Israelis live in a constant state of paranoia that prevents them from
recognizing Palestinian suffering and ending the occupation, former Palestinian
Authority prime minister Ahmed Qurei said on Thursday.
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During the two
hour talk he gave at Tel Aviv University, Qurei, 73, spoke in warm and gentle
He waved and smiled at friends and shook hands with members of the
audience who approached him after the talk.
Qurei apologized to the
listeners if some of his remarks sounded harsh, but he said he wanted them to
understand how Palestinians perceived Israelis, in hopes that it would lead to
better understanding between the two peoples.
“I’m not talking to
criticize,” he said. “I am telling you how the Palestinians look in the mirror
and see their neighbor. The Israeli is perceived as a brutal soldier,” Qurei
“It is the image of one who looks down [on us]... The image of one
who has no respect for our national aspiration and determination to achieve it,
one who is imprisoned by his own vision as an eternal and only victim,” he
“Palestinians are often surprised and saddened by the Israeli
society’s indifference to the constant suffering of the Palestinian people,”
“We often wonder how can a society that belongs to the
developed world, with all its scientific, economic and military achievement, be
so indifferent toward the suffering of the victims and be capable of turning a
blind eye or shrinking responsibility for the agony and the pain of the
Palestinians,” he said.
Unfortunately, he said, the Palestinian image of
an Israeli is that of a killer of sons, husbands and wives, a soldier who is
armed and arrogant and whose finger is always on the trigger.
“How can a
state after 62 years of establishment and in spite of its tremendous military,
economic and scientific superiority continue to live in a constant state of
paranoia?” Qurei asked.
“How can a multi-ethnic, pluralistic, open,
question-oriented society be infected by self-inflicted isolation coupled with
symptoms of fundamentalism and racial discrimination?” he asked.
they [Israelis] remain passive, how can their collective consciousness remain
silent, when they see images of a woman of 80 years old being evicted from her
home in Sheikh Jarrah?” he asked.
He continued to question how Israelis
could accept the “looting and seizing” of West Bank Palestinian land, the
construction of the “apartheid separation wall, the uprooting of trees and the
arrest and torture of Palestinians.”
Qurei wanted to know how these
events could take place in the era of live television, with broadcasting that
Israel is the “last colonial power in the
post-colonial era,” he said.
Yet none of this aggression had diminished
the Palestinian will, desire and hope for peace, he said.
“Let there be
no mistake. The Palestinian people are determined to achieve their legitimate
right and aspiration for freedom and dignity,” he said.
Many of the terms
of a finalstatus agreement with Israel are known, as are the differences between
the sides, he said.
The Palestinians have in the past agreed in principle
to the 1967 borders with land swaps, Qurei said.
He spoke passionately
about his desire for peace and the necessity of concluding the conflict as soon
But he said he supported the PA stance not to negotiate with
Israel as long as it refuses to halt settlement construction in the West Bank
and east Jerusalem.
Israel’s desire for peace is measured by its
willingness to cease all its unilateral actions, including settlement
“Both sides should refrain from any unilateral act that may
prejudice the outcome of the permanent-status negotiations,” he
“Settlement activity is a unilateral act,” Qurei said. He added
that its cessation would not be a gesture of goodwill from Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu, but a condition outlined in past agreements, such as the
2002 road map.
Israel, he said, has opposed Palestinian unilateral
actions at the United Nations, but at the same time it continues to change facts
on the ground in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
“I assure you that
both personally and in the name of President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian
leadership that we are determined, willing and capable of achieving the just,
comprehensive and genuine peace that our peoples deserve,” he said.
peace should be based on the terms set out in the Arab League Peace Initiative,
He applauded the close coordination that exists between
Palestinians and Israelis on the issue of security.
But if the diplomatic
situation deteriorates, it will impact security, he warned. “You cannot
guarantee a security situation while there is occupation.”
The call by
Netanyahu to recognize the Jewish nature of the State of Israel was an attempt
by Israel to set a “new, unachievable precondition, intended to add and deepen
the already wide gap between us.”
The Palestinians already recognized the
State of Israel in 1988, Qurei said.
“Call it whatever you want,” he told
the audience. He said he did not understand why the Palestinians now needed to
recognize the Jewish nature of that state.
This issue is just one of a
number of declarations that Israel expects the Palestinians to accept. It has
also said that refugees should not be allowed to return to Israel, even though
that is an issue best handled within the negotiations, he said.
will be an agreedupon solution, why do you want to take it and put it in your
pocket in advance?” he asked.
“Let us go and then together decide what
should be a just and agreed solution,” he said.
Qurei said he still
believed in a negotiated two-state solution, after which there would be normal
relations between the two states with good cooperation.
Only such a peace
can guarantee peace and security for both sides, he said.
fulfill it in the absence of a serious partner that shares this vision,” he
The hope for peace that followed Madrid and Oslo has culminated in
a “bitter harvest” that turned “our once deemed common ground into an arid
landscape filled with thorns,” he declared. “Today, we stand at a difficult
crossroad that puts us before two paths, the path of unilateral actions,
violations, skepticism, frustrations and hopelessness and the path of wisdom,
courage and mutual recognition of the legitimate rights of both
All problems can be solved in the “presence of genuine intentions
and acceptance of each other’s rights and aspirations,” he said.
audience, he said, “You can create this vision, you can create this partnership,
but let us do it now.”