More than one hundred Israeli and Palestinian activists gathered on Tuesday in the West Bank city of Jericho for the annual convention of the Palestinian-Israeli Peace NGO Forum – an umbrella organization that unites over 100 organizations, groups and initiatives working to end the conflict and promote a two-state solution.
At the conference opening session, Israeli Co-Chairman of the forum Ron Pundak called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to recognize an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, and Jerusalem as the joint capital of both states.
According to Pundak, the publication of confidential negotiations documents by TV network al-Jazeera and British newspaper the Guardian prove that there is a Palestinian partner to a comprehensive peace agreement and therefore Israel must show that it is also a viable partner.
"The sad truth behind the leak is that al-Jazeera tried to weaken the peace supporters by presenting the (Palestinian) Authority as if it had surrendered and capitulated to the Israeli side.
"We belong to the realistic side – if there is no peace based on 'two states for two nations,' the Jewish state will face a true threat, as will the self determination of the Palestinians," he said.
'We are not monsters'Among the Israeli participants were Members of Knesset Orit Zuaretz (Kadima) and Avishay Braverman (Labor), former MK Mossi Raz, Prof. Dan Yaacobson and Dr. Sara Ozacky-Lazar.
On the Palestinian side participants included businessman Hanna Siniora, former Minister Ziad Abu Zayyad as well as representatives of the Interior Ministry, Labor Ministry, and officials from President Mahmoud Abbas' bureau.
Palestinian Co-Chairman Saman Khoury, warned of a shift to the right within the Israeli public. "It's okay to be scared, but come and see us. We are not perfect, but we're not monsters as we are often portrayed in Israel.
"One of our goals is to change the conception that it is so dangerous to meet with us," he explained.
Referring to the claim that there can be no peace agreement as long as a rift exists between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank, Khoury said, "The Palestinian people will have an interest to fight radicals as soon as we have a vision of where we are heading.
"Today, when the (Palestinian) Authority wants to battle extremists, the Palestinian street says that in any case Israel plans to give us a state that devoid of content – an empty shell. I believe that the citizens of Gaza will oppose Hamas, but this will only happen once there is a peace process."
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