Sign-on letter to Condoleezza Rice; Call for Justice in Annapolis Peace Talks

Dear Secretary Rice,

On behalf of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), U.S. Section, we would like to thank you for your initiative in calling for a renewed peace effort in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  We will be watching as the proposed conference in Maryland takes shape and attempts to move the process forward.

Several years ago, our organization held our triennial international congress in Baltimore.  Since WILPF has sections in Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon, we took the opportunity to make an appointment and send a delegation over to The U.S. State Department for a frank discussion. We brought representatives from each of our Middle East sections--Jews, Christians, and Muslims--and the under-secretary with whom we met found our evaluation of the situation to be relevant and useful.  Several of our suggestions later became part of the U.S. stance in the negotiations which were then taking place.

We feel that our extensive knowledge of the region, which comes from an involvement pre-dating the creation of the State of Israel, as well as the experience of our members who live in the area, could serve as a useful guide to the State Department as this round of talks unfolds. To that end, we would like to put forward some suggestions.

1.  In the past, the peace talks have been just that:  talks.  The projected result needs to be a durable peace, based on justice, which will benefit all of the peoples of the region.  Real progress is measured in concrete actions. Without action, the parties become frustrated.  Please set concrete and achievable goals at each phase.

2.  No assumption can or should be made that the parties to these negotiations are equal.  The State of Israel is one of the most powerful nations on earth, while the Palestinian Authority, which declared itself to be a state several years ago--both in Gaza on October 1, 1948, and in Algiers on November 15, 1988--has not been given the same international status.  In every true respect, this is not a negotiation between equals. Neither the U.S., nor any other great power, should operate as a rubber-stamp for the Israeli state, as that would further imbalance the talks and surely lead to their failure.  Please be certain that the U.S. acts as an honest broker, working for the good of all parties.

3.  The principle of land for peace and the items generally referred to as "final status issues" must be on the table and not simply ignored until the end.  Most of these issues have been covered in relevant UN resolutions.  The basis for negotiations has been, and should remain UNSCR 242 and 338, plus all of the resolutions relevant to each round of the talks.

4.  Although the U.S. currently recognizes the Fatah-led government as the legitimate voice of the Palestinian people, it must be recalled that the free and fair democratic elections held by the Palestinian people led to the selection of many members of Hamas.  Regardless of U.S . feelings about that organization, many Palestinians believe it to be their legitimate representative. That is especially true of many of the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip.  Excluding Hamas from the peace talks would be tantamount to denying 1.5 million Palestinians a voice in their own future.  Such exclusion would also doom the talks to failure. Attempts must be made to see that no such exclusion take place. It is our position that both Fatah and Hamas should be included in discussions about the fate of the Palestinian people.

5.  The entire region should be declared a nuclear-free zone.  Israel is known to be a nuclear state and it must accede to the normal inspection regimen of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  Other states in the region would be more likely to follow suit.  Whenever possible, weaponry must be reduced, based on mutual agreement of the parties.  We recommend, for regional

security, that Israel become a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaties. Treaties to this effect could be a basis for a lasting peace in the region.

6.  Within both Palestinian and Israeli society, women can be found in high leadership positions.  We are happy to note that this is the case, and hope that UNSCR 1325, which calls for the inclusion of women's voices at all levels and a gender-sensitive approach to decision-making, will be adhered to in the discussions of peace. Women in the region, including members of our own organization, have much to say that is relevant to achieving a durable and lasting peace.

7.  We continue to believe that the "creation of facts on the ground," which includes house demolitions, land confiscations, settlement- building, construction of Jews-only bypass roads, the separation Wall, and hundreds of checkpoints are all obstacles to peace.  They are detrimental to all of the peoples residing there, as they set up artificial barriers to the normal interaction of people as neighbours. Our organization believes that peace is achieved through building bridges, not walls.  In the end, a good deal of this artificial infrastructure will undoubtedly need to be dismantled, and the

sooner that occurs, the more likely that normal relations can be re-established, including employment, commerce, travel, and regular activity that leads to a higher quality of life.  We would encourage by this the implementation of UNSCR 181 regarding economic union.

8.  It is disingenuous to say that the parties must settle their differences themselves.  Because of the high level of financial support the U.S.  has given to Israel over the years, including military weapons sales, the U.S. is very much involved in the heart of the conflict.  Although we cannot make the final determination of the end to the conflict, the U.S. must resolve to assist in its termination.  The simple reason for this is that all of the parties suffer during a continual state of war, or near-war, and that everyone benefits from peace.

We hope that you, Secretary Rice, and the State Department will consider our extensive and personal involvement in the region, and our many contacts among residents at all levels of society, to be invaluable as the talks progress. We are hopeful that they will progress, and that the information we are providing herein will serve as a guideline to you in seeing that the "talks" are productive towards a just peace in the region

This letter represents our U.S. section, and is supported by our branches in the following cities.

Portland Branch of WILPF

Tucson Branch of WILPF

Ann Arbor Branch of WILPF

Ypsilanti Branch of WILPF

Initiated and disseminated by the Leadership Team,

U.S. WILPF Middle East Campaign, "Women Challenge U.S. Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East"

Download the letter as a Word document

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