Special Envoy of Palestinian Authority President, Dr Ghassan Khatib: Statehood: Palestine and Israel (unedited transcript)
Thank you very much, thank you for showing up for this meeting and giving me the opportunity to talk to you and to explain to you how we Palestinians look at the situations in the Middle East and the peace process conflict or however you would like to call it.
I suggested and my host agreed to speak for ten to fifteen minutes because I prefer to make most of this session a discussion and Q&A because I don’t want to bore you with details that you might not be interested with, and I also want to get your sense of the situations and how you look at it from a far distance and I prefer to talk in details on things that might be of interest for you. Depending on the questions and comments that you will be making and this ten, fifteen minutes I will be explaining mainly why I’m here I am coming to Australia to do.
I am here to start off the Palestinian official initiative that is bringing several Palestinian official spokespersons to several parts of the world several countries. In order to convey specific messages to different governments that might be of interest in these situations in our part of the world. And the main message that I am trying to convey in Australia, which is similar to messages others of my colleagues are conveying in other parts of the world is a message of urgency in the situations in the Middle East as far as the Palestinian-Israeli situations are concerned.
After my 19 to 20 years of continued bilateral negotiations we Palestinians, and I think Israelis as well, do not find ourselves much near to achieving the objectives of the peace process, whether it is the objectives the Israelis are interested in such as peace and security or the objectives the Palestinians are interested in such as independence statehood handling of occupation etc. We might have our own ideas on why things did not move towards its destinations but other people, other countries might have their own views.
For that reason we believe that it is about time for the international community to have a serious look into the reasons why this peace process is not working, and to try to consider some new and fresh ideas into bringing back some life to the political process and to the prospects of making peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And for that reason the Palestinian Authority have decided to go the United Nation some time in the coming month, or few months, in order to try to achieve specific objectives, and in general I can outline these objectives of three.
The first and the main objective is to try to ask the international community to have more direct and more effective role in helping the Palestinians and Israelis achieving peace in the region. The reason is that we believe that one of the defects of this peace process is that it did not enjoy serious and effective support and attention by the international community, and that includes the fact that the international community failed into providing the peace process with agreed on terms of reference, in addition to guidance and supervision. The international community did not do its best to use its leverage, on the two sides, to convince them, pressurise them, do whatever it takes to help them achieving this normal objective.
The other objective is to try to ask the international community to recognise the right of the Palestinian people to achieve freedom, self-determination and independence, as we are already asking the international community, the individual members of the international community, to recognise, bilaterally, the right of the Palestinians of independence or, and to vote, positively, on a possible motion on the United Nation in this regard.
The third objective of our attempt to have such a discussion within the international community in the United Nation is to try to ask their help for a renewal of the meaningful peace negotiations. Not the “we did not negotiate enough”. I think that we over-negotiated this conflict—19-20 years are not a short period. But we think that the international community is invited to help launching different kind of a peace process—a peace process that has specific and agreed-on terms of reference, including negotiating two-state solution on the borders of 1967, and also a peace process that would enjoy different level and kind of attention by the relevant representatives of the international community, whether it is the Security Council, whether it is the Quartet, or whatever that can be decided by the international community.
And the reason why we are doing that now in addition to the fact that 19 years of negotiations have not brought us near to our objectives is that these years were unfortunately were used sometimes into causing even deterioration in the situations, and I can refer to at least two kind negative developments that happened and still happening and have negative effect on the situations and on the prospects of peace in the future.
The first is the continued Israeli unilateral, illegal activities in the Palestinian occupied territories of the kind that is violating the rights of the Palestinians, violating the international law, and more important, preempting the two-state solution. And I’m referring here particularly to the continued Israeli illegal settlement activities whereby the Palestinian land is being confiscated and the illegal Jewish settlements are being expanded.
Since the signing of the Oslo agreement, statistics, actually Israeli statistics, have shown that number of settlers have doubled and the size of settlements have also doubled. We believe that the continuity of such policy is not only jeopardising the rights of the Palestinians, and making our life more difficult. But what is more important that such activities might make the two-state solution practically impossible because of the facts on the ground that are created, and eliminating the practical possibility of two states will eliminate the possibility of peace because the only peace that we can imagine, and the only peace that the two sides, in principle, theoretically at least, agree on, the only peace that the international community agrees on, is the peace that is based on two-state solution.
The other kind of negative changes is or are the changes in the two respective societies in terms of public opinion, in terms of internal politics. We believe that the lack of progress in the peace process, and the continuity of the Israeli occupation, are leaving radicalisation effect on the two respective societies. On the Palestinian side, the failure of the Palestinian moderate leadership to deliver the peace and the freedom that we promised by peaceful and negotiations means, have been undermining this leadership to the favor of the only opposition we have, which is the Islamist extremism, and we all together witnessed the election in which the opposition representatives were able to win the majority of the seats of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
The same is happening in Israel. Israel is also witnessing a systematic trends of radicalisation. It is evident by the composition of the Israeli Government and it is evident by the public opinion as shown in the public opinion polls. And consequently the gap between the two sides have been widening and the prospects therefore for an agreement is getting less and less with time.
So time is not in our favour and the opportunities of peace are getting smaller and smaller because of the way things are happing and because of the failure of the peace process to produce an agreement. That’s why we thought and we believe that leaving, continuing to leave, the Palestinians and the Israelis on their own to negotiate alone on their own, which has been the approach adopted by the international community, of course with influence of the United States, is not a good idea and it is time for the international community to step in and take up its responsibilities in helping the two sides reaching an agreement by using the leverage of the different important members in the international community into that effort.
We think also that we have an additional leverage that enables us to go with this demand to the international community because we have just completed successfully the implementation of a two-years plan that aimed at building the institutions of the future Palestinian State, which is known internationally as Fayad's Plan. And this is a plan that enabled the Palestinian side to successfully fulfill all our obligations to the roadmap, including our security obligations. It also enabled us to improve the standards of living of the Palestinian people and enabled us to prepare the official systems such as education, health, judiciary, policing, etc. to be able to become institutions of an independent state.
In the last meeting of the international donors to the Palestinian Authority two months ago in Brussels, the World Bank, the IMF and the relevant UN institutions such as the UNDP and others have presented official reports that are available online testifying to the conclusion that the institutions of the Palestinian Authority are developed enough and mature enough to become institutions of an independent state, and that the level of performance of these institutions is similar to those of states that has been independent for tens of years.
On these basis and for these purposes, we are hoping to conduct constructive, multilateral discussions in the United Nations with the hope that the international community will play more constructive, more direct, more effective role in helping both Palestinians and Israelis achieving the objectives of the peace process that both of us were unable to achieve so far. I stop here and I will be more than happy to get into the details of any aspect earlier that you would like me to concentrate on and I also welcome comments and views from your side.