SEPARATION BARRIER ESTABLISHES ‘FACTS ON THE GROUND’, BEIJING MEETING TOLD
AS SPEAKERS CALL FOR END TO CONSTRUCTION
There is No Simple Solution to Violent,
Explosive Situation, Cautions Former United States Diplomat
BEIJING, 17 December -- Warning that there was a serious misunderstanding of the definition of negotiation, former United States diplomat Edward Peck said the Palestinians were powerless and the only thing they could bring to the negotiation table was a willingness to accept whatever crumbs fell from it.
He called on participants at the United Nations Meeting for Asia and the Pacific on the Question of Palestine in Beijing to avoid falling prey to platitudes. Speakers had referred to a relatively peaceful time in the Middle East but that was only on the Israeli side. Meanwhile, the wall was being built, houses were being destroyed and terrible things were continuing to happen on the Palestinian side. He cautioned that a Road Map would not help and the public should avoid being influenced by the myths that there was a simple solution to the violent explosive situation or that the occupation would end if American aid to Israel ended.
The Beijing meeting, held under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, heard a number of speakers this morning in a panel on strengthening international support for a peaceful solution to the question of Palestine.
Israeli Knesset Member Zehava Galon, expressing the view of many speakers, said the most urgent issue was the separation wall which among other things would jeopardize the livelihood of many Palestinians. It was vital that the international community act decisively to put pressure on the Israeli Government to stop construction. She did not think the Israelis would back down but the international community must at least insist that the wall be built along the 1967 lines.
She was further concerned that discussion of unilateral steps conveyed the message that there was no partner on the Palestinian side. The Quartet must discourage Israel from taking unilateral steps and it must establish a transitional authority to monitor such actions.
Chen Weixiong of the Department of International Organizations and Conferences in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of China said a prompt and satisfactory resolution would contribute to the security and welfare of Israelis and Palestinians, as well as the peace and security of the whole world. Only a genuine peace would be a lasting peace and political negotiation was the only way to peace, but it could not be achieved without the support of the international community. The Road Map might be imperfect but it was the most basic and realistic framework of objectives for the resumption of peace talks. The United Nations should make innovative efforts, in particular by enhancing the role of the Secretary-General's Special Coordinator, consolidating its internal resources and exploring possibilities of strengthening and reforming the functions of agencies providing assistance to the Palestinian people.
Other members of the panel were Albert Aghazarian, Researcher on Jerusalem affairs; Oleg Ozerov, Head of the Middle East Peace Process Division , Department of the Middle East and North Africa in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation; and Isamu Nakashima, Senior Researcher, Middle East Research Institute of Japan.
The United Nations meeting will conclude this afternoon following a panel presentation on "Support in Asia for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people”. Experts will discuss action by Asian States within the United Nations system, non-aligned movement and other intergovernmental organizations; and support by parliaments and interparliamentary organizations.
Panel II: Strengthening international support for a peaceful solution of the question of Palestine:
Salvaging the political process: the role of the Quartet in restoring the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue; upholding the primacy of international law –- the permanent responsibility of the United Nations towards the question of Palestine; and action by the non-aligned movement and intergovernmental organizations.
(1) ALBERT AGHAZARIAN, Director of Public Relations, Birzeit University, said if there was to be a successful conclusion to the conflict in the Middle East, there needed to be a proper diagnosis and an assessment of what went wrong. There seemed to be a significant change under the Labour Party led by Itzak Rabin. There was a time when the term "constructive ambiguity" was in vogue. Rabin thought the Palestinians would show their capability first in small enclaves before moving onto other phases. When asked when they would move forward, he said there were no sacred dates. Under the Oslo Accords, any disturbance by the Palestinians was deemed an indication that they were not doing their part. Under Prime Minister Peres, Israel had a mission to create a new Middle East. However, even Shimon Peres said to the Israeli Knesset, "we screwed the Palestinians". The position then taken was that of the "imperium, imperia", in which Israel constructed the concept of the security establishment. The same concept was adopted by the United States after 9/11. There was a gradual separation and elimination of the political track.
More than ever after 9/11, the security establishment started to call the shots with no vision other than fighting terror, he said. Policy was based on the three G's: guns, gates and gods. The situation was disturbing in view of the fact that the United States Administration had adopted the same cult. He called attention to the distinction between security and "securitism" which had begun with Bin Laden and then moved to Syria, Iraq and others. Step-by-step negotiations would not work. Security was a pagan god that Israel and the United States worshipped. The Oslo process was an attempt to control the Palestinians and the idea of statehood had become a repressive concept to fulfil Israeli goals. Securitism was at the core of the problem and if that was not recognized, there was no way to get out of the conflict.
(2) ZEHAVA GALON, Member of Knesset, said the most urgent issue was the separation wall that the Israeli Government was constructing in the occupied Palestinian territory. The wall would jeopardize the livelihood of many Palestinians. The Israelis had not convinced the world that its only motive was security. It was vital that the international community act decisively against the wall. She called on the participants to put pressure on the Israeli Government to stop construction but she did not think the Israelis would back down. If it was impossible to stop the construction, then the international community must insist that the wall be built along the 1967 lines.
Referring to the successes and failures of the Quartet, she said that until now the international community was successful in attempts to contain the conflict, but it had not succeeded in restraining the daily violations of human rights. In the past, the two sides had manoeuvred between the various communities, exploiting the differences between them. As a result, the international community did not speak in one voice. That must change if they wished to ensure that the parties fulfil their obligations. The Road Map risked the same traps into which the Oslo Process fell. The implementation of the Road Map depended on the continued efforts of the Quartet and the international community in general. Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis had fulfilled their obligations. When the United States Government did not use pressure, the plan did not move ahead.
She expressed concern over the latest discussion of unilateral steps because it conveyed the message that there was no partner on the Palestinian side. She was even more concerned that that approach was led by people who would try to establish Palestinian cantons with no continuity between them. A settlement could only be achieved at the negotiation table and only a two-State solution could protect the interests of both peoples. She welcomed United States Secretary of State Colin Powell's statement that the United States objected to any unilateral steps. The Quartet must discourage Israel from taking unilateral steps and it must establish a transitional authority to monitor such actions.
Continuing, she said the most promising suggestion was the Geneva Initiative. The international community must work towards the adoption by Governments of the Geneva Initiative. Both, Mr. Powell and Secretary-General Kofi Annan had spoken encouragingly about the Initiative. Although it was criticized by many people on both sides, it offered an alternative to the ongoing confrontation by providing practical solutions to the important problems. It was an outline that guarded the interests of the two peoples. It was the responsibility of the international community to stop the cycle of violence. It should not evade responsibility under the pretext that the conflict could not be solved.
(3) OLEG OZEROV, Head of the Middle East Peace Process Division, Department of the Middle East and North Africa, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said the events of the past three years had unfortunately destroyed many of the achievements of the Madrid and Oslo processes. The more the situation concerning the Palestinian Territory deteriorated, the harder it would become to resume negotiations. International cooperation to resolve the conflict needed to be stepped up. The Road Map was not ideal but it was a realistic programme of action posited on the political will of the parties to resolve the conflict and their readiness to compromise. There was no alternative to the Road Map. Rather than imposing anything, it suggested practical ways of resolving the most important issues in the way of a settlement.
The agreement on Security Council resolution 1515 (2003) which endorsed the Road Map strengthened Council unity on approaches to facilitating the peace process. It would also give greater political weight to the peace plan and enhanced the likelihood of its implementation. The Russian Federation supported the formation of a new Government of the Palestinian Authority headed by Ahmed Qurei and hoped that he would make vigorous efforts to address the major tasks facing Palestinian society, above all, the creation of favourable conditions for the resumption of the peace process. In the situation that was developing, immediate reciprocal steps were required of both sides in order to reduce tension. Settlements activity and the construction of the so-called separation wall were the most serious obstacles to resolving the conflict and should be stopped.
At the same time, he said, no change for the better could be expected unless there were determined and effective efforts to curb the activities of extremists and terrorists who were responsible for the death of many innocent civilians. An important item on the agenda continued to be the establishment of an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue at a high political level, as well as cooperation in the area of security. Action by the Russian Federation could not be separated from the efforts of the United States, the European Union and the United Nations. The Russian Federation was sincerely interested in the attainment of a comprehensive and just settlement, and in the strengthening of security and stability in that strategically important region which adjoined its border.
(4) CHEN WEIXIONG, Department of International Organizations and Conferences, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, said that on the question of the Middle East, all the ups and downs could be crystallized into a number of invaluable lessons. A prompt and satisfactory resolution would contribute to the security and welfare of Israelis and Palestinians as well as the peace and security of the whole world. Only a genuine peace would be a lasting peace and political negotiation was the only way to peace. Moreover, peace could not be achieved without the support of the international community. It had not been easy for the international community to reach a broad consensus on the Middle East questions. The Road Map might be imperfect but it was the most basic and realistic framework of objectives for the resumption of peace talks. It should continue to be implemented.
He said that long term peace and stability could not be achieved without the United Nations but its resolutions were meaningless if they were not implemented. The central role of the Security Council in maintaining peace in the Middle East region should be given full play. With its special responsibility in maintaining world peace and security, it should play a vital role in promoting peace in the Middle East. The Council should establish an observation, monitoring and assessment mechanism to ensure the implementation of the Road Map, or request the Secretary-General or his Special Coordinator to organize and convene an international conference on peace in the Middle East. The Council could also dispatch a mission on its own initiative to the Palestinian area to ascertain the situation on the ground, make adjustments to the peacekeeping operations in those areas, or even deploy a new peacekeeping force.
Continuing, he said the work of the United Nations in the humanitarian and development fields should be strengthened, peace and development complemented each other and the United Nations had a responsibility to help alleviate the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people. Faced with new circumstances, the United Nations should make innovative efforts, in particular by enhancing the role of the Secretary-General's Special Coordinator, consolidating its internal resources and exploring possibilities of strengthening and reforming the functions of agencies providing assistance. At the same time, it should mobilize the resources of the international community and make full use of the potential of civil society.
(5) ISAMU NAKASHIMA, Middle East Research Institute of Japan, said the two parties to the conflict in the Middle East had finally come back to the original point –- a two-State solution. Recalling that in 1947 the United Nations had proposed a two-State solution that was first refused by the Arabs and then by Israel, he said that the two parties had tried for decades to settle the issue of who would succeed the Palestine Mandate by force. In April 2003, following the introduction of the Road Map, all parties for the first time accepted the two-state solution. In the long-term view, the present situation was almost at the end of the process. The international community, the United Nations in particular, should help to keep the present political framework stable. The Palestinian side needed more time and more support than the Israelis. The current political framework would give the Palestinians support to create a State but it would also bring pressure to promote internal changes.
He said the Israeli security fence in the West Bank negatively impacted not only the Palestinians' daily lives but also the long-term political framework. That might be the reason why the present Israeli Government was so eager to change the facts on the ground. The United Nations had already taken some action but efforts should continue until construction was stopped or the wall was removed.
The Geneva Accord was a symbolic peace treaty, he said. Other plans seemed to be in the works, including one by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and another by his Vice Prime Minister. Those plans would probably be followed by others. These were positive signals that the present political framework was working and forcing Israelis and Palestinians to produce new ideas and plans in short and medium terms. Both sides needed political, diplomatic or economic pressure from the outside to promote domestic changes. The United Nations was the Organization, which could put pressure on both sides legally and fairly, even if the parties were not satisfied with the final results. Regarding the humanitarian situation he said, both the United Nations and the non-governmental organizations could do a great deal to alleviate problems, particularly of malnutrition, among the Palestinian people.
(6) EDWARD PECK, President of Foreign Services International, Washington D. C., prefacing his remarks with the statement that he was a patriotic American who had twice served his nation in uniform and been a member of the United States diplomatic corps, said he did not agree with American policies regarding Israel’s savage persecution of the Palestinian people. The occupation was not in the best interests of Israel or the United States, and certainly not the Palestinians. Many powerful myths were involved whenever the question of Palestine was discussed. They clouded understanding and closed the mind, including the minds of decision makers in countries who could have a more productive role in ending the decades-long violation of human rights and international law. The first myth was that there was a simple solution to the conflict. Complicated problems could not and did not have simple solutions. A rational solution that met at least the minimal requirements of both parties would not be easy to find. Small and powerful extremist groups in both nations had decided that the only solution was the forced departure of the other side. Trying to create a simple solution for a violent, explosive situation was not merely non-productive, it was counterproductive. A Road Map would not be of any help.
He said the myth that the occupation would end if American aid to Israel ended grew directly from the myth that there was a simple solution. While America’s massive military, financial and political support contributed to Israel’s belligerence and arrogance towards its neighbours, complete termination of that support would not necessarily result in any diminution in Israel’s ceaseless violations of international law and human rights. Ending American assistance would make the present abhorrent practices difficult, but it would not guarantee that they would stop or even be mitigated. Israel continued its deplorable actions despite the condemnation of nations, except by the United States. And it could do so even if the United States were to change sides.
Another myth was that in democracies, the majority ruled, he said. In truth, those who cared ruled, and they might not always be in the majority. The total number who actually voted was frequently far smaller than the total electorate. A substantial number of Americans strongly supported Israel. Their position was dominant because the rest of the population remained misinformed and/or uninterested. Pro-Israeli forces in the United States were composed of a wide range of religions, ethnicities, backgrounds, political beliefs, incomes, ages, genders, geographic locations and education. Their concerns for Israel’s future and security limited the debate and restricted the flow of information, even though it was clear that continuing the occupation was the greatest threat to Israel now and in the future.
He said the Geneva Accords were a historic document that recognized the continuation of Israel’s polices and actions would prevent that country from ever achieving mutual peace and security with its neighbours. The authors had crafted not a simple solution, but an eminently workable complicated and detailed solution for a complicated problem. Implementation would remove the need for America’s support. It would also reduce the misguided concern for Israel’s security that motivates an active American minority to push for continued American support, and misinformed American public, which posed serious threats to America’s own interests and security.
Continuing, he said he had been struck how speakers had fallen prey to platitudes. There should be a better understanding of the meaning of the word negotiation. It implied a certain measure of balance in what the different parties could offer. In fact, the Palestinians were powerless. The only thing that they would bring to a negotiating table was a willingness to accept whatever crumbs fell from it. The Israelis had a specific goal in mind and it did not fit with what had been discussed at the meeting. The participants had been talking about a relatively peaceful time, but meanwhile the wall was being built, houses were being destroyed and terrible things were continuing to happen on the Palestinian side. The peaceful period only referred to the Israeli side.
He said the so-called separation wall was really a prison wall. On the one side were checkpoints, settlements and the army, but the Palestinians would be prisoners when it was done. He also expressed concern about the use of the word terrorism, noting that terrorism was in the eye of the beholder. One man's terrorist was another man's freedom fighter. The Israeli pilot who dropped a bomb and killed 46 civilians received a medal. The Palestinian fighter who strapped a bomb to himself and blew up a café was a terrorist. Recalling Irgun actions in the bombings of the King David Hotel and the Palestinian village of DeirYassin, he reminded participants that former Israeli Prime Minister Itzak Shamir had said he carried a gun for Israel and killed for Israel. It was acceptable to Shamir but certainly not to those who died as a result of his actions. He urged the meeting to realize that nothing was really being done to solve the question of Palestine. In the future, historians would look back to determine what was the source of a major world problem. That source was occupied Palestinian land. If that issue was not resolved, generations to come would never forgive us, he said.
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