Press Release
Contact Information: Hussein Ibish
October 5, 2005 - 12:00am

Washington DC, October 5 - The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) and the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) sponsored a joint briefing today by several members of the Palestinian Negotiations Support Unit (NSU) at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C. The speakers included Maen Ariekat, Director General of the NSU; Lamia Matta, Legal Advisor to the NSU; and Khaled Elgindy, Policy Analyst; who discussed the current situation on the ground in Gaza.

The NSU is in Washington to brief lawmakers, Bush Administration officials and others as part of a regularly scheduled visit to the nation’s capital.

Maen Ariekat’s opening remarks acknowledged the peaceful withdrawal of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip and parts of the northern West Bank. He expressed concern that settlement activity in the West Bank, particularly around Jerusalem was intensifying.

Mr. Ariekat went on to discuss the remaining issues on which the Palestinian and Israeli sides have yet to reach an agreement. This includes: the Rafah crossing into Egypt, the opening of the Gaza airport and seaport, allowing a passageway between Gaza and the West Bank, lifting internal closures in the West Bank, access to clean water, and the path of Israeli’s wall in the West Bank.

Lamia Mattadiscussed the water crisis in Gaza in detail. She compared the standard of living in Gaza to other parts of the world and noted that within a few years 7 out of 10 people living in Gaza will be below the poverty rate unless immediate action is taken. Ms. Matta noted that the Quartet’s Special Envoy to the region, James Wolfensohn, who is the former president of the World Bank, has been spending a lot of time in the occupied territories and Israel. Research from the World Bank confirms that the in order to create a sustainable economy, the Gaza Strip must access global markets and must receive direct foreign investment. [Editorial comment—can we work this in? “A sustainable economy in Gaza is necessary for a stable government in the Palestinian Territories.”]

Khaled Elgindy discussed the path of the Israel’s wall in the West Bank in detail. He illustrated with maps and photos the ongoing construction of Israel’s wall around Jerusalem. He stressed the need to keep Arab East Jerusalem available as the future capital of a Palestinian state and noted that without it there will be no state. Mr. Elgindy also showed maps of the West Bank where Israel has built settlements that aim to cut Area A in half. This settlement pattern threatens the contiguity of Palestinian territory and could be a major stumbling block in future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The path of Israel’s wall and the pattern of settlements in the West Bank put in jeopardy prospects for a peaceful two-state solution. Mr. Elgindy noted that the two-state solution is an integral part of President George Bush’s vision for the region.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017