Press Release
Contact Information: Hussein Ibish
June 12, 2007 - 12:00am

Washington, D.C., June 11 – The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) held a briefing today at the Carnegie Endowment on International Peace titled “40 Years After 1967: Where Do We Go From Here?” and offering a variety of perspectives on how to advance the quest for Mideast peace forty years after the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The briefing featured Ambassador of the PLO Observer Mission to the United Nations Riyad Mansour, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt Nabil Fahmy, Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission of Israel Jeremy Issacharoff, and former U.S. ambassador to Israel Samuel Lewis.

Palestinian ambassador Riyad Mansour led off the panel by touching on the suffering and humiliation resulting from 40 years of occupation. He emphasized the need for a cease fire on both sides and said “We need to stop the fighting in Gaza.” On the issue of restarting peace negotiations he said that “Arabs are saying we are willing to accept Israel, provided they [the Israelis] withdrawal from the Palestinian land they occupy, and provide a solution to the refugee problem.” Mansour attributed manifestations of extremism among the Palestinian people to the lack of a homeland and the dire economic conditions they live under. He closed by stating “Those who put conditions before the process of the negotiations are not interested in negotiation” and pressed the need to build on the Arab Peace Initiative, exploiting the moment to move in a new direction.

Egyptian ambassador Nabil Fahmy emphasized the importance of negotiations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ambassador Fahmy identified two critical points in conducting negotiations, learning from the experience of past negotiations, and recognizing that every peace process which has worked actually started within the region. The issues that must be discussed, according to Fahmy, are Jerusalem, the territories, refugees, and security. Israelis and Palestinians must be willing to negotiate these issues, but the support of Egypt, other Middle Eastern countries, and especially the United States is essential. “If there is not a balance of interest along with a balance of power there will not be a sustainable solution,” he said.

Israeli Deputy Chief of Mission Jeremy Issacharoff shared an Israeli perspective by voicing security concerns. He discussed the worsening situation in Gaza, the continued rocket attacks, and the terrorist threats. He said that conflict between Hamas and Fatah is serious and will not disappear. “Israel does not want to lose an opportunity for peace… but we have to be serious about what is happening on the ground.” He said that the situation in Lebanon and Syria are also of great concern to Israel. While Israel would like to move forward with some sort of negotiations, Issacharoff again expressed security concerns posed by the rockets and a captured Israeli soldier. He did say that the peace process should be widened to include countries in the region and closed by saying “At the end of the day, we are all at a strategic crossroads.”

Former ambassador to Israel Samuel Lewis, discussed the difference between what will happen over the next year and what could or should happen. He said it is possible that in the next 6-12 months there might be a time when Israeli and Palestinian parties can come together for discussion. He recognized that within the last three months the Bush administration has started taking the Israel-Palestine issue seriously, though he was less certain of its ability to achieve much before the 2008 U.S. presidential elections. Unfortunately, “Our political culture here remains 98% preoccupied with Iraq, and maybe Iran. The stomach for handling some sort of peace process will have to be tested.” On the current conflict Lewis agreed “that what should happen is essentially two parallel cease fires with a strong American role, along with the support of Egypt and other Middle Eastern forces.”

ATFP president Dr. Ziad Asali who chaired and moderated the event expressed satisfaction at the seriousness of the presentations. He said: “Time is of the essence. Palestinian and Israeli leaders have to seek solutions together to avoid the descent of the region into uncontrollable chaos."


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