Regional Programs > Israel & Palestine > Next Story

 A New Beginning
 Gush Shalom, Israel
 July 5, 2002
 
Without hope for a solution, violence will go on. The two peoples will push each other into an abyss of destruction and bereavement. Life will be hell.

A new beginning is needed, a new step towards a solution that will allow both sides to live a normal life in peace and security.

President Bush's speech did not contribute much to the search for a solution, but it contained one positive component, on which all parties—the Palestinians themselves, Israel, the United States, Europe and the UN—now agree: the proposal to hold free elections for the Palestinian Authority as soon as possible.

Although President Bush put this proposal at the forefront of his demands his speech was accepted enthusiastically by the Sharon government and the majority of the Israeli people.

If all Palestinian parties are allowed to take part in the elections, all of them—even Hamas—will have a strong motive to halt attacks, so as not to sabotage the elections. This can be assured by direct negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and all the parties.

Therefore, we call upon the Government of Israel to take all the necessary steps to enable the Palestinian people to hold free and fair elections, without coercion, pressure or threats.

For this purpose, the following conditions must be met:

Freedom of Movement:

There can be no free elections if the candidates and voters cannot move freely inside the towns and between them.

Freedom of Association:

There can be no free elections if the public is not able to meet freely, to set up and maintain political parties and to move freely from place to place.

Freedom of Expression:

There can be no free elections if candidates and voters are not able to voice their opinions, hold debates and conduct publicity campaigns.

Therefore, the Government of Israel must order the IDF to withdraw from all Palestinian territories and to remove the checkpoints, closures and sieges within the towns and villages and between them.

Jerusalem:

Under the Oslo agreements, the inhabitants of Jerusalem have the right to vote and to be elected to all institutions of the Palestinian Authority. This right was exercised at the last elections. The Israeli Government must make all necessary arrangements for this purpose, such as allowing candidates to move freely between Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories and inside East Jerusalem itself, to set up political groups and to conduct campaigns.

Safe Passage:

For election purposes, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip constitute one unit. Therefore, the safe passages provided for in the Oslo agreements must be opened.

The Chairman:

In free, democratic elections, every citizen has the right to be a candidate for any post. This, of course, applies also to the citizen Yasser Arafat. If Arafat is again elected as chairman, he will be the sole legitimate address for any peace negotiation.

We call upon the Government of Israel to declare publicly that it will respect the wish of the Palestinian people, as expressed in the elections, and negotiate with the elected leader—whoever he will be.

International Monitors:

In order to assure that the elections will be fair and free of any coercion, pressure and threats, there is a need for credible, neutral, international monitors, like those who oversaw the last election, headed at the time by former President Jimmy Carter. This time, too, it is appropriate that the monitors will be headed by a credible figure of internationally acknowledged stature, such as Nelson MANDELA, Bishop TUTU or Jimmy CARTER.

International Force:

In order to safeguard security, an international peace force should be deployed in the Palestinian territories after the withdrawal of the IDF. Such a force should be appointed by the United Nations and be composed of soldiers from countries that enjoy the trust of both sides, such as Sweden, Denmark and Holland, for example.

We call upon the international community to take this task upon itself, in order to put an end to the vicious bloody cycle and restore hope to the Israeli and the Palestinian people.

The bloodshed has destroyed the mutual trust between the two peoples. New elections within the Palestinian community can make an important contribution to the restoration of this trust and open a new page for negotiations, based upon the principle now accepted by President Bush: "Two States for Two Peoples".

An Israeli decision to make possible free and democratic elections in the Palestinian territories, by withdrawing the IDF and removing the hallmarks of occupation, will also improve Israel's position, which has been severely damaged in the wake of the IDF incursions in world public opinion,

Therefore, democratic elections are important, but—

There can be no democracy under occupation!

This special statement was published as a full page ad in Haaretz, July 5, 2002. It is the start of a campaign.