Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Ziad Abu Zayyad Assesses Peace Prospects

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Ziad Abu Zayyad Assesses Peace Prospects

Article excerpt

More than two years after the start of the al-Aqsa intifada, Palestinians and Israelis are more ready than ever to accept a peaceful settlement. Although many blame the most recent conflict for hardening attitudes on both sides, exhaustion with constant bloodshed has opened a window for peace, former Palestinian Minister of State Ziad Abu Zayyad argued at a June 17 briefing at Washington, DC's Palestine Center.

Among the developments that characterize the intifada, Abu Zayyad said, the militarization of the anti-occupation struggle has been one of the most significant. This process has reduced the chances for popular participation in the intifada and, in Abu Zayyad's opinion, "caused damage to [its] image." He cited suicide operations carried out by Palestinian militia groups as detrimental to the cause of Palestinian nationalism.

Further, the former minister explained, as the agenda of the uprising was determined early on by military activity-initiated mainly by Islamic organizations like Hamas or Islamic Jihad-groups not officially engaged in armed actions began to feel they were losing influence. Abu Zayyad cited this reason for the emergence of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, formed by members of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah party to "balance the picture"-despite an official ban on Fatah engagement in military operations.

Turning his attention to the road map, Abu Zayyad reminded his audience that the ideas it expresses are originally of "local production." They grew out of discussions between the Israeli Labor Party's Shimon Peres (who served as foreign minister in the previous Sharon cabinet) and Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala'). According to Abu Zayyad, the U.S. road map is based on Peres' position in their talks, with no reference to the 1967 borders as a final territorial settlement.

Abu Zayyad described the positive features of the road map as clear references to a viable Palestinian state, talk of dismantling settlements, and references to ending the occupation. The negatives, however, are numerous, he said, citing principally the lack of detailed plans for repatriating Israel's illegal settlers in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and no reference to the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees or to the final status of Jerusalem, claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians as their capital.

Conditions in the occupied territories are worse than they have ever been before, Abu Zayyad told the audience. …

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