due to Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and our supervision to cooperate with the European Observers on the Rafah Crossing. The West Bank is yet a large prison, separated by tens of Israeli checkpoints, and covered by tens of settlements all over.
The lack of commitment vis-à-vis applying the accords regarding freezing settlement expansion, or the release of prisoners, or withdrawal in accordance with the set timeframes, all entailed catastrophic consequences that led us to a cycle of action and reaction.
This has led to Israel abusing its force, and using the most sophisticated weapons. It has used a new technique, namely assassination via air missile strikes, killing many innocent citizens, at home or in the street. This is what I call a form of terrorism, which leads to the killing of many innocent lives, and increases hatred.
From on the onset, we have condemned terrorism and violence by some Palestinian groups. It would have been possible to avoid this bloodshed, occurring during the last years, had the Israeli government accepted to cooperate with us in regards to security.
Instead, it has destroyed our military apparatuses and institutions. It has acted unilaterally, with the logic of power, not the logic of dialogue, which can be classified as the Israeli unilateral policies, that are refused from our side and that include the establishment of a Palestinian state with temporary borders.
Ladies and Gentlemen, It is often stated, by the leaders of the world, that resolving the Palestinian Israeli conflict is the path to resolving many conflicts. Resolving this conflict would turn the Middle East into a prosperous and safe area.
There would be potential for economic growth and development for the region’s inhabitants, instead of the tremendous waste on arms in the region, the question is as follows: what hinders this from happening? Where is the responsibility of the international community and its bodies, and the influential countries, permanent members of the Security Council?
There is no doubt that this conflict could have ended a long time ago, had the UN resolutions, unanimously agreed upon, been applied. The resolutions include finding a just and negotiated-upon solution for the Palestinian refugees, as per UN Resolution 194.
However, Israel, as it is well known, behaves as being above the international law. It has and still puts conditions on the potential international party playing the role of a relative broker, even when that broker is the United States of America, that provides Israel with all kinds of support, and has used its right of veto tens of times defending Israel, to hinder any resolution that might condemn its acts.
I do not wish to expose tens of attempts and initiative; we have in front of us now, the plan for the international Road Map, which became a UN resolution 1515. This plan includes all conditions that provide possibilities to resolve the conflict, to which your Minister of Exterior has contributed largely. We have announced our immediate approval on the Road Map, since it was presented to the late President Arafat, whereas Prime Minister Sharon expressed fourteen reservations on it.
I believe that to resolve the conflict, both sides should not be left alone with this imbalance of occupier and occupied. An international conference should be summoned immediately, in which direct negotiations take place, on the basis of international UN resolutions and signed agreements. The international group, whether it is the Quartet, or any other international frame work, would play the role of the broker and arbitrator at the same time.
The international community needs to move fast: Israel’s unilateral measures through which it strife to impose its vision and expansionist map by building the discrimination separation Wall, Judiaising Jerusalem, expatriating Palestinian land, including the Jordan Valley- would lead to a practical annexation of more than 85 percent of the West Bank to Israel, putting their hands on Palestinian artesian water resources, and transforming our lands into isolated cantons with no geographic contiguity, including eliminating any chance to establish a viable, independent Palestinian state.
Thus, and as Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and as elected President of the Palestinian National Authority, I am ready to immediately resume negotiations with the Israeli government.
It is important for me to clarify that the Palestinian Legislative elections, which brought Hamas to power, is not an obstacle in front of negotiations. Negotiations are still the PLO’s mandate which signed all previous agreements with Israel.
Ladies and gentlemen, Dear friends, we yearn towards establishing a Palestinian state that epitomizes our people’s rights to self-determination. It would be a haven for stability and safety, true democratic practice, living in harmony, peace and good neighbourhood, with mutual confidence and respect, with all the region’s countries and people including Israel.
We would like it to be a peaceful state, exerting its efforts to build the human being, ensuring sustainable human development, putting on its priorities human values as endorsed by the United Nations. We do not wish, nor do we have the ability, to establish a state with military power. We yearn towards establishing institutions as per the highest international humanitarian standards, protecting the citizen, and respecting the law and its sovereignty.
We wish to dedicate all our available financial resources to build educational and cultural institutions, along with infrastructure that contributes in achieving welfare, prosperity and progress to our people, and increasing our standards of living.
We wish for a security force that can protect our international commitments and pledges. To reach to this end, the occupation should end, settlers should evacuate beyond the June 4, 1967 borders.
Based on the above, we call upon the international community in general, and upon Europe too, at the individual level of each state and collectively in the frame of the European Union, to continue to provide various forms of moral and financial support, to enable us to achieve our goals in reaching peace in the area, and making it a success.
In Palestine and the Arab world in general, we wish for a better understanding with Europe, an understanding occurring between neighbours who live in a changing world where globalization has erased all borders.
I refuse the concept of the clash of civilizations, and I also refuse the concept of the clash of religions. I support the Spanish initiative regarding coalition among civilizations, and I support the Vatican’s and Islamic Conference outcomes regarding inter-faith dialogues.
It is necessary to expand the circles of dialogue, communication, and to deepen the knowledge of one another, to defeat extremism politically, religiously, or racially.
Despite all the difficulties, I look optimistically towards the future.
I have deep faith that the majority of Palestinians and Israelis wish peace. Indeed, there is no military solution to this conflict, and we have no choice but to coexist side by side, on this holy land, land of the three monotheistic religions.
Let us make Jerusalem, as we dreamed, the capital of two states, Palestine and Israel, open to all believers who can exercise their freedom of worship.
Thank you for your attention, and I hope that this dream becomes a reality.
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