Press Release
Contact Information: Hussein Ibish
May 9, 2006 - 12:00am

Washington, D.C., May 10 -- The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars held a half-day conference today entitled "Politics and Diplomacy: Next Steps in Arab-Israeli Peacemaking." The conference featured two panels of Palestinian, Arab and Israeli former senior government officials in addition to a member of the Israeli media. The conference concluded with a keynote speech by H.R. H. Prince Turki al-Faisal, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States.

Ambassador Joseph Gildenhorn, Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Woodrow Wilson Center welcomed attendees to the conference, followed by ATFP president Dr. Ziad Asali who cautioned that "we are at five minutes to midnight" in terms of the issue of Israel-Palestine. He urged all those attending and all those of goodwill to re-intensify efforts towards a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on two states, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace.

The first panel's speaker, Ziad Abu-Amr, Palestinian Legislative Council member and former Minister of Culture, warned that the Palestinian Authority (PA) was on the verge of collapse due to international aid cuts, the Israeli economic siege and the deteriorating internal Palestinian situation. Abu-Amr said the Palestinian people "feel that they are being subjected to collective punishment.?" He advised that the U.S. and European Union (EU) find a different way of engaging the Palestinians. The next panelist, Nahum Barnea, Kreiz visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center and columnist and senior political analyst with the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, analyzed the origins of Israel's unilateral policy beginning with Ariel Sharon, who had adopted such a policy to avoid outside solutions being imposed on him. He said that new Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert had obtained a specific mandate from the Israeli people for continued unilateral withdrawals by "consolidating" Israeli West Bank settlers into settlements abutting Israel's border and inside Israel.

Following Barnea was Nabil Amr, former Palestinian Minister of Information and former Minister for Parliamentary Affairs. Amr warned of the consequences of a collapse of the PA due to international aid cuts, in terms of fostering extremism both among Palestinians and regionally, and creating a favorable climate for those who call for continuing conflict and confrontation. He gauged Palestinian and Arab frustration as being "at an all-time high." Amr urged the international community and Mideast Quartet to resume efforts towards peace. The final panelist was Zalman Shoval, former ambassador of Israel to the U.S. and former member of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Shoval held the Palestinians responsible for the rise of Israeli unilateralism. He stressed there had been and remained no Palestinian partner, with the election of the Hamas government only affirming that. He concluded that historically Israeli withdrawals had not brought about Palestinian moderation, but had increased Palestinian intransigence and exacerbated the conflict.


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