After the completion of the Israeli disengagement from Gaza, 28 Israelis, Palestinians and internationals gathered at the Ambassador Hotel in East Jerusalem on September 15th for a day-long strategy session under the heading Bringing Peace Together. The goal was to evaluate the significance of the disengagement, and to propose strategies that can utilize the momentum created by the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza to revive the peace process.
The participants were: Fadel Tahboub, peace activist; Benjamin Pogrund: Yakar Center for Social Concern; Abed al-Fatah Darwish: PMDI; Mona Duzdar, Search for Common Ground; Khalil Shikaki, Palestine Center for Policy and Survey Research; Najah Monasra: Women’s Mental Health; Edy Kaufman: Center Research Cooperation; James Sevitt: Independent; Illana Canetti: Machsom Watch; Gershon Baskin: IPCRI; Dan Jacobson: Peace Now; Zvia Walden, Geneva Initiative; Sam’an Khoury: Peace and Democracy Forum; Simone Comtesse, German Embassy; Abigail Jacobson: Hands of Peace; John Bell, Search for Common Ground; Ya’acov Manor, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions; Jannie Kuik, IKV; Nora Murad, Panorama Center, Ramallah; Yair Inov, Peace Now; Izhak Schnell, Bringing Peace Together; Walid Salem, Panorama Center, Jerusalem; Naomi Chazan, Meretz; Yoav Gordin, Daphna Bassewitch and Maya Kahanoff, Swiss Center for Conflict Research, Management and Resolution, Hebrew University.
Two questions dominated the discussion: What will happen in the near future, and what can we do about it.
What we are witnessing now can be called a coordinated unilateral process: Israel makes a move, such as the disengagement, and the Palestinians have a chance to further develop their national institutions.
Since we are entering a period of elections in both communities, it will only be possible to evaluate the prospects for a second withdrawal after the elections.
On the Israeli side, four options are on the table:
1) The Left — Negotiations with the Palestinians for a permanent solution.
2) Ramon- Continue with a unilateral withdrawal on the West Bank
3) Sharon — End unilateral withdrawals and continue with the Road Map, the Palestinians have obligations to create law and order in the Palestinian Authority (PA).
4) Right — No negotiations and no peace in the foreseeable future.
If negotiations will not be possible in the near future, a continuation of unilateral moves is the next best option. Israeli civil society has to put pressure on its government to continue the process.
Among the key issues on the table that are of particular importance to the Palestinians are the separation barrier Jerusalem, freedom of movement and the borders with Egypt.
1) Act to ensure the possibility for a solution in Jerusalem remains open.
2) Eliminate all restrictions and remnants of occupation connected to Gaza.
3) Monitoring mechanisms should be established to note the establishment of obstacles to peace and to react to them.
4) A Joint Civil Society Rapid Response Committee should be established.
5) Simultaneous pro-peace demonstrations should be carried out in Israel and Palestine.
6) Efforts should be made in the coming elections to promote pro-peace candidates.
7) Positive signals have to be sent by Israelis to Palestinians, and by Palestinians to Israelis.
Bringing Peace Together is a joint Israeli-Palestinian-International group aiming to develop unerstanding between the several Israeli-Palestinian and International Peace movements, and contribute to the development of peace actions, in the region and worldwide.