25 June 2009 Edition
THE MIDDLE EAST: Gerry Adams publishes report on Sinn Féin visit to Gaza, West Bank and Israel
Steps to peace in Palestine and Israel
SINN FÉIN President Gerry Adams has published a report on his recent visit to the Middle East , Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, April 2009 – A Report.
Speaking at the launch event for the report, Gerry Adams said:
“The depth of the conflict and of the divisions in the Middle East, the scale of the devastation in Gaza, the impact of the Separation Wall and of the Israeli occupation, and the settlements in the West Bank, along with the trauma caused to the residents of Sderot and other Israeli towns by rocket attacks are all evidence of the enormity of the problems facing those who live in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.”
The Sinn Féin president’s visit – at the head of a Sinn Féin delegation – was under the auspices of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East.
He was advised by the Israeli authorities that any meeting with Israeli Government representatives or entering Gaza was conditional on giving a commitment not to meet with Hamas.
“I refused to give such a commitment because I believe the integrity of all democratic mandates should be accepted. After some intense lobbying this was overturned and I was able to visit the Gaza Strip.”
During his four days in the region, Gerry Adams met a huge number of NGOs, Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations, women’s groups, community organisations, bankers, the private sector, university heads, health staff (including trauma counsellors), and all of the main Palestinian political parties and a Kadima member of the Israeli Parliament and Palestinian refugees.
“I was warmly received by everyone I met and they openly and honestly outlined their assessment of the current situation.
“It is clear that many are hopeful that the new US administration and the appointment of Senator George Mitchell will create a new opportunity to make progress toward a peace settlement.
“It is obvious also that the political conditions for ongoing violence and poverty and instability still dominate the situation. These must be tackled effectively if a peace settlement is to have any potential and hope for success.
“It was also clear from the scores of Israeli and Palestinian citizens that the Sinn Féin delegation met that there is a deep desire for peace. This desire must be turned into reality.
“Dialogue has to be a central tenet of any attempt to make peace; to achieve justice, stability, security and peace.
“Refusing to engage in dialogue, demonising opponents, treating them as non-citizens, stripping them of their rights and entitlements, of their self-esteem and integrity as human beings, engaging in censorship and vilification – all of this makes war easier and peace harder.
“It is a policy which guarantees a perpetuation of the cycle of conflict. The international experience is clear.
There are two ways to end conflict, Gerry Adams said.
“Either one side convincingly beats the other or all of those involved engage in the more difficult and challenging process of peace making.
“Sixty-one years after the emergence of the Israeli state and the partition of Palestine, and with the increasing sophistication of the weapons of war on all sides, it is clear that no wall – however high – can provide permanent peace or security.
“A political settlement is required and this is only possible if there is a recognition and acceptance of democratic mandates of all of the participants. I believe that dialogue is central to this. So too is the role of the international community.
“Another start must be made in the Middle East. That includes a huge international effort to begin the work of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The international community also has a duty to create the political conditions in which a real dialogue can happen.
“So far it has behaved in a shameful way by failing to effectively and persistently pursue the building of a peace process capable of delivering a political settlement. That must change.
“The challenge for Israelis and Palestinians is equally daunting. The Arab League peace plan, which includes a proposal to normalise relationships with Israel, could be a watershed moment in the effort to bring stability to the region.
“The recent positions set out by President Obama and the appointment of Senator George Mitchell are welcome developments. The United States of America has a particular role to play and is certainly the most influential international player with the Israeli authorities.
“The wider international community also has an important role to play, especially Egypt, Jordan and Syria, Saudi Arabia, the wider Arab world, the government of Iran and the European Union, Turkey, China and the United Nations and Russia.
The Irish republican leader pointed out that the Sinn Féin peace strategy helped create the conditions for the Irish Peace Process which has transformed political conditions in Ireland.
“While no two conflicts are the same there are nonetheless broad principles which can be helpful in all conflict-resolution processes.
“Sinn Féin, within our limited resources, is willing to offer our experience to others if it can help. This report records those four days: the sights and scenes and the conversations.”
Despite all of the difficulties , Gerry Adams concluded, he remains hopeful.
“I believe there is a widespread desire to achieve a peace settlement. But it will require political leadership and a willingness to take risks. The report sets out the steps which I feel can make a real difference in this situation.”
Immediate steps to resolving conflict
• All armed actions and acts of violence should cease.
• An inclusive process of negotiations should commence in which all democratic mandates are respected, clear objectives are set, and there is a fixed timeframe.
• The building of the Separation Wall should stop as a first step that would see its demolition.
• The siege of the Gaza Strip should end.
• An immediate and intensive programme of reconstruction and economic development must commence.
• The ongoing Israeli colonisation of the West Bank and the building of settlements should stop.
• The occupation of the West Bank and the denial of freedom of movement to Palestinians in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, and between the West Bank and Gaza, should end as part of the process to decolonise the West Bank.
• Mutual and expeditious co-operation between Palestinians and Israelis to enhance public safety and security should commence.
• United Nations resolutions and international law should be enforced.