‘ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE AND THE ROLE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY’ THEME, AS SIXTEENTH ANNUAL MEDIA SEMINAR OPENS IN VIENNA

2 December 2008
PAL/2105-PI/1865

‘ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE AND THE ROLE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY’ THEME, AS SIXTEENTH ANNUAL MEDIA SEMINAR OPENS IN VIENNA

2 December 2008
Press Release
PAL/2105 PI/1865
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

‘ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE AND THE ROLE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY’ THEME,

AS SIXTEENTH ANNUAL MEDIA SEMINAR OPENS IN VIENNA

 

Secretary-General Says Peace Has to Be

Promoted Not Only at Political Level, But at Grass Roots

(Received from a UN Information Officer.)

VIENNA, 2 December -- Opening the sixteenth International Media Seminar on Peace in the Middle East in Vienna today, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kiyo Akasaka, defined the objectives of this year's media seminar as “not only to sensitize the public about the situation in the Middle East, but to provide impetus and support for a dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, and to help them sustain their hopes for a peaceful future”.

The two-day event –- entitled “Israeli-Palestinian Peace and the Role of the International Community” –- has been organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information, in cooperation with the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs of Austria.

“The process under way has kindled new hopes that peace can be attained, with the will and determination of political leaders and the support of peoples on both sides,” Mr. Akasaka stressed, observing that the lives of many depended on this peace effort.  They were not here to embark on peace negotiations, as they all knew, but “to search for clues to improve the environment for peace … and to help bring about concrete results to move them forward”.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a message delivered by Mr. Akasaka, highlighted some gains in the political peace process, noting that the parties had engaged in direct, intensive negotiations, and had succeeded in creating trust and a framework where none had existed only two years ago.  Recent developments, however, underscored the large gap between the political tracks and the situation on the ground, with settlement activity, rocket fire, a humanitarian emergency in the Gaza Strip, and divisions among Palestinian factions posing considerable obstacles.

“If people are to have faith in the political process, there is a need for tangible improvements in living conditions and security,” Mr. Ban said.  In that connection, at a United Nations media seminar in Moscow two years ago, Israelis and Palestinians had launched a Civil Society Initiative involving Israeli and Palestinian mayors.  Today, that initiative was formulating a project for the construction of a wastewater treatment plant in Gaza that would yield health and agricultural benefits for both sides, demonstrating that peace could and had to be promoted, not only at the political level but at the grass roots. 

In an opening statement, Johannes Kyrle, Secretary-General of the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs of Austria, said that the Middle East Seminar should serve as an example of Austria's continued commitment towards the Middle East peace process.  A few months ago, on 23 June 2008, in this same room, Austria had hosted a donor's conference for the reconstruction of the Palestinian refugee camp Nahr el-Bared in Lebanon, and in two weeks time, from 17 to 19 December, Austria would organize a conference, “Europe and the Arab World –- Connecting Partners in Dialogue”, together with the Arab League.

Mr. Kyrle said that the Austrian Government was strongly committed to dialogue and international cooperation as the only meaningful way to resolve international political crises like the Middle East conflict.  A month ago, Austria had been elected as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the coming two years, and the Middle East peace process would figure prominently in its work during that term.  The Middle East peace process had reached a critical juncture.  In that regard, the European Union, as a member of the Quartet, would also do its utmost to make sure that even that period of (political) transition would be a period of progress for the peace process.

Underscoring the role of international cooperation, Antonio Maria Costa, Director-General of United Nations Office at Vienna, said that, from his perspective as head also of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), fighting transnational threats was a form of peacebuilding.  It was surprising how transnational threats could unite neighbours.  He would like to apply that logic to the Middle East.  He urged mayors from both sides present today to encourage such projects, and to improve cooperation and strengthen the rule of law.  UNODC was in the process of preparing a comprehensive assistance programme as its contribution to building peace in the region.

Painting a picture of life for the Palestinians, Almutawakel Taha, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Information of the Palestinian National Authority, said “crucifixion continues in Palestine, not only of human beings, but of birds, children, trees and houses.”  Given the reality of Israeli violence and extremism, the Palestinian National Authority could not help but be disappointed by the Annapolis Conference and the actions of the Quartet, which had made no difference in the situation on the ground.  The international community was called on to hold Israel, the occupying Power, to respect international decisions and to implement United Nations resolutions. 

Eli Dayan, former Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel, responded directly to Mr. Taha's speech, recalling an era when, as a former Mayor of Ashkelon, he and others had worked cooperatively with the Palestinians on joint projects.  He made a plea against such “ritual speeches” that “served no purpose”.  There was now a consensus among all the parties in Israel, left and right, including the Likud, that the solution was two States.  The Israelis had heard that the moderate Arab countries were no longer taking the stance of non-recognition of Israel.  The United Nations should also lay off its ritual annual decisions condemning Israel, which had no effect.  They, rather, had to encourage positive results and create a good atmosphere.

Robert H. Serry, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority, Jerusalem, in today’s keynote address, stressed the historic nature of the Annapolis Agreement, by which the parties agreed to build peace both from the top down and the bottom up.  He noted top-down progress, with President Abbas and Prime Minister Livni reconfirming their intentions, set out in Annapolis, to continue negotiations and reaffirming their confidence in the negotiations last month in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Mr. Serry also pointed out a number of bottom-up measures that were under way to build peace.  The Palestinian Authority had embarked on hundreds of small but important projects throughout the West Bank that had a real impact on people's lives.  There was a lot more to do, but much had been accomplished.  They had a top-down, bottom-up process before them that showed promise and had made some real progress.  What they did not have was time. 

Also this morning, the seminar held a panel discussion on the theme, “The Role of the International Community in the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process:  Ways and Means”, moderated by United Nations Office at Vienna head Antonio Maria Costa.  Among others, the panel, which included Mr. Dayan and Mr. Taha, as well as Ralph Scheide, the Director for the Middle East Division of the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs of Austria, and Shaazka Beyerle, a Senior Adviser at the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict in Washington D.C., looked at ways the international community could facilitate the peace process.  A strong case was made for pursuing non-violent resistance as a solution to the conflict, but also discussed were ways in which cooperation projects could still be carried out.  Mr. Taha questioned the idea of non-violent resistance in the face of “bloody” repression, and noted that, with the unfair trade imbalance, and with water resources and electricity controlled by Israel, Palestinians could not possibly draw international investments, and so help themselves.  All sides called for greater financial assistance from the international community for economic projects for the Palestinians. 

This year's International Media Seminar on the Middle East is structured around four panel discussions.  This afternoon, starting at 2:15, a second panel, moderated by Under-Secretary-General Akasaka, will address the theme:  “New Regional dimension:  The role of Neighbouring Countries in the Middle East Peace Process”.  At 4 p.m., Mr. Akasaka will moderate a third panel, “Prospects for the Future of the Peace Process”.

Tomorrow, 3 December, starting at 9:30 a.m., a fourth and final panel discussion will be held, on the theme “Israeli-Palestinian Civil Society Initiative:  What has been Accomplished since 2007 Tokyo Media Seminar”.  The panel will be held in two parts, allowing two different panels of policymakers, international cooperation partners and politicians to review what has been achieved since the last media seminar in Tokyo.

Welcoming Message

KIYO AKASAKA, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, began by noting that this seminar –- mandated by the United Nations General Assembly –- had been held in different cities around the world since 1991.  In the past five years, the seminar had taken place in Seville (2003), Beijing (2004), Cairo (2005), Moscow (2006) and Tokyo (2007).  

The last five years had seen many profound events that had shaped their world, including in the Middle East, Mr. Akasaka observed.  Most recently, they had seen Israeli and Palestinian leaders relaunch bilateral negotiations in Annapolis in December last year. 

Much work still needed to be done, Mr. Akasaka acknowledged.  However, the process under way had kindled new hopes that peace could be attained, with the will and determination of political leaders and the support of peoples on both sides.  The lives of many depended on this peace effort, and the futures of both Israelis and Palestinians were clearly at stake.

Mr. Akasaka identified the objective of this media seminar as not only to sensitize the public about the situation in the Middle East, but to provide impetus and support for a dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, and to help them sustain their hopes for a peaceful future. 

They were not here to embark on peace negotiations, as they all knew, but “to search for clues to improve the environment for peace”.  The aim of the seminar was to contribute “to the realization of those hopes … and to help bring about concrete results to move them forward,” Mr. Akasaka concluded.

Message by United Nations Secretary-General

The message of Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON was presented by Mr. Akasaka.  In his statement, the Secretary-General noted that they had seen many difficulties in the past year, but that it had also been a crucial time in setting the stage for peace.  While they all regretted that the goal of reaching a peace treaty by the end of this year –- as set out last year at Annapolis –- appeared unlikely to be achieved, the parties had engaged in direct, intensive negotiations, and had succeeded in creating trust and a framework where none had existed only two years ago.  Moreover, the parties’ own joint assessment, that their negotiations had been substantial and promising, was noteworthy. 

Recent developments underscored, however, the large gap between the political tracks and the situation on the ground.  Settlement activity, rocket fire, a humanitarian emergency in the Gaza Strip, and divisions among Palestinian factions posed considerable obstacles, the Secretary-General noted.  If people were to have faith in the political process, there was a need for tangible improvements in living conditions and security.

The Secretary-General recalled that, two years ago, at a previous media seminar in this series held in Moscow, Israelis and Palestinians had launched a Civil Society Initiative involving the mayors of Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza, and Hadera.  Today, that initiative was formulating a pilot project for the construction of a wastewater treatment plant in Gaza that would yield health and agricultural benefits for both sides.

That was just one effort, and it might seem somewhat removed from present realities, but it showed that peace could and had to be promoted, not only at the political level but at the grass roots.  That idea underpinned this year’s media seminar, which was dedicated to the role of the international community.

Two thousand nine had to be the year that their preparations bore fruit in a peace agreement, Mr. Ban emphasized.  Their shared goal remained clear:  an end to the occupation that began in 1967 and the achievement of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel, in accordance with all relevant Security Council resolutions.

Opening Statements

JOHANNES KYRLE, Secretary-General of the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs of Austria, said the Austrian Government attached great importance to the Middle East Seminar, which had been jointly organized with the United Nations Department of Public Information and which should serve as an example of Austria's continued commitment towards the Middle East peace process. 

A few months ago, on 23 June 2008, in this same room, Austria had hosted a donors’ conference for the reconstruction of the Palestinian refugee camp Nahr el-Bared in Lebanon.  Furthermore, within two weeks time, from 17 to 19 December, Austria would organize a conference together with the Arab League, “Europe and the Arab World –- Connecting Partners in Dialogue” also at the Hofburg Palace.

The Austrian Government was strongly committed to dialogue and international cooperation as the only meaningful way to resolve international political crises like the Middle East conflict.  A month ago, Austria had been elected as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the coming two years, and the Middle East peace process would figure prominently in its work during that term. 

However, the Middle East peace process had reached a critical juncture.  Almost exactly one year ago in Annapolis, on 27 November 2007, the international community had committed themselves to a new negotiating effort aimed at reaching a just and lasting solution to decades of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  One year later, they had to admit that the ambitious goal of reaching a settlement within one year had not materialized.  But Mr. Kyrle was certain that important groundwork had been done on which peace could be built.

Austria felt a sense of urgency about the situation, Mr. Kyrle said.  Facts on the ground were changing daily, with the representatives of both sides affected by the continuous conflict and in nearly every realm of their daily lives.  Austria, therefore, called on the Government of Israel to stop the expansion of the settlements and of the barrier, as well as to ease the manifold restrictions on the Palestinian people to allow for an improvement in their living conditions, and to create and safeguard support for the political process.

At the same time, Austria fully recognized Israel's security concerns.  The Israeli population had to be able to live free from any terrorist threat, including the threat of rockets being launched from within the Gaza Strip, Mr. Kyrle said.

The international community needed to continue and strengthen its support and encouragement of efforts leading to a two-State solution.  The European Union, as a member of the Quartet, would do its utmost to make sure that even this period of (political) transition would be a period of progress for the peace process, Mr. Kyrle concluded.

ANTONIO MARIA COSTA, Director-General of the United Nations Office in Vienna, began by highlighting that the United Nations Office at Vienna was the only United Nations headquarters in the European Union and was the focal centre for a number of United Nations organizations.  In addition to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations campus was the home of the United Nations Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty Organization, the UNODC, and the United Nations Register of Damage, among others.  Most of those institutions that carried out work around the world were active in the Middle East.  The Register of Damage was created by the General Assembly in January 2007, mandated to record damage to persons as a result of the construction of the wall by the Israeli Government.  UNODC was mandated to assist Member States in the struggle against illicit drugs, crime and terrorism.

The time was ripe to strengthen the rule of law as the basis for promoting peace, justice and integrity in the Middle East, Mr. Costa said.  From his perspective, as head of the UNODC, fighting transnational threats could promote international security.  It was a form of peacebuilding, as had been proved in many cases.  Drugs and weapons, illegal immigration, and people trafficking were part of transnational organized crime.  It was surprising how transnational threats could unite neighbours.  For example, in West Asia, UNODC was working with Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan –- not always good neighbours –- to prevent drug trafficking. 

Mr. Costa would like to apply that logic to the Middle East.  As was known, UNODC had been working with both sides to fight drug trafficking.  That could build trust and have an impact far beyond fighting crime.  Mr. Costa urged mayors present today to encourage such projects, and to improve cooperation and strengthen the rule of law.

UNODC was in the process of preparing a comprehensive assistance programme as its contribution to building peace in the region, Mr. Costa concluded.

ALMUTAKAKEL TAHA, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Information of the Palestinian National Authority, said he hoped Christians and Palestinians would be able to live through the holidays and to visit their loved ones, although the Palestinians would not be able to walk through their Holy City.  Crucifixion continued in Palestine, not only of human beings, but of birds, children, trees and houses. 

Mr. Taha said he came from Palestine, the largest prison for human beings in the world.  A land of peace that had, as a result of Israel, become a prison, a place where there were troops, a wall, hunger, destruction and uprooting.  He came on behalf of more than 60 nations who had created the Arab peace agreement, which would give peace on the basis of the withdrawal of Israel to the 1967 borders.  However, Israel refused, as it would only give up 80 per cent of that land, turning Palestinian areas into a hell of blockades where no source of life was not destroyed in a systematic way –- education, work, labour, culture, tourism, infrastructure.

Given the reality of Israeli violence and extremism -- represented by the blockade imposed on the many people living in the West Bank and Gaza; the uprooting of trees and plants; and the putting of women and children in prison -- the Palestinian National Authority could not help but be disappointed by the Annapolis Conference and the actions of the Quartet, which had made no difference in the situation on the ground, Mr. Taha said.

Mr. Taha called on the international community to hold Israel, the occupying Power, to respect international decisions and to implement United Nations resolutions.  Why should Israel be above international law?  Was that because the United States protected it with 41 vetoes?  The strong did not negotiate; they only imposed their will, and they did not respond to international appeals.  That was why he was calling on the international community to ensure that women did not give birth to their children at roadblocks and trees were not uprooted.  Israel had to stop representing itself as a victim, when it was truly the Palestinian people who suffered.  Even the United States had recognized that.  Israel was spreading a culture of denial and hatred.  That projection, denial and persecution of the Palestinians would not lead to peace, no matter how many security measures they put into place.  Israel had to learn the wisdom of history that supported negotiation, instead of reproducing all the forms of repression.

The Palestinians only wanted what everyone else did:  to live in peace and security.  They did not want a nuclear weapon.  If justice saw what was happening in the West Bank and Jerusalem it would cry out so loudly that everyone would be deafened.  They had to make haste to bring justice to the Holy Land and bring a halt to the death machine bringing death to little children who could not even find a loaf of bread, Mr. Taha concluded.

ELI DAYAN, former Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel under Shimon Peres, said that, after hearing his brother in the Palestinian Authority, he had decided to change his speech completely and to share with participants his personal feelings about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  He had been born in an Arab country -– Morocco, a very tolerant country.  As a Jew, he had had Arab friends.  When he came to Israel, to Ashkelon, he had been 14 years old.  Ashkelon was now known as the city where rockets landed every day, fired from the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Dayan remembered, as a former Mayor of Ashkelon, that he and others had worked cooperatively with the Mayor of Gaza and others on joint projects.  He remembered, as a child, visiting the market of Gaza to fix their cars and to go to the dentist.  There had been wonderful relations; warm relations.  He also recalled meeting the head of the PLO on a trip to Morocco, organized by King Hassan, in 1984.  He had talked all through the night with the Palestinian leader on bringing the two sides together.  Later, as a member of the Israeli Parliament, he had worked on a number of initiatives to bring the two sides together.

All that background was a preamble to saying that ritual speeches, such as he had just heard, served no purpose.  What was true or not true was not important.  They were wasting time.  They had to go on, to make decisions.  He believed that they could make peace.  There was now a consensus among all the parties in Israel, left and right, including the Likud:  all agreed that the solution was two States.  Mr. Dayan echoed his Government in noting that “Nothing is more important in the Middle East than the peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The Israelis had started now to negotiate with the Palestinians, and a lot of progress had been made.  Israel had left Lebanon in 2000, and it had left Gaza in 2005, and they had rockets now in all that area, yet still Israel was optimistic that they could achieve peace. 

Now they had to explore the great initiative of Saudi Arabia.  The Israelis had heard that the moderate Arab countries were no longer taking the stance of non-recognition of Israel.  They had to encourage that atmosphere, and they had to leave off these ritual speeches.  Mr. Dayan also suggested that the United Nations lay off its ritual annual decisions condemning Israel.  They had no effect.  They had to encourage positive results and create a good atmosphere.

They all had the same father, Abraham.  They all believed in the image of God.  Palestinians and Israelis together could change the Middle East, but they needed the support of the international community.  Again, echoing his President, Mr. Dayan said that a peace agreement with the Palestinians was possible and possible soon. 

A written message from PAUL BADJI ( Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, who had not been able to attend the seminar, was also circulated to participants.

Keynote Address

Presenting today’s keynote address, ROBERT H. SERRY, Special Coordinator of the Secretary-General for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority, said he believed in both the aspirations of the Palestinians to their own State and the Israelis to be free from attacks, and that both were just.  The Palestinians had to able to establish a viable and peaceful sovereign State of Palestine on the basis of the 1967 borders.

Mr. Serry called attention to the historic nature of the Annapolis Agreement.  By it, both of the parties agreed to build peace both from the top down and the bottom up.  The parties agreed to embark on final status negotiations.  They left to one side the idea of phased negotiations, such as the Road Map, and looked to consider all elements together until a solution was reached.  Last month, in Sharm el-Sheikh, President Abbas and Prime Minister Livni had reconfirmed those intentions to continue negotiations and reaffirmed their confidence in the negotiations.

The other process under way was bottom-up measures to build peace.  Palestinian public finances were in order, and the Palestinian Authority had embarked on hundreds of small but important projects throughout the West Bank, which had a real impact on people's lives.  There was a lot more to do, but much had been accomplished.  None of that would have been possible without the assistance of the international community, including financial donations and rule of law assistance.

There was worrying news as well, Mr. Serry noted.  Progress remained slow, and on a number of sides, there was deep scepticism about the peace process.  “Time is not on our side.”  They had to close the gap between the political process and progress on the ground, as the Secretary-General had emphasized in his statement.

If 2009 was to be a breakthrough year for peace, they had to address the issues of settlements, violence, movements and access, Palestinian unity, and a comprehensive approach to peace.  The settlements had to be dismantled.  Mr. Serry had sometimes heard that “the settlements are not the real problem, as the Israelis could always dismantle them.”  He believed that was an unsustainable position, with settlements growing faster than Israel itself and with increasing incidents of extremist violence by the settlers.  It was equally important that there was an end to such unilateral actions as house demolitions, which challenged the status quo.

The other huge challenge was violence.  There had been comparatively low rates of violence against Israelis this year.  Palestinian incursions along the West Bank had been contained.  That progress should be built on, Mr. Serry said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Serry was greatly concerned about the situation in the Gaza Strip in recent weeks and the breaking of the calm.  He believed that both sides wanted to extend the calm, and he encouraged them to do so, to provide breathing space for the peace process. 

With regard to access and movement, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the number of obstacles to movement in the West Bank had gone up, not down, since Annapolis.  The series of closings and the new complex permit regime represented a real step back.  In Gaza, the closures were simply unacceptable.  The United Nations was working tirelessly to lift the almost blanket closure of that area.  It was a humanitarian imperative, but it was also essential to sustaining any truce.

The negotiations with regard to the leadership of the Palestinian Authority had to be supported and continued.  However, while unity was sought there had to be no legal vacuum; it was vital that President Abbas's activities as the PLO Chairman be recognized, Mr. Serry underscored.

With regard to a substantial and comprehensive solution to peace in 2009, Mr. Serry said that there was no point in pretending that it would be easy.  It was in Israel’s interests to place bilateral negotiations in their proper context:  a comprehensive peace in the Arab world.  There was no point in denying that the situation remained fragile, but he also saw the opportunities before them.  They had a top-down, bottom-up process before them that showed promise and had made some real progress.  What they did not have was time.

Panel on the Role of the International Community in the Israel-Palestinian Peace Process

As moderator, Mr. Costa introduced the first panel discussion on “The Role of the International Community in the Israel-Palestinian Peace Process:  Ways and Means”, noting that resolving the core issue of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict remained a high priority for the United Nations and the international community.  How could the international community facilitate the peace process and support those on both sides?  What could be done to stop the spiral of violence and to put an end to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza?  Those were some of the questions they would address today.

RALPH SCHEIDE, Director for the Middle East Division of the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs of Austria, said the basic approach of the international community in the Middle East had to be full support, whenever asked for it by the parties, keeping in mind that the conflict was not of a symmetric nature. 

Mr. Scheide also underscored the continuing importance of the Quartet to the peace process, saying it was “quite a unique instrument” and showed the importance of the securing peace in the region to the world at large.  The Quartet was both small and flexible, because of its restricted membership –- the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and the Russian Federation –- but it was also broad, in that the United Nations was a member.  Moreover, the Quartet was trusted by both sides, and ideally, with the United States fully involved, it should be able to go beyond just “accompanying” the process.  In addition, the most important peace initiative remained the Road Map, which continued to serve as the basis of any future implementation.  The Annapolis Agreement made future implementation dependent on Road Map demands.

As for the role of the Arab League, Mr. Scheide felt that Israel was moving towards an acceptance of Arab League positions, including growing support by Israeli political leaders for the Arab Peace Initiative and the notion that a peace agreement would include the withdrawal by Israel to the borders established in the 1967 agreement.  Here, he identified an important role for the Arab League in reuniting the divided Palestinian leadership.

SHAAZKA BEYERLE, a Senior Adviser at the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict in Washington D.C., focusing on the bottom-up approach to the conflict, noted that, to date, the discourse of change had been a top-down approach.  It was a “statist” model in which State actors or elites externally prescribed solutions or interventions for an end to the conflict and peace.  However she wished to underscore how people could be an active force of change through organized, unified, grass-roots, non-violent campaigns, a model that was bottom-up and home-grown.

Stronger parties rarely, if ever, gave up power willingly –- they had to be pressured to make concessions, Ms. Beyerle noted.  However, the historic record showed that collective, strategic application of civic action, including civil disobedience, strikes and boycotts, could produce power shifts in asymmetric conflicts.  Today new forms were emerging, including Internet interventions via Facebook and other Web forums.  And the historical record showed that it was an effective method:  from 1900 to 2006, major non-violent campaigns had achieved success 53 per cent of the time, versus 26 per cent of violent resistance campaigns.

Palestinians had a legacy of non-violent civil resistance dating back to British rule, and there had been a sustained effort for the past eight years now focused on the destruction of the barrier wall and on putting an end to the occupation, Ms. Beyerle said.  A broad-based, popular Palestinian movement targeting the occupation had the potential to lay the foundation for lasting peace and reconciliation between Israel and Palestine, by harnessing the voices and the demands of the silent, more moderate majority of the population on both sides.  Moreover, peace was not something easily imposed from above.  If the parties on the ground did not want peace, the only place top-down solutions would achieve peace was on paper.

Ms. Beyerle did not feel that international community support was the determining factor in the success of a non-violent movement.  However, the international community could play a huge role in supporting those non-violent movements, as had been done in East Timor.  Among the ways the international community could help was through expanding the arena of the non-violent struggle beyond its setting; it could provide solidarity; it could provide exposure, through media coverage and diplomatic reports; it could provide legitimacy; it could act as a witness; provide knowledge and know-how; and, critically, it could provide protection for non-violent leaders and activists.

Mr. DAYAN, former Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel, felt that the international community could play a very important role:  first of all, they could help economically.  The international community could not only help to continue negotiations, which was important, but also to create a good atmosphere.  That meant, among others, to help Israel succeed in its dialogue with Syria.  To do that, Israel was willing to pay a price, because it was convinced that finding peace with Syria would contribute to promoting better relations with Iran.

The international community could also do more to help the Palestinians.  Mr. Dayan also felt Israel itself had to do more to help the Palestinians economically.  If they worked together with the international community on economic projects, that would encourage peace.  The majority of people were very moderate and wanted to live in peace.  The Palestinians needed to develop their infrastructure, to build houses, and for health and education facilities.  Encouraging cooperation in all fields could help the leaders to be courageous and take the right decisions.  Leaders also needed support to be able to make difficult decisions.

Mr. Dayan said that the United Nations also had to take this opportunity to change its approach to resolving the conflict.  They had to abandon the ritual shaming approach.  The United Nations had to work to contribute economically to the area.  The employment situation in Gaza was a terrible thing.  They had to give those people the ability to be humans.  The all had to work together, including the Israelis, to improve that.  The Israelis had an obligation to do more to improve the situation of the Palestinians in all fields.

Mr. TAHA, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Information of the Palestinian National Authority, welcomed the statement by Ms. Beyerle but asked how it was possible to face bloody and harsh violence with non-violent resistance?  Why ask the international community to support non-violent resistance, when those efforts would be better spent in addressing the root causes of the conflict?  They had to resist occupation and violence instead of merely endorsing Ghandi's approach.  Occupation meant looting of resources, killing, an establishment of checkpoints, and then they were supposed to just agree to that?

The Palestinians did not want to resist by violent or non-violent means, Mr.  Taha said.  They wanted to live.  They had to submit to over 700 checkpoints.  On one side, they had a modern world with super highways and the Internet; on the other they were living in a “Palestinian” era –- a dead time in which nothing grew and nothing happened.

The ability to bring about peace and security in Palestine was in the hands of one actor –- Israel –- Mr. Taha said.  One way to do that was by doing away with all the checkpoints.  As for laws, how could Palestine think about passing new laws when 40 per cent of its legislators were under blockade?  Here, he noted the trade imbalance, with Israel benefiting from trade with Palestinians.  Water resources and electricity were also controlled by Israel.  The way that things were set up, Palestinians could not possibly draw international investments, and so help themselves.

In the ensuing discussion, Ms. BEYERLE clarified that she was not talking about sitting back and doing nothing.  She was talking about active resistance.  However, she eschewed the use of violence in doing so, as it gave the other side an excuse to use ever greater oppression and shredded any gains made on the ground.  For his part, Mr. DAYAN stressed that Israel always did the minimum to ensure its own security.  Israel had received over 7,000 rockets this year.  The politicians were under great pressure not to tolerate that.  But they were tolerating it, because the peace negotiations were too important.

A number of questions were also taken from the floor.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.