Israeli, Palestinian women talk peace

"This isn't a process for its own sake...We're dealing with our lives."

September 21, 2006 06:36
2 minute read.
Israeli, Palestinian women talk peace

Hanan Asrawi 298. (photo credit: AP)


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Israeli and Palestinian women met Wednesday night with female heads of state and foreign ministers in their continuing efforts to work toward a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The recent war in Lebanon has given the International Women's Commission new purpose and a new opportunity. The conflict showed, the commission said, that what some considered a narrow conflict has the ability to destabilize the entire region and demands an international solution. The IWC spoke with Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Finnish President Tarja Halonen and other female leaders from European Union countries, asking them to join their initiative. The Finnish president, who currently holds the rotating EU presidency, pledged support for the group and said she would look into developing a task force to address their proposals. After the war in Lebanon, the commission realized "that this was a time when the international community has become once again involved and would be debating our issue, and therefore it's important for us to come at this time to these meetings," said Galia Golan, an Israeli professor. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, also said that Israel's acceptance of an expanded international force in Lebanon might signal a willingness to accept more international involvement in the peace process. The commission, which includes both Israeli and Palestinian legislators and ministers as well as other female world leaders, was formed in 2005 in the hopes of bringing to bear UN resolution 1325, which calls for the involvement of women in conflict resolution, on the crisis in the Middle East. The commission supports the Arab League's peace initiative from 2002, which offers recognition of Israel in exchange for two states with the 1967 borders, each with a capital in Jerusalem. All members of the Arab League have agreed to the plan, which Golan said "should be grabbed by the Israelis." The spokeswoman at Israel's mission to the UN, Anat Friedman, said the mission had no immediate comment. Both Golan and Ashrawi emphasized that the current model of conditions for talks and interim plans plays into the hands of those who wish to undermine the process. "One keeps coming up with interim agreements and phases and stages, and what happens, of course, in the interim is that those who are trying to torpedo an agreement have all the possibility of acting," Golan said. The commission rejects the idea of incremental steps, saying that in the past peace negotiations have stalled after all the easy problems are solved and therefore never address the major questions. They insist that the most important issues - boundaries, a dual capital in Jerusalem, and the status of refugees and settlements - be tackled immediately. Ashrawi said that, as women, the members of the commission bring an awareness of "human value" to the thinking on peace. "This is not an exercise in virtuosity or power," she said. "This is not a process for its own sake.... We're dealing with our lives." Golan added that when men address security, they generally talk about military solutions, whereas she said the commission focuses on "human security" and human rights issues. Women tend to define security as a roof over their heads and food for their children, she said. The commission also met with Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa, Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch-Brown, and Ibrahim Gambari, under secretary-general for political affairs.

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