Middle East Roundtable /
A Palestinian View:
Ceasefire - More steps required
by Ghassan Khatib
A de facto ceasefire appears to have taken general hold
between the Israeli occupying forces and the Palestinian side. However,
there has been no official confirmation from either side as of yet.
Ending the violence has been the primary priority for both sides, but in
different ways. The Palestinians have consistently maintained that the
violence that results from the military occupation of Palestinian land is
the cause of violent Palestinian reactions. For their part, the Israelis
have blamed Palestinian violence against them as the cause of their own
A solution to the problem of who should cease to do what first can actually
be found in the first phase of the Quartet's roadmap plan, which considers
all the violence a vicious cycle. Accordingly, the roadmap foresees the two
sides ending violence against each other simultaneously.
The recent calm, nevertheless, is a direct result of an initiative taken by
the Palestinian side, and has been possible for three reasons: first, the
Palestinian leadership gained new legitimacy after the presidential
elections. Second, the new president, Mahmoud Abbas, initiated a mature and
responsible dialogue with all the Palestinian factions. Finally, Israel
intimated indirectly that a calm could be reciprocated without any
declarations or commitments.
For such a ceasefire to be endorsed, consolidated and sustained, however, a
mutual commitment has to be officially declared by the two sides in no
uncertain terms. Such a declaration would only be a step, however, toward
the second and most important move, which would be fast progress on other
issues that have been rightly considered by all analysts as the causes of
In particular, all Israeli practices and measures that serve to consolidate
the occupation must be seen to end, especially the illegal expansions of
settlements and the building of the separation wall inside Palestinian
lands. In addition, Israeli economic sanctions must be lifted, and other
types of illegal collective punishment measures, such as restrictions on
movement, mass arrest campaigns and so on, must also end. This will allow
for economic recovery and reduce the unemployment and poverty afflicting the
Palestinian side, which is not only a source of suffering but also of
frustration and anger.
If the two sides are to continue moving in the present direction--which is
what the first phase of the roadmap expects them to do--they need immediate,
strong and effective third party involvement, something also stipulated in
the roadmap as part of a required mechanism to be established to end the
conflict. The Palestinians will need technical and economic support toward
rehabilitation of infrastructure, both civilian and security-wise.
Palestinians also need support for the economic development plan that was
formulated in close coordination with the donor community led by the World
This all requires a suitably conducive political and security environment.
The recent calm may provide that environment but must be taken advantage of
for it to continue.- Published 31/1/2005 (c) bitterlemons.org
Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of bitterlemons.org and
bitterlemons-international.org. He is the Palestinian Authority minister of
labor, acting minister of planning and has been a political analyst and
media contact for many years.
Bitterlemons-international.org is an internet
forum for an array of world perspectives on the Middle East and its
specific concerns. It aspires to engender greater understanding about
the Middle East region and open a new common space for world thinkers
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region. Editors Ghassan Khatib and Yossi Alpher can be reached at