On October 30, Steve Clemons and the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation hosted Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative and MP of the Palestinian Legislative Council Mustafa Barghouti in a conversation with Rita Hauser, president of the Hauser Foundation and Israeli/Palestinian affairs expert, and Daniel Levy, director of the Middle East Policy Initiative at New America and publisher of www.ProspectsForPeace.com. The panelists came together to discuss the landscape of events in the run-up to the Annapolis conference on possible Palestinian statehood.
Mustafa Barghouti opened with a compelling list of Palestinian issues that he believes are not discussed enough in the press. Firstly, he stated that Hamas succeeded in the most recent Palestinian elections because the Oslo peace process failed and Fatah failed to conduct meaningful internal reform. Mr. Barghouti expressed his support for the Arab Peace Initiative, but lamented that the negotiation process seems to be going back to “the same old ways.” Secondly, he reminded the audience that Palestinian politics are not totally dichotomized, and the non-Fatah/non-Hamas faction won 20% of the electorate in the last election. Mr. Barghouti made his third point by noting four very serious issues Israel needs to address in order to move the peace process along at Annapolis: the continuation of settlement activities, the building of the fence or wall, discrimination by Israel against Palestinians, and the Israeli security panel’s declaration of the Gaza Strip as a ‘hostile entity.’ He stated the cessation of these activities is necessary for the Annapolis conference to make a difference, and also called for a clear timetable to discuss final status issues.
Rita Hauser followed Mr. Barghouti by stating that the situation in Palestine is “beyond dire and catastrophic,” speaking not only of the humanitarian crisis but of the prospects for peace. “This is not a conflict that is going to be solved in a very serious way for a very long time to come,” she predicted. Ms. Hauser also said that she expects the Annapolis conference will be little more than a photo opportunity that will produce another mild resolution. She called it “loony” to hold a major conference without the participation of delegates from Hamas, and bemoaned that settlements continue to be built and expanded. She held that she has given up on the current administration making any real progress on these difficult issues, and advocated that the next president convene a Middle East-wide peace conference à la Madrid in 1991 in order to discuss the interconnected troubles of the looming Iran crisis, the Iraq debacle, Syria, Hizbullah and Lebanon, and of course, Israel/Palestine issues. “I hope that we can work toward a positive coming together with a new president,” Ms. Hauser opined.
Daniel Levy commented that he appreciated Mr. Barghouti’s reminder of third party politics in Palestine, and also expressed his support for the Arab Peace Initiative. “The challenge for Israel is taking yes for an answer,” he said with respect to moving forward from there. In terms of the Annapolis conference, Mr. Levy asked four key questions: first, are all parties involved back in serious negotiating space? Second, can everyone reach a place where no or minimum harm is being done on the ground in Palestine and Israel? Third, is there more movement toward a reconstituted Palestinian body politic? Fourth, is there inclusive Arab engagement on this issue? Mr. Levy concurred with Mr. Barghouti that a freeze on settlements and a timetable are a good way to start negotiating again.
The ensuing discussion and question-and-answer session touched many different issues, including the trouble with the Bush administration’s classification of Hamas as part of the war on terror framework, the impact of the potential failure of the Annapolis conference, and Palestinian economic growth and development. The panelists also fielded questions on Palestinian refugees, the observed Israeli desire to maintain the status quo in the peace process, and tips for a new U.S. administration to make progress with the ongoing Israel/Palestinian peace process.
- Katherine Tiedemann, Research Associate for the Fellows Program
New America Foundation
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