Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Information: Hussein Ibish
January 24, 2005 - 12:00am

Washington DC, Jan. 24 -- American Task Force on Palestine President Ziad Asali gave a briefing today at the Middle East Institute on the prospects for the future following the recent Palestinian presidential elections. Asali had observed the Palestinian presidential elections as part of the official delegation from the United States. He characterized Mahmoud Abbas, who was elected president by 62 percent of voters, as “a president without a state.”

The smooth completion of the election itself was testament to a Palestinian mandate to Abbas for peaceful negotiations. In electing Abbas, “the majority of Palestinians have spoken for peace,” said Asali. As Prime Minister under the late Yasser Arafat, throughout the election campaign, and after his victory, Abbas “kept repeating his mantra of opposition to violence, his call for unifying security agencies and his pursuit of peaceful negotiations.”

The election revealed that the Palestinian people expect that Abbas will bring them short-term dividends such as fewer checkpoints, IDF withdrawal from Palestinian territories, secure neighborhoods, economic revival, and the physical reconstruction of Palestinian cities and villages. Abbas has made security a top priority, because “without security for both Palestinians and Israelis, there is no peace strategy,” Asali said. “Security of the one people cannot be separated from security of the other.”

Beyond security, Abbas’ agenda for 2005 includes rebuilding Palestinian institutions and government agencies and handling the Israel’s Gaza Disengagement Plan. To do this, Abbas needs support from the Palestinian people, Israel, Palestine’s Arab and Muslim neighbors, Palestine’s European friends, and the United States.

“From the Palestinian people Abbas needs their help to build a Palestinian state,” Asali said. “Above all he needs to establish the Rule of Law and to remove corruption from the government.” Israel’s potential as a partner in peace negotiations depends upon Israel’s cooperation and coordination. This is turn imposes upon the Arab and Islamic countries to provide Abbas with “understanding and assistance in making compromises, and for reasonable voices to shield him from threats and foolish accusations.”

“From the Quartet he can ask them to keep their word on the Road Map,” Asali said. “Nothing will help more than a sense of hope for a reasonable resolution.” With the progress Abbas is making in building solid and democratic public institutions, he can assure European donors that their generosity will not be wasted on the “Sisyphean task of rebuilding what will imminently be demolished.”

The United States has an exceedingly important role to play. For President Abbas’ purposes, “he needs the United States’ good offices, strategic positioning, as well as tactical coordination in facilitating relations with Israel,” Asali said.






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