The role of the Communist and leftist parties in their countries and in the region
Please allow me to extend my appreciation and gratitude to the Greek Communist Party who initiated this important meeting under the current difficult and complicated conditions in our region.
We believe that the participation of parliamentarians from GUE/NGL in this meeting will deepen and expand the scope of discussion to seek the best means to consolidate cooperation and coordination among our brotherly parties and to promote their joint struggle to serve the interests of the peoples of our region in dealing with the threats and challenges facing them.
I will tackle in this intervention some of the changes that effected the US policy and also the political developments at the Palestinian level and their impact on the conditions in the region. I will stress also on the importance of organizing solidarity activities with the Palestinian people who are struggling to achieve their aspirations in full independence and return to their homeland in accordance with the international legitimacy resolutions.
As communist and leftist parties in this region, we hold major responsibilities as we lead the struggle to defend the interests and goals of our people from hegemony and subordination and for the sake of our principles: democracy and social justice. Our struggle is based on our deep understanding of our conditions and the current regional and international transformations; as well as on the basis of commitment to the interests of the social sectors jostly affected by the policies of aggression, social and class oppression.
Thus, we can notice with grave concern the various international and regional changes and developments relating to the fight over the role and status in the Middle East. These developments are raising several questions on the prospects of solving the Palestinian cause and the content of such a solution in light of the US monopoly and role as the sole power influencing international politics. The US hegemony also entails schemes of intervention and control in the Arab region, and fasces deep crisis especially in light of the setbacks suffered by the US and Israeli policies recently in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon.
The US military occupation in Iraq has failed, as it didn't bring about the results planned by Washington for the entire region, and against Syria in particular. The US Administration is seeking nowadays a way out of the Iraqi swamp and looks for more cooperation with the Arab countries, especially the Gulf countries.
Israel also failed in its aggression and war against the resistance in Lebanon; Israel failed to influence the fate of Lebanon and suffered a major setback with impact still being felt in the Israeli society.
These two failures which can be described as strategic setbacks are to be added to the series of failures suffered by the Israeli occupation in the past forty years trying to impose a solution on the Palestinian people either by the use of force or through the interim agreements or in the attempt to find an alternative Palestinian leadership that can accept the Israeli dictations and conditions and that can make compromises on the rights and interests of its people.
In a nutshell, we can notice the confusion and signs of crisis in the US policy in the area that expresses its self, in calls to reconsider the forms and methods of the US official policy in our region while maintaining the same goals.
These signs came clear at first in the Baker-Hamilton Report at the start of 2006 which called for setting up a strategy of withdrawal from Iraq, paying more attention to the Palestinian cause and dialoguing with Iran and Syria.
Last month, a letter signed by eight US senior figures was announced; the letter was signed by US Senators and former national security advisers who warned US President Bush of the dangers and ramifications of the failure of Annapolis Summit and called on him to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict through the establishment of two states based on the June 4, 1967 lines along with 1:1 ratio of land exchange and to see Jerusalem as the capital of the two states.
Later, there was the report of the US Intelligence – co-signed by 16 intelligence agencies – which admitted that Iran did stop its program to develop its nuclear military effort in 2003. The political connotations of this report are no secret as the report would not have been announced without the approval of President Bush.
It was no surprise to see Iran considering this report as a victory while Israel rejected the report. Therefore, we are witnessing these days an attempt to re-arrange the US work agenda in our region which entails in the best scenarios a postponement of the military confrontation with Iran for some time, along with the use of tools of pressure like economic, political and diplomatic sanctions, and the policy of boycott and siege.
On the other hand, Israel counted and worked on the military option against Iran. It anticipated that such a military confrontation -in case it happens- would turn the balance of powers in the region upside down, including the suspension of any commitments towards any political settlement with the Palestinians for years to come. This is why we can see that the Israelis are worried about prolonging this "military time out" of the US policy. Israel also fears the return of the equation that stresses on "solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a key to solving all crises in the region". This indicates a divergence between the American and Israeli priorities, but not to the point of leading to a crisis between both sides.
The above mentioned scenario has been the background for the American call to the Annapolis Conference which launched a one-year negotiations period to establish the Palestinian state. It was followed by the Paris Conference which launched the largest process of financial support to the PA. This support aims to finance the partial settlement proposed instead of the final settlement.
We believe that the Annapolis channel was not launched out of good will. This process was a US demand more than an Israeli wish, for several reasons: gathering moderate Arabs in one trench to offer larger support to the US policy in Iraq , Lebanon and other parts of the region. It also came to open the normalization track with Israel even without reaching a political solution to end the occupation of the Palestinian and Arab territories, and to support the PNA in its confrontation with Hamas and to use Hamas and the Palestinian internal split as a means of pressure on the PNA. We have to recall on this occasion that the call to hold Annapolis Conference came directly after Hamas coup in Gaza. Therefore we are witnessing now an American effort to organize a regional political, military and economic order where the USA makes up the basic balancing and controlling factor.
Although the Annapolis conference was held, no changes have happened on the Palestinian arena. The fall of victims, martyrs and injuries continued in the West Bank and Gaza Strip after the Annapolis Conference. The large scale campaigns of raids, arrests and assassinations also continued. The settlement schemes, the construction of the Apartheid Separation Wall and works to open a network of bypass settlement roads continued. We also witnessed the calls and threats to invade Gaza Strip. The gov ernment of Olmert tightened its siege and collective punishment measures, including cutting off and reducing electricity and fuel, against 1.5 million Gazans under the claim of retaliating to the so called rockets firing from Gaza Strip.
In declaring the new settlement build up in Jabal Abu Ghneim in Jerusalem, Israel has placed the Palestinian negotiator in front of a twofold challenge: Jerusalem and the settlements, considering them outside the context of the negotiations. A third challenge emerges from these: the amendment of the borders. In thi s, Israel is trying to decide on three core and basic issues of the final solution before even the start of the negotiations.
The Israeli government demanded also a Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, meaning that Israel wants to phase out the issue of the refugees from the negotiations.
The government of Olmert set the end of 2008 as a deadline to end its settlement schemes in the West Bank (the wall, the bypass roads, judaization of East Jerusalem and the concluding measures to isolate the Palestinian populated areas) . At the same time, this is the year which Annapolis Conference set as a final deadline to end the negotiations over the establishment of the Palestinian state.. The question to be posed here: after all those Israeli measures, what would be left to talk about in the final status negotiations other than a state with temporary borders behind the wall!
We are facing these days Israeli settlement and expansion facts that impose the solution; and draw the borders and not negotiations that can lead to a solution; in fact, Israel continues to impose facts on the ground with the hope that these facts would force themselves in any future solution!
This is the major danger that we are facing at the Palestinian level; the danger of a unilateral solution; the so called state with temporary borders; a state that consolidates the settlement blocs; a state isolated behind the separation wall without Jerusalem and without any solution to the refugees cause.
In confronting all of this, we call for dealing with the negotiating process as a state of conflict and not as a state of dialogue based on logic or on the ability to convince. We call for a political and negotiating plan based on one specific demand: A complete halt and freeze on all settlement activities, dismantle the so called illegal settlement outposts, end the policy of land confiscation, stop the opening of bypass alternative roads, remove all checkpoints and stop the military incursions.
Such a plan needs to be supported with a large popular campaign at the internal level and concrete Arab solidarity that enables the PNA to set up an integrated plan towards the boycott of all settlements and their products. There is also a growing necessity for an international solidarity campaign to exert pressure on Israel to stop its settlement schemes.
The negotiations over the Palestinian state should begin through demarcating the borders of this state, the borders of June 4, 1967. Along the same lines, the international community plays a major influential role. International solidarity campaigns can be recruited to exert pressure towards the halt of settlement activities and the recognition of the Palestinian state with its complete borders.
We believe that Israel will not back off from its expansionist policies and schemes unless it is subjected to serious external pressure by the international community; Israel needs to be forced to abide by the international legitimacy resolutions and the peace process terms of references; Israel needs to be forced to give up its policy of creating new facts on the ground; without such a pressure, the situation will remain unchanged and stagnant and the Israeli intransigence will continue.
As communist, leftist and progressive parties, we have a major task of reinforcing and activating actual solidarity with our peoples and not keep such solidarity limited to mere desires and good intentions.
We have to define very clearly our common vital interests and set up our common goals; we also need to choose the right mechanisms to transform these goals into struggle titles and slogans and activate the popular activities as a pressure means on the official regimes.
Our regular meetings, discussions, dialogues and exchanged visits, have a big impact and a positive role in consolidating our comradely relationships towards formulating unified positions to confront the challenges.
Therefore, we propose to issue a press statement on this meeting and its recommendations and decisions. We also call to issue a statement to express solidarity with the Palestinian people and their struggle towards liberation and independence.
We also propose to form a "follow up" committee to this meeting, and we call for a meeting for all communist, leftist and progressive parties in Europe and the Mediterranean region as soon as possible. We also call for organizing meetings and visits among our trade unions and youth associations for the sake of reaching joint action plans in the fields of trade unions, youth, civil society organizations and other fields.
We propose to our parliamentarian comrades to continue their efforts, in their own parliaments and at the level of the European Parliament, in exerting pressure to stop all settlement activities in the Palestinian occupied territories, including the use of trade sanctions against Israel.
We also propose to unify our efforts to impede the Israeli demand on recognizing a Jewish ethnic state because this is a racist demand that contradicts the principle of equal citizenship and it also considers the Palestinian people as an eternal enemy. We believe that confronting the concepts of the Israeli ruling circles on the Jewishness of the state is a task for all democratic forces and a duty of all peace loving people in the world.
Finally we say that in the absence of the possibility to reach a political solution in the foreseeable future, the consolidating of the Palestinian internal front becomes the basic task that all efforts must unify to achieve. Thus, we stress that the Palestinian national reconciliation must be based on:
1- Hamas ending its military control over Gaza Strip and formulating a political position in line with the international legitimacy resolutions and adopt the Arab Peace Initiative.
2- To form a temporary central government for a period of three to six months that assumes the responsibility for the internal affairs and leaves the political and negotiation affairs to the PLO.
3- To conduct early presidential and legislative elections on the basis of complete proportional representation under Arab and international supervision with guarantees to respect the results of the elections.
Member of the Politburo of the Palestinian People's Party
Member of the PLO Executive Committee