Israeli and Palestinian Women Leaders Call for a Return to Peace Negotiations
For immediate release
Date: 3 May 2006
Leigh Pasqual, Media Specialist, UNIFEM Headquarters, +1 212-906-5463, leigh.pascual [at] unifem.org
New York — Members of the International Women's Commission, in New York for meetings with UN officials, expressed concern that the results of the Palestinian elections are being seen as a reason to disengage from the peace process, when in fact, this is a critical moment to explore a resumption of negotiations. If not seized now, they said, the chance will be lost.
The International Women's Commission (IWC) is comprised of Israeli, Palestinian and international women who came together in July 2005 to work towards a just and sustainable peace based on a two-state solution. They are in the United States to meet with UN and US officials to gather support. In describing their mission here, they emphasized that recent opinion polls show that an "overwhelming majority among Israelis and Palestinians favour negotiated rather than unilateral further disengagement."
Colette Avital, deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset, emphasized that this is the first time since 1967 that a majority of the Knesset favour a two-state solution. While previously, people thought that a two-state solution was something that would have to be lived with, she said, public sentiment is shifting on this. "Most people now feel it is a necessity; unless there is a Palestinian state, Israel is also in danger."
Moderate voices exist in the political community, on both sides, which must urgently be identified and supported to ensure engagement. "Hamas is not a homogenous bloc," said Amal Khreisheh, Director, Palestinian Working Women Society for Development. "There are moderate voices within Hamas who must be encouraged to shape the national dialogue."
Palestinian delegates stated that whatever they think about them, Hamas was elected in a genuine democratic process, and on a range of different issues, such as dealing with corruption and providing services. Palestinians should be allowed to sort out their political disagreements, they said, while governance continues. At the same time, said Maha Abu-Dayyeh, Director of the Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling in Jerusalem, there are indications that Hamas seems to be moving towards an acceptance of the idea that Mahmoud Abbas could play a major role in negotiating with Israel. "If Hamas agrees to negotiations, Fatah will not say no," she said. "This will be the first time that negotiations could take place that both the government and the opposition could support."
In a statement issued today, women on both sides declared that it is more important than ever to reach out across boundaries. Unilateralism is not the answer. As women and as politicians or activists in their different struggles, they are committed to continuing the dialogue. Moreover, they stated, they must be included in any peace negotiations that may come about — as decisions will then be taken that will impact Israelis and Palestinians for years to come.
"As women, we have a key role to play in meeting challenges and starting the longer-term process of rebuilding communities, reviving dialogue among all parts of society, and showing that there are other ways to live," said Professor Naomi Chazan, former deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset. "Despite the fact that Israel, Palestine and members of the Quartet have all pledged to implement Security Council resolution 1325, which calls for increased engagement of women at all levels of decision-making in conflict resolution, this intention has still to be translated into practice."
The women will also be travelling to Washington, DC, to meet with U.S. State Department officials and members of Congress.
Statement issued by the International Women's Commission for a Just & Sustainable Peace between Israel & Palestine, 3 May 2006
As violence increases again — and positions harden — in the wake of the recent Palestinian and Israeli elections, one truth has become urgent: both sides need to find ways to keep talking to each other. According to a public opinion poll taken jointly by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research in March, an "overwhelming majority among Israelis and Palestinians favor negotiated rather than unilateral further disengagement." We agree. Peace and security will never be won unilaterally.
As Palestinian, Israeli and international women, we ARE still talking to each other. We came together a year ago, in a more hopeful time, as the International Women's Commission for a Just and Sustainable Israeli-Palestinian Peace (IWC) convened by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). We are declaring our mission today because we believe it is more critical than ever not to let this hope die.
As women, who are deeply engaged in the politics of our respective communities, we oppose the continuation of violence, collective punishment, coercion, and continuous threats to personal rights which also threaten our own freedom. The IWC is dedicated to ending the Israeli occupation, to achieving a just peace and a two-state solution based on international law, human rights and equality.
The desire for a secure peace presents a challenge to the leadership on both sides. In Israel, the challenge is to recognize the link between the occupation and the deterioration of Israeli economic and social life. In the occupied Palestinian territory, the challenge is to give hope and regain faith in political processes to achieve liberation and enhance democracy.
As women, we have a key role to play in meeting these challenges and starting the longer-term process of rebuilding communities, reviving dialogue among all parts of society, and showing that there are other ways to live. This was the key message of the historic United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, adopted unanimously in October 2000.
As women, both Israelis and Palestinians, we perceive unilateral actions as violations of basic human rights. We deplore the brutal culture of militarism and violence, the politics of fear and hate that manipulate public opinion. We know that in a world based on fear, hatred and despair we are all losers.
A secure peace demands an entirely different set of values and actions, one that honors the perspectives and concerns of both sides. As women, our voices have traditionally gone unheard on issues of national security. Yet we know that the only guarantee of our security rests on justice and the end to conflict.
However, as women we are absent from the spaces of power where men are taking decisions that will impact Palestinians and Israelis for generations to come. Despite the fact that Israel, Palestine and members of the Quartet have all pledged to implement Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls for increased engagement of women at all levels of decision-making in conflict resolution, this intention has still to be translated into practice. We can't wait for an invitation. It is time to hear what we think.
As women, we have dedicated ourselves to creating a better future for our children, grandchildren, and for our societies as a whole. We are determined to struggle unrelentingly to ensure full respect for human rights and adherence to international laws and conventions designed to learn from past experiences and prevent any repetition of the horrors due to wars and armed conflicts. Indeed, as women, we know that the guarantee of our security in the public and private spheres rests on the respect for the other.
A just and sustainable settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on a two state solution must be negotiated by both women and men. We call upon the Quartet and other members of the international community to fulfill their obligations in ensuring the end of the occupation, guaranteeing legal protection, and initiating negotiations between the parties. We urge civil society institutions and women in our societies, in Europe, the United States and throughout the world demand that their governments be proactive third parties in ending our protracted conflict. The International Women's Commission is ready to engage fully in this process, and make the promise of Security Council Resolution 1325 a reality.
Members of the IWC delegation visiting the United States