Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Information: Hussein Ibish
January 12, 2005 - 12:00am

Washington DC, Jan 12. -- The American Task Force on Palestine hosted a briefing at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace by Ziad Asali, MD and George Salem, Esq., who returned Monday from observing the Palestinian elections as part of the official U.S. delegation. The delegation was headed by Senators Joseph Biden and John Sununu.

Dr. Asali and Mr. Salem expressed their great pride with the way the Palestinians had held their election. “The Palestinians conducted their election in an orderly, transparent and efficient manner, in spite of the many challenges of doing so while under occupation,” Salem said. Salem and Asali stressed the opportunities open to the Palestinian people after electing their new president, Mahmoud Abbas, who received 63 percent of the vote out of 775,146 ballots cast. Asali cautioned however, that in order for the new leadership to establish itself and act meaningfully, all involved parties, must be engaged and willing to act to support it.

“The date of January 9 will live forever in Palestinian history as the date of the birth of democracy in Palestine,” Asali said. “Like any newborn, the new Palestinian democracy will survive and flourish as much as it receives support and nourishment from the adults around it—the Palestinian people and the rest of the world.”

Priorities for the Palestinians include security, an improvement in standards of living, corruption and managing their finances to be transparent and attractive to international donors. Salem noted the “impeccable credibility” of Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, and his diligence in accomplishing the latter priority.

“Prime Minister Sharon indicated that if Mahmoud Abbas could get control of security, the Palestinians would have a willing partner [for peace],” Salem said. “Every act of terror weakens me,” Sharon told the U.S. Delegation at their meeting. “The same thing can be said of Abu Mazen,” Asali said. “They both have a political interest in the same thing.”

Asali said that the condition of 100 percent security for Israelis is impossible to meet. However, the Palestinian leadership will do what is in their power to ensure. Asali indicated that Palestinians have a strong interest in settling the security issue particularly as they negotiate an end to Israel’s occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

While the exact length of time and the stages to ending the occupation remain unknown, Asali stressed that “the final contours of a settlement are known and accepted internationally; a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza based on the Clinton Plan plus or minus one or two percent, with Arab East Jerusalem as it’s capital and a solution to the rights of the refugees based on justice and reality.”

The role of the United States was also discussed. “Without the active engagement of the United States on a regular and steady basis, the Palestinian democracy cannot succeed,” Asali said.

“No one can say ever again that there is no partner for peace,” Asali said. With this election, said Salem, “the Palestinian people are saying that they want to raise their families in peace, prosperity, dignity and freedom.”






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