The Role of the International Community

On December 12, 2007, the Al-Diwan Cultural Center, in the town of Qarawah near Ramallah, hosted a cultural evening that was organized by the Center for Israeli Studies (MADAR) in Ramallah, the Diwan Cultural Center, and the Palestine-Israel Journal. The event was attended by some 70 people, some of them originally from Qarawah, who work and live in Ramallah. They came to Qarawah especially to attend the evening. Welcoming remarks were given by the President of Al-Diwan who spoke about the history of Al-Diwan’s old building. He invited Mr. Nidal Erar to moderate the discussion. The evening’s panel included three speakers: Dr. Mufeed Qassum, Director of MADAR; Antoine Shalhat, a researcher and writer from Acre; and Ziad AbuZayyad, Co-editor and Publisher of the PIJ. Dr. Qassum started his presentation by introducing MADAR. He pointed out the fact that there is no Arabic academic institute that deals with Israeli affairs, and the role MADAR plays in educating the Arabs about Israel. Mr. Shalhat reviewed the political situation on the Israeli side. He quoted the military correspondent of the religious newspaper Hatsofieh, which said that the politicians are no longer leading the army, and the military leadership’s recent conclusions that the window of opportunity for a political solution had already closed. Mr. Shalhat suggested that the Annapolis meeting was aimed to serve U.S. policy in the Middle East. As such, its purpose was not to solve the Palestinian Israeli conflict but to reconstruct U.S. policy in the region. AbuZayyad introduced the Palestine Israel Journal to the audience, its dialogue activities, including the Arabic and Hebrew language supplements, and public events. Then, he set the theme for the evening: Israeli Society after the Peace Process. He noted that the process has not started. He reviewed the internal political situation in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, their weak leaderships and the need for an active mediator to bring the parties to an agreement. He criticized the role of U.S. administrations in the last twenty years, which did not allow other concerned stakeholders to play a role, and claimed that no one should disturb U.S. efforts in the region. At the same time, the United States claims that its role is to facilitate negotiations but it will not interfere by pressuring any party. Consequently, the United States has accomplished nothing by itself. AbuZayyad said that as long as Israel continues its activities of building and expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank, this indicates that there is no real intention on the Israeli side to engage in serious negotiations to solve the problem. He quoted the Israeli Foreign Minister, who said at a press conference on the same day as the evening at the Diwan Center, that Israel will negotiate with the Palestinians regardless of what is happening on the ground. She was answering a question about building in the settlement of Har Homa, south of Jerusalem. AbuZayyad said this policy kills any chance for progress. AbuZayyad said, that in the absence of a real chance for achieving a political settlement, the Palestinians should devote all their energy to regaining their national unity and to put an end to Hamas’ control over Gaza. At the same time, they should devote all of their resources to rebuild the destroyed economy, maintain the role of law and public order, rebuild the judicial system, and develop the neglected rural area, especially in the villages. He concluded by saying that this situation is an abnormal situation and, sooner or later, it will end. He called upon the U.S. administration and the international community to play a fair role and to pressure Israel to achieve a political settlement based on the principle of two states before it is too late. The floor was opened for comments and questions. Most of the comments and questions focused on the internal Palestinian situation, the biased role of the United States, Israel’s collective punishment measures against the Palestinians, and the continuation of the expansion of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land. Some of the comments were comparing the Madrid talks and the Oslo Declaration of Principles, and the failure of these processes. Questions focused on the situation in Gaza, and blamed the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank for not doing enough to put an end to the suffering of the people in Gaza. Publications of MADAR and the Palestine Israel Journal were displayed and available to the public at the entrance of the Diwan Center.

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