Media Mention of Ziad Asali in Washington Report On Middle East Affairs - February 11, 2009 - 1:00am

IN THE OPINIONS of Dr. Ziad Asali, president of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), and Ori Nir, spokesperson for Americans for Peace Now (APN), the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine is the only attractive and viable option for a just resolution to the century-old conflict. They made it clear that, to them, the one-state solution is not even worth consideration. The two men spoke at a panel moderated by U.S. Ambassador Philip C. Wilcox, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, at the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation conference at the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. The topic of the Oct. 25 panel was “Hope for the Two State Solution: Challenges and Opportunities from Palestinian and Jewish Perspectives.”

Nir admitted that there were real challenges to be faced, such as the expanding Israeli settlements, the situation in Gaza, the split between Fatah and Hamas, and a vacuous Israeli public opinion. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government has built 4,506 more illegal housing units in the West Bank. An additional 292 new outposts have sprung up in the West Bank. Palestinians also have to deal on a daily basis with from 275 to 600 roadblocks.

As Palestinians struggle with all of this, according to Nir, the Israelis are not feeling the pain of the occupation. In fact, he said, most of them believing the Palestinians deserve what they are experiencing. Nir went on to note that 70 percent of the Israeli population supports a two-state solution, and 75 percent oppose a binational state solution. However, he added, 75 percent of Israelis believe a two-state solution is not obtainable, and 70 percent do not believe it will happen within five years.

Nir wondered aloud how bad things must get in order to solve the conflict. For now the Israeli economy is good, he said. Among the average Israelis, there is a feeling of what he described as “depolitization.” “The Israelis are sick of the corruption and mistrust the [Israeli] politicians,” he explained. “They don’t see the effects of the occupation, they see Iran as a bigger threat.” Their hope for the future lies in new leadership, Nir concluded.

Dr. Asali emphasized that the status quo of the parties to the conflict is completely unacceptable. “If you don’t come up with a solution,” he said, “you are with the status quo.” As far as the Palestinians’ future is concerned, Asali noted, the facts on the ground are changing so rapidly that they cannot afford to sit and wait for divine intervention.

Three factors must occur before the peace process can move forward, Asali argued. Security must improve for both the Israelis and the Palestinians; economic improvement for the Palestinians is impossible without the occupation coming to an end; and there must be a Palestinian government with respect to the rule of law. “A Palestinian state is irreversible,” he said. “If Israel is to be a normal state, then there has to be a viable Palestinian state.”

Asali said he believes America is not acting as an honest broker, and that Washington must learn to be a more even-handed facilitator in this conflict. Finding a solution is in America’s interest, he added. As the world becomes smaller, the United States must look at the conflict’s relationship within a global context. “For the entire world the issue has to be resolved,” Asali concluded. “It is not a luxury.”


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