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Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Information: Hussein Ibish
January 8, 2009 - 12:00am

Washington, DC, Jan. 8 -- ATFP reiterated its calls for a ceasefire in Gaza and a settlement freeze in the occupied territories at a major United States Institute of Peace conference at the Washington Convention Center. ATFP President Dr. Ziad Asali spoke on a panel about "Reinvigorating Prospects for Arab-Israeli Peacemaking" with fellow panelists Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer and David Makovsky, director of The Washington Institute's Project on the Middle East Peace Process. The Honorable Samuel W. Lewis moderated the panel.

Dr. Asali told the packed audience that in the context of the current Israeli attack on Gaza, “when UN resolutions and decisions are made, which could come soon, the terms will have a tremendous political impact, way beyond what happens in Palestine. If the status quo changes in favor of Hamas the Palestinian Authority will be in a weakened position. But if the status quo is the same as before after all that devastation, that will weaken Hamas.” He added that in the short run the PA position in the West Bank is secure because of the political support and assets they have there. However, he said, the impact of the conflict on Palestinian politics would be significant, since, “In the long term if the perception of the Palestinian and Arab peoples is that the Hamas strategy has paid off, then it will have the upper hand.”

He said told the audience that the crisis in Gaza “should be the last one that brings the conflict into sharp contrast and what needs to be done to end it.” “No one can claim that the implementation effort on peace has match the stated aims for peace,” by many parties, he continued. “This conflict is not a flat plateau it is a downward slope, and only gets worse,” he said, adding “These images from Gaza are horrendous and the suffering terrible, and it is not made up and it is being watched around the Arab world and beyond.”

In the aftermath of the conflict, Dr. Asali asked, “What can we do to make this not a downhill slope until we can get a resolution?” He said, “The one thing that has made this situation consistently worse is settlement building that makes a Palestinian state more difficult. This issue of a settlement freeze should be on the top of the new Administration’s agenda. It needs to give cover to Israeli politicians to take the difficult step of a settlement freeze.” He said that, “Settlement building cannot go on and still have a credible program for a two-state solution. If one asks what has damaged the PA, nothing has done more harm than the inability to answer the question, what have your negotiations brought us.” “A settlement freeze is the best answer to begin with, in order to buy time” to work towards a conflict ending agreement, Dr. Asali said.

Other participants in the conference, entitled “Passing the Baton: Opportunities Facing the New Administration,” included National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Former Secretary of Defense William Perry, Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, World Bank President Robert Zoellick and Commander of U.S. Central Command, General David Petraeus.

Read the Rapporteur Summary Report of the Panel

For more information on the conference  and the panel please visit the USIP website:

http://www.usip.org/baton2009/06arab-israeli-index.html






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