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A Mideast Partnership Can Still Work

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  • PeaceNowUK@aol.com
    New York Times August 1, 2001 A Mideast Partnership Can Still Work By YOSSI BEILIN and YASIR ABED RABBO http://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/01/opinion/01BEIL.html
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2001
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      New York Times
      August 1, 2001
      A Mideast Partnership Can Still Work
      By YOSSI BEILIN and YASIR ABED RABBO

      http://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/01/opinion/01BEIL.html

      JERUSALEM -- Last week we and 50 of our colleagues - Palestinian and Israeli
      political and cultural leaders - signed a declaration that was published
      simultaneously in Israeli and Palestinian newspapers. Our declaration did not
      attempt to solve every aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rather, at
      this most tragic and difficult of times in the Middle East, it attempted to
      state unequivocally those principles on which we believe a solution can be
      based.

      In our statement, we called for an end to bloodshed, an end to occupation, a
      return to negotiation and the realization of peace between our peoples. None
      of us would have signed this statement if we did not believe its objectives
      could be achieved. Even in the midst of ongoing violence, we do not believe
      we are deluding ourselves when we profess our belief in the fundamental
      humanity of the other side, or our faith that we do have partners for peace
      in each other and that a negotiated solution is still possible.

      Lost in the noise and clouds of war is the fact that a formula does exist for
      resolving all the outstanding issues in our conflict: the implementation of
      United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which would lead to
      the existence of two sovereign national states - Israel and Palestine - which
      would be the fulfillment of the aspiration of both peoples, Palestinian and
      Jewish, to statehood based on the 1967 borders, with both capitals in
      Jerusalem. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators made great progress in their
      discussions of this solution during the talks that took place between
      November 1999 and January 2001.

      As two people who participated in the negotiations at Taba in January 2001,
      we can personally testify to having been extremely, even agonizingly, close
      to reaching an agreement. In our assessment, the main missing ingredient was
      quality time, as is needed in any negotiation in which both sides must give
      up what they desire for what is possible.

      Over the past year, an impression has been created by some of the
      participants that the talks at Camp David represented the final word on the
      search for Middle East peace. This distortion of that event ignores both
      President Bill Clinton's ideas offered to us in December 2000 - ideas that
      were welcomed by both sides, with each side having different reservations -
      and the strides forward made at Taba that built on these ideas. In the Taba
      talks, we progressed, perhaps for the first time, from general principles to
      specific details, in candid and honest discussions on even seemingly
      intractable issues like refugees and Jerusalem. Such was the sense of forward
      momentum at Taba that in a joint closing statement, the Israelis and
      Palestinians stated that they had "never been closer to reaching an
      agreement" and that "the two sides are convinced that in a short period of
      time and given an intensive effort and the acknowledgement of the essential
      and urgent nature of reaching an agreement, it will be possible to bridge the
      differences remaining and attain a permanent settlement of peace between
      them."

      It is time now to pick up where we left off. We can build on those
      discussions and renew that dialogue. We have faith that the overwhelming
      majority of our citizens, both Palestinians and Israelis, will not only
      accept such an agreement, but actually yearn for it and understand that it is
      the only viable solution to the current situation of violence and economic
      decay.

      There are those on both sides who do not share our vision, and, tragically,
      who see violence as the route to an absolutist - and yet ultimately
      unachievable and disastrous - end. Unfortunately, time is on their side, not
      ours. The longer we wait before returning to the table and reaching an
      agreement, the more blood will be spilled, the more hearts will be hardened.

      We must move now to end the dehumanization of the other side and revive the
      option of a just peace that holds out promise for a future for both our
      peoples. Both sides have made mistakes over the past year, but we have had
      our fill of mutual accusations and blame. Finger pointing will not point the
      way to peace.

      The immediate need is for the full implementation of the recommendations of
      the Mitchell Committee, including the cessation of violence, a total freeze
      on settlement activity, implementation of outstanding agreements and a return
      to permanent-status negotiations. These steps will need to be monitored by an
      objective third party.

      We and our colleagues have pledged to work together and within our respective
      communities to rebuild trust and rekindle hope. We call on people of good
      will throughout the world, and especially in the United States, to help us by
      adding their voices to our pursuit of a permanent peace between our peoples -
      a peace allowing both peoples to live in freedom and security as equal
      neighbors.

      Yossi Beilin is a former Israeli justice minister in the government led by
      Ehud Barak. Yasir Abed Rabbo is minister of culture and information in the
      Palestinian Authority.
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