2003 Palestinian and Israeli Dialogue in Jerusalem

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International community discussions.

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Meeting with Palestinian delegation in Ramallah.

Meeting Summary

The purpose of this meeting was to seek points of consensus among distinguished Palestinian and Israeli leaders on the conditions that could permit genuine elections in the West Bank and Gaza. A second goal was to identify the difficult questions and organize the group to try to seek answers or, alternatively, a menu of recommendations that would be addressed at subsequent meetings. At the end of the project, the group would present a report to the Israeli government, the Palestinian authority, the people of both Israel and Palestine, and the international community with recommendations on what to do to assure a genuinely democratic election among Palestinians. A group of 18 Palestinians, 16 Israelis, and 8 international advisors committed themselves to participate in a Conference at the Notre Dame Hotel in Jerusalem on January 7-9, 2003. The Israeli government cooperated in granting permits for the Palestinians to travel to the Conference.

On January 5th in the evening, two Palestinian suicide bombers killed themselves and 22 innocent people in Tel Aviv. As part of its retaliation for the bombing, the Israeli government revoked the permits of the Palestinians. Nonetheless, the conference proceeded, and a few Palestinians from Jerusalem were able to meet with the Israeli participants on the morning of January 7th for an initial discussion of the issues.

The group decided that the dialogue was of great importance, and the international advisors and a few Israelis decided to travel to the West Bank and to East Jerusalem to meet directly with the Palestinian participants in order to hear their views and report them back to the conference. On the afternoon of January 7th, a group went to Abu Dis and on January 8th to Ramallah to meet with some of the Palestinian participants. On the third day, the group reconvened, joined by representatives of several NGOs, as well as over a dozen representatives of the international community assisting with the Palestinian elections, under the auspices of the European Union and the United States. A summary of the views of both sides was presented to the group, and the participants held an intensive discussion.

Although some of the Israelis had initially doubted the importance of democracy in Palestine ("we want peace, not democracy"), and while some Palestinians initially protested the idea that Israelis should observe a discussion on Palestinian elections ("it's for us to decide, not the Israelis"), both sides moved toward a consensus on several points. First, Palestinian democracy is not only in the interest of Palestinians but also of Israelis and the international community. A government that is responsive and accountable to its people is more likely to be a durable peace partner than one that is not.

Second, progress toward free elections will require both separate and cooperative decisions by Palestinian and Israeli officials. In the absence of a climate for such cooperation at this time, the group decided to begin a process that might make easier the eventual resolution of the difficult issues by the two governments and by the international community. The meeting, in brief, was viewed as the beginning of a necessary but difficult process to build conditions both for democracy and eventually peace.

Faculty Advisory Committee

Center for Democracy and Election Management
    Professor Robert Pastor, Vice President for International Affairs

Center for the Global South
    Professor Clovis Maksoud, Director, Diplomat-in-residence

Center for Global Peace
    Professor Abdul Aziz Said, Director
    Mohammed Said Farsi, Chair of Islamic Peace,
    Professor of International Relations

International Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies Program
    Professor Abdul Aziz Said, Director
    Professor Mohammed Abu-Nimer,
    Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Resolution and International Relations

Center for Israeli Studies
    Professor Howard Wachtel, Director