Press Release
Contact Information: Hussein Ibish
July 30, 2010 - 12:00am

ATFP President Ziad Asali and Senior Fellow Hussein Ibish participated in a major conference on Middle East peace, the “FUNGLODE Forum for Peace at Cap Cana,” in the Dominican Republic from July 23-25. FUNGLODE is the acronym for the Dominican Global Foundation for Democracy and Development. The conference was presided over by the President of the Dominican Republic, Dr. Leonel Fernandez, who attended and participated in all the sessions, provided a welcoming address and several other interventions, and took notes throughout. Among the other panelists were: from Israel, former spokesperson for the Labor Party Colette Avital, head of the Institute for Policy and Strategy Maj. Gen. Danny Rothschild (res), former justice minister Yossi Beilin, and chief political commentator for Ha’aretz Akiva Eldar; from Egypt, head of the International Relations Secretariat Muhammad Abdellah; from Jordan, former Prime Ministers Marouf al-Bakhit and Taher al-Masri and former Minister for Economic Affairs and Foreign Affairs Jawad Anani; from the United States, former congressman Robert Wexler, now head of the Center for Middle East Peace. A key organizer of the conference was Hasan Abdel Rahman, former head of the PLO mission in Washington and ambassador to Morocco. Moderators included Riz Khan of Al-Jazeera English TV, Prof. Shibley Telhami of the Sadat Center at the University of Maryland, and Amr Badr, member of the Political Affairs Committee of the National Party of Egypt.

Dr. Asali spoke at two of the three sessions at the two-day conference. In his first presentation, he focused on the importance of the state and institution building program being undertaken by the Palestinian Authority. He emphasized that a major international effort was required to provide the technical, financial and political support for the project to succeed, and that Latin American states including the Dominican Republic could be important players in helping the Palestinians develop their independent state institutions. He also focused on the need for eventual convergence between top-down diplomacy at the highest levels and the bottom-up state and institution building program.

In his second presentation, Dr. Asali explained the work and mission of the American Task Force on Palestine. He told the conference that ATFP is an American organization focused on promoting US national interests through the accomplishment of a negotiated agreement in the Middle East allowing for the establishment of a Palestinian state to live alongside Israel in peace and security. He said over the past eight years, ATFP has been gratified to see this position being adopted as an American and an international consensus. He strongly emphasized the centrality of the American role in seeking peace between Israel and the Palestinians and that the United States was the indispensable mediator in peace negotiations, however he added that major international coordination with countries from around the world, including Latin America, was required to build the supportive international framework to realize and sustain a peace agreement. He also discussed ATFP's sister organization, American Charities for Palestine, and its work in trying to have a strategic impact on the health and education sectors of Palestinian society. He told the conference that ACP was the first and may still be the only private organization to have a memorandum of understanding with USAID to ensure that recipients of all funds are properly vetted, and that a number of major projects under this formula had already been completed.

In his presentation Ibish emphasized that the two state solution is still viable because it is the only formula that meets the basic national interests of all concerned parties. He said that because political realities do not simply arise in a vacuum but are shaped by existing social, political, economic and military forces that can produce outcomes, scenarios presented as solutions have to correspond to the minimum requirements of the parties involved. He said ideas such as the consolidation of a greater Israel, an Islamic state in all of historical Palestine, the so-called “Jordanian option,” the South Africa style “one state solution,” and new ideas coming from the Israeli far right that Israel should annex the West Bank but not Gaza are all examples of ideas that cannot be solutions because one or more of the parties involved simply will not accept such outcomes. He said the only outcome that meets the minimal requirements of all parties and is also consistent with both international law and the international consensus is a two state agreement. He said the only alternative to such an agreement was continued occupation and conflict, and that this would probably become an increasingly religious and intractable struggle. Ibish pointed out that the obstacles to the realization of a two state agreement are very significant and that it may be that continued conflict is the more likely of the two potential outcomes, but he said obstacles such as settlements and the separation barrier were expressions of political will and could be dealt with by additional acts of political will. He said the proper metric for judging the viability of a two state solution is not the demographic, infrastructural and administrative changes created by the occupation but rather the political will by majorities on both sides to have such an agreement. He said this will still exist according to almost all opinion polls by large majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians and that therefore the two state solution is still viable. Ibish said it would be difficult to achieve, but it is the “historic task of our generation” to find a way to make it work because the alternative is unacceptable.

ATFP also participated in drafting the Cap Cana Declaration on Peace in the Middle East which was issued at the end of the conference. Pres. Fernandez closed the conference by pointing out that "No military solution is possible, therefore it is only through a negotiated solution that these two states can coexist in a lasting peace. One has already been created, that of Israel, which must have security, and that of Palestine, with territorial definition." He called for the creation of a Latin American alliance for peace in the Middle East. Both Asali and Ibish thanked the people and President of the Dominican Republic for their engagement on this important issue and their warm hospitality, and expressed hopes that a Latin American alliance for Middle East peace could become an important factor in achieving a negotiated agreement and an independent Palestinian state.


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