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Middle East Roundtable / Edition 4

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 actions.

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 that violence.

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 Bank.

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 and political leaders to present their viewpoints and initiatives on the region. Editors Ghassan Khatib and Yossi Alpher can be reached at ghassan@bitterlemons-international.org and yossi@bitterlemons-international.org, respectively.

hagalil.com 04-02-2004



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