Shimon Peres started the session by saying that even though President Clinton had worked hard at bringing solutions to the Middle East conflict, unfortunately “we were more successful at bringing problems.” Another phrase of his was, quoting Ghandi, “When a cat is chasing a mouse there´s no sense if the mouse declares a ceasefire.” This he said to Nasser to ask the Palestinian Authority to stop Hamas, the cat in this picture. “Time has come to privatize peace” he also added in the sense that civil society has to play a huge role demanding peace.
Nasser, the Abbas representative, said that what is needed is not merely a two state solution but a two state solution according to the 1967 borders. Still, he said that the departure from Gaza was a positive move. But Gaza alone is unsustainable economically and politically. There has to be a comprehensive approach. In general, Abbas ambassador sounded more conciliatory than Arafat and his representatives used to sound like. Presently he said that we need to solve three urgent issues: 1. piles of garbage in Gaza with no viable exit – not to Israel, to Egypt.. 2. the removal from more areas of the West Bank, and 3. to send a clear message that “both sides are committed to the implementation of the road map.” And for this, he argued that settlements have to stop, that these settlements make the two state solutions hard to achieve.
Jim Wolfensohn started by saying that his job in the Middle East began with a total distrust on the part of both. He said that other than the big peace related issues there are many concrete issues in Gaza: Housing, again garbage removal. Balance security with economic development. The Quartet are the employers of Jim Wolfensohn former head of the World Bank. Wolfensohn is arguing that as divorced as the two states would like to be, interdependence is essential. Interdependence will generate jobs and without opportunity for young people there will be no peace. His argument is that Palestinians and Israelis need each other to succeed.
Shimon Peres, who is always using humor to illustrate his points said that yesterday at the UN when Abbas mentioned that he was having problem controlling his police Sharon said that he may soon be out of his job as prime minister and he could very well take the job of running the Palestinian Armed forces if he needed. Shimon Peres says what is needed is ingenuity and common effort.
Nasser said that targeting civilians in Israel is something that should have never happened and should not happen. This again sounds like a clear departure from the way Arafat used to act and speak. Nasser´s Palestine´s foreign minister English is excellent. He also added that good governance is a still unsolved Palestinian challenge.
Jim Wolfensohn was praised both by Nasser and by Peres. Politeness aside, this is a good sign. After years of listening to Israelis and Palestinians debate in public forum I am optimistic by this team. Even though I strongly dislike Sharon and used to write about SHARAFAT and the essential removal of both leaders for peace, I now think that peace is possible with Sharon and Abbas. It used to be that states were at war and then at peace, England and Germany is a good example. But now it maybe that war leads to peace gradually, with less people dying per month and eventually no more dead.
Clinton closed the session asking everyone at the room, around 600 people to personally commit to support the Palestinians and the Israelis on their road to peace. His last phrase – “god bless you all” – sounded like an appropriate end to the session.
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