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Policy and Conflict Resolution Studies Center Discusses Local, Regional and International Variables in Its First Annual International Conference "Palestine Where to?"

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Policy and Conflict Resolution Studies Center at Arab American University launches the first annual international conference activities, under the title “In the Light of Local, Regional and International Variables… Palestine Where To?” The three days conference will take place at Ramallah Campus, with the participation of politics, academics and both local and international experts in peace and conflict resolution.

The opening session of the first annual international conference “Palestine Where To?”

The conference began with a special session in which the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Mr. Nikolai Mladenov and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Arab American University and member of Fatah Central Committee Dr. Mohamed Shtayeh, members of the Board of Trustees, the University Founding President and Academic Advisor to the Board of Directors Dr. Walid Deeb, President of the University Prof. Dr. Ali Zeidan Abu Zuhri, his deputies and assistants, a number of Ambassadors and Consuls, some members of the Fatah Central Committee, Executive Committee of the PLO, representatives of Palestinian parties, political figures, analysts and both Palestinian and international academics.

After the Palestinian National anthem, the UNs special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Mr. Mladenov expressed his admiration for the Arab American University in Jenin and its new campus in Ramallah, praising its academic role. “Don’t go anywhere, stay on your land to build your state, and don’t give up the idea of having democratic one based on the two-state solution, it’s the only way to achieve comprehensive and just peace”, he said.

He stressed that the international community is responsible for reviving the peace process through the Palestinian and Israeli leadership along with international mediation, in addition to dealing with the issues and finding arrangements for the final solution. He pointed, the Palestinian and Israeli peoples will contribute to this, referring to some obstacles that works against the peace process, such as the US government's acts towards Jerusalem and transferring its embassy to it, reducing the UNRWA support, settlements expansion by the Israeli government, killing over 100 people and injuring more than 1400 others in Gaza in a few days. Moreover, the Strip’s terrible humanitarian situation and trying to bring it back under the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority.

Mladenov said “As for us, we, the United Nations, call for a return to negotiating on legitimate grounds to finding a solution for the Palestinian issue. These principles have been set in UN meetings and many of it has been discussed; therefore we must resume the negotiations as it will help to take important decisions to build the two states”. Adding, “We should not listen to some Palestinian and Israeli leaders who are undermining the peace solution foundations and stands against the negotiations based on that resuming them means more violence. We want leaderships that believe in a two-state solution because everyone will win by the recognition of two states for both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples”.

He emphasized the need to take afferamtive steps and provide the appropriate environment to revive the peace process and resume negotiations, this comes by changing the facts on reality and stand against negative trends and support the positive ones, and otherwise, we will fall back into the tragedies of the past.

Mladenov said the United Nations would work hard to maintain the West Bank and Gaza Strip unity so despite the enormous challenges it will face, it will continue working with the Palestinian leadership and government, provide humanitarian services to Gaza Strip, which suffers many tragedies, and will fulfill all the promise made for the Palestinians.

“We believe the two-state solution is our only way to end the conflict. We must return to the negotiating, find the right environment for resuming it, end the poisonous atmosphere between Palestinians and Israelis, support the moderate forces against extremism, and continue our joint journey to revive hope and build the Palestinian state alongside the Israeli,” he concluded.

The chairman of the Arab American University Board of Trustees Dr. Mohamed Shtayeh welcomed the audience and thanked the University for arranging the conference.

He said “We realize that we are facing a dangerous stage and opportunity at the same time. The dangerous stage is the political impasse, the Israeli obstacles to undermining the two-state solution because of the settlements, and the American project that is being prepared in the meantime. We will face a hot and intense political summer”.

He added, “At the same time, we have the chance to arrange the Palestinian home, re-form the relationship with Israel and achieve Palestinian unity”.

“The former US presidents tried hard to find a final solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and failed. Now, we see the effort of President Donald Trump and we are waiting for what will happen,” he said, adding that the Jewish lobby was behind the failure, which does not want a solution.

Dr. Shtayeh said everyone knows what the solution consists of; ending the occupation of the 1967 territories, establishing Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and finding a solution to the refugees issue. However, there are Israeli efforts that fight this through the Judaization of Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, using “C Areas” as geographical expenditure of their colonies, and the Gaza siege and treating it inhumanly. Pointing, there is no Israeli partner in the negotiations, but there’s a coalition working to expand colonies, stressing the lack of Israeli and international will to find a solution to the Palestinian question and its proven by the acts on the ground.

He addressed the American actions in reality, transferring the Palestinian-Israeli conflict into Iranian conflict and attempting to normalize relations with the Arabs, stressing America is mistaken to proceed the century deal in light of Arab weakness, as it won’t enable the Arab leaders to force the Palestinians to accept what is decided to exterminate the Palestinian cause. Pointing, now, America talks about a formal solution to the conflict in the region, remove Jerusalem and the refugees from the negotiations, having a state without borders, transfer the US embassy to Jerusalem, and the most dangerous is considering Jerusalem the Jews capital, thus, the American President accepted the biblical story, not the evangelical one. He wondered what would be provided to resume the negotiations, which were halted entirely and under an international will that doesn’t seek a solution to the Palestinian issue that never spoke of stopping the colonization, demolishing Palestinian homes and the two-state solution. Adding any negotiation with no intentions and a time frame will not succeed.

Regarding the circumstances in Gaza, Dr. Shtayeh pointed to the fact it’s tragic because of the imposed siege. Stressing the Palestinian question must be fixed entirely and not partially.

As for the reconciliation, Shtayeh said “We told Hamas we’re not seeking agreements and new mediator. What we want is to achieve what was agreed on. If Hamas doesn’t want one single force, legitimacy and state, then there’s no base for reconciliation because we do not want to share the job so we will go to elections.

He explained the Central Council would meet next month to address many issues, including reconciliation and the relationship form with Israel. Pointing, that President Abu Mazen presented an initiative in the United Nations of 8 points that we consider it the solution base. Stressing, Israel does not want a two-state solution, it wants everything as it is, and Netanyahu doesn’t want the Trump project, but wants the continuation of the occupation.

By the end of the session, came the audience discussions and questions to be answered.