A place for our dream?
Unless they can work out some form of democratic collective leadership, the Palestinians may lose more than just their land, argues Mustafa Barghouti*
As the wrangling over the roadmap continues and the Palestinian people are subjected to unprecedented new forms of horror, we may find it helpful to put the details of that horror to one side for a moment, and sketch a general overview of our situation.
The Oslo process produced a truce that lasted for seven years. But it was, with a few exceptions, a one- sided truce -- one which the Palestinians mostly observed, while the Israelis continued their attacks on our interests and lands, thus wrecking the prospects of peace.
This assault was carried out on three levels.
Firstly, since the assassination of Rabin, Israel has been governed by the right. True, there was Barak in the interval between Netanyahu and Sharon; but once in power, Barak pursued policies which were totally in line with right-wing interests. In particular, he undermined the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority (PA) by spreading the myth that it was the PA that had rejected the "generous" political offer he had made them, because it was determined to destroy Israel. This myth fed the momentum of the Zionist right-wing as it sought to block the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
Secondly, under Oslo, the building of settlements continued unabated. Since the signing of the accords, over 100 new settlements have been created, and the number of Israeli settlers in the occupied territories has doubled. This was not spontaneous, 'organic' expansion. It was the result of a deliberate and programmed attempt to change the status quo to an extent unprecedented during the previous 27 years of occupation. Indeed, the only period during which the pace of settlement building significantly slowed was that which immediately preceded the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, following the outbreak of the 1987 Intifada.
The post-93 expansion of settlements was an elaborate process. Not only were the settlements themselves often on a large scale, but they needed an intricate network of roads to link them to each other and to Israel. The aim was not to create houses for an expanding Israeli population, but to change the economic and political geography of the occupied territories. Through its settlement activities, Israel has sought to transform the West Bank into ethnically Israeli territory, in which Palestinian villages and towns are nothing more than isolated outposts.
Between 1967 and 1993, Israel had tried to alter particular facts on the ground, mostly in Jerusalem. During the Oslo truce, they sought to transform the geographical character of the occupied territories as a whole, in order to claim these lands for themselves. Yet even this is nothing new, for this is exactly what Israel had already done in the Galilee, the Negev, and Jaffa, where it succeeded in changing the demographics. The territories, however, presented Israel with a more complex problem, because the Palestinians there had stayed on their land.
Since 1967, Palestinian demands have progressively diminished, while those made by the Israelis have continuously risen. The Palestinians were prepared to accept a mere 22 per cent of historic Palestine, instead of the 45 per cent granted them under the UN partition resolution. Following the Oslo accords, the illusion that there might be a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders quickly evaporated. The subsequent negotiations essentially centred on how the West Bank itself should be divided between the two sides. In this sense, Barak's proposals under Oslo were not substantially different from those now being made by Sharon.
There is a third factor too. The systematic destruction of the PA has fatally undermined its ability to build up its structures and move towards the creation of an independent state. Israel in turn has exploited the fragmentation of the Arab world and the complicated international situation to reformulate its conflict, not only with the Palestinians, but throughout the region.
To this end, Israel has remained firmly committed to three basic rules (masterfully described and documented by Raja Shehadah):
1. No Palestinian entity should be allowed to control its borders with any other state. Any future Palestinian entity must be, in effect, "borderless" -- forever surrounded, whether through temporary or permanent measures, by Israeli populations and the Israeli army.
2. Any powers the Palestinian entity or self-rule government may have should remain functional, not sovereign.
3. No arrangements or agreements concluded with the Palestinians or Arabs (and here, Oslo is a case in point) should be allowed to hinder Israel's ability to change the status quo and create new facts on the ground in the occupied territories.
To achieve these aims, Israel has taken advantage of the lack of a cohesive strategic approach on the part of the Palestinians and the Arab negotiators. Israel has always favoured partial and transitional solutions, while developing a web of laws and military decrees which have enabled it to build roads, create settlements, and enforce collective punishment on the Palestinians.
After the outbreak of the second Intifada, Israel also began to use the world media more effectively to change international perceptions of the historic and present-day realities of its conflict with the Palestinians. Its main aim was not only to deny the rights of the refugees, but also to distort the interpretation of these rights -- so much so, that anyone demanding such rights would be accused of wanting to destroy Israel. In the course of this campaign, the occupied territories have been portrayed as "disputed territories", the Intifada was reinvented as a military conflict between two equal forces, and the word "occupation" itself was excised from the vocabulary. Sharon seems to see himself as the man who is meant to finish the job Ben Gurion began in 1948.
This being the case, why is anyone bothering with the roadmap at all? Why has Sharon himself apparently accepted the idea of a Palestinian state? And why doesn't Israel annex all the occupied territories, just as it has annexed Jerusalem and the Golan?
THE DEMOGRAPHIC PROBLEM: The first reason for Israel's hesitation to annex the territories is quantitative. Despite all its efforts, Israel has still not found a solution to demographic problem posed by the Palestinians. Having learned the hard lesson of 1948, those Palestinians who are still living on their land have refused to leave. The mere fact of their presence in these areas is the foremost achievement of the Palestinian struggle. And this presence is not just a numerical achievement, as it was prior to 1967. Today, the Palestinian presence is dynamic, conscious, and committed to resistance. Its continued existence is costly for Israel; indeed, in many ways, Israel is simply unable to cope with the cost of occupation.
Israeli public opinion is excessively sensitive to the cost of occupation in terms of human life. Moreover, Israeli society and its economy simply cannot sustain an open-ended confrontation for a long time. This is why Israel sought so hard to stop both the first and the second Intifadas.
The collapse of the Israeli economy under the pressures generated by the Intifada is clear for all to see. Today, Israel is suffering the worst recession in its history, accompanied by the highest levels of unemployment and capital flight the country has ever known. Israel's losses since the beginning of the Intifada have been estimated at $23 billion. Per capita income has dropped by 12 per cent.
Israel is also highly sensitive to world public opinion. The Israelis are aware that, even if they have managed to hang on to US backing, they are suffering a dramatic loss of credibility throughout the rest of the world. Public support in Europe has collapsed. Arab normalisation with Israel has ground to a halt. International solidarity movements are springing up, some of which are providing the Palestinians with direct grass-roots protection. Despite Israel's protests, the Palestinian solidarity movement has joined forces with the worldwide anti-globalisation campaign, and the two are mutually strengthening one another. Israel is losing the support of the European Parliament, and even the British Parliament is drifting away from them.
Today, Palestinian liberation has become the foremost national liberation cause in the world. Even the deplorable attitude towards the Palestinian issue that still prevails in the United States, thanks to the hegemony of the pro-Israel lobby, is reversible. If the Palestinians living in the United States could succeed, even for a short while, in transcending their divisions, surmounting their fears, and uniting in a lobby funded by their more prosperous compatriots, things could change. It is remarkable that, despite the current imbalance of power, even President George W Bush has been unable to brush aside the two basic conditions for any viable settlement: the establishment of an independent and democratic Palestinian state, and the termination of the 1967 occupation. Nor will he be able to ignore either of these conditions in the future, unless some Palestinian or Arab party provides him with an excuse to do so.
Israel also faces more immediate and concrete obstacles to annexation pure and simple. To put it bluntly, there is no military way of ending the Intifada and the Palestinian struggle. Israel has tried the military solution, more than once, and those attempts have always failed.
Not only that, but it is impossible to get the inhabitants of the occupied territories to leave their homes -- the infamous "transfer" about which Sharon has long fantasised. The last chance for Israel to carry out such a "transfer" came during the recent war on Iraq, but even then, no attempt could be made. There are limits to what force can achieve, even when that force is overwhelming.
So, if it cannot solve its problems by annexing the territories, what does the government of Israel want?
To put it simply, it wants a new truce -- a second Oslo, that will give it the time to carve off what remains of the occupied territories and break what remains of the resolve of the Palestinian national movement. The Israeli government wants a new cease-fire period -- so long as it is enforced only on the Palestinians. They want a semblance of peace, not the real thing. They want the Palestinians to accept the status quo, in the hope that, weakened by divisions and worn out by economic and daily difficulties, we will eventually just give in.
This is how the idea of an interim state, or a state with provisional borders, came about. And this is why Israel objects to the roadmap -- even though it calls for an interim state -- because the roadmap puts a freeze on settlements during its first phase.
As Palestinians, we need to learn from our mistakes. The Oslo accords, backed by US and international guarantees, called for the redeployment of the Israeli army and its evacuation by 1999 from all areas in the West Bank and Gaza, with the exception of the border areas, the settlements, and Jerusalem. This meant that Israel should by then have withdrawn from 90 per cent of the area of the West Bank and Gaza, in return for the postponement of the issues of the refugees, Jerusalem, and the borders. These latter issues would then be resolved through negotiations due to be completed the same year. Yet none of this came to pass. As of September 2000, Israel had only pulled out of 18 per cent of the land, and had not even discussed, let alone resolved, the questions of Jerusalem, the refugees, and the settlements. The only thing which was making progress during this period was the settlements and their road network, whose presence grew, along with those of the army and its roadblocks. So, why does Israel continue to propose an interim state, if there is no intention of ever setting up a definitive one?
It is possible to discern a number of reasons behind this apparently inconsistent behaviour. For a start, an interim state will allow the Israelis to once again postpone indefinitely all discussion of such essential matters as borders, the refugees, the settlements, and Jerusalem. Their hope, of course, is that in time these matters will become impossible to resolve, and so the search for a solution can simply be abandoned.
An interim state is also useful to them in their attempts to reformulate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict so as to ignore the basic rights of the Palestinians. The aim here is to find a solution that will relieve Israel of the demographic burden of annexation, while allowing them to go ahead and annex most of the land. That is why they are proposing a state on 42 per cent of the territories: for this would effectively reduce an "independent" Palestinian state to a collection of geographically- disconnected enclaves, a "state" which has neither sovereignty nor borders. The Palestinians may be allowed to carry on living in ghettos. There may be a system which empowers the inhabitants to rule -- and even persecute -- themselves. They may be allowed to take responsibility for their food, health, and economy. But they will have no sovereignty over their land, and no prospect of transforming their ghettos into a feasible state.
The Palestinians are being eased into this terrible fate gradually, the way someone is made to sip a bitter medicine, on the pretext that this situation is only "temporary". But as we have seen with Oslo, the temporary will soon become permanent; there will always be pretexts for lack of progress, and the issues of Jerusalem and the refugees will always be presented not as matters for negotiation, but as insuperable obstacles.
Right now, Sharon is asking the Palestinians to give up the right of return for the refugees, and to declare the end of the conflict. In exchange, he is offering the Palestinians nothing but a few cramped ghettos to live in. Sharon's solution is the Judaisation and annexation of most of the West Bank and Gaza, and he is asking the Palestinians to make historic concessions so as to allow this to happen. He wants the Palestinians to give up their rights so that they may live in permanent slavery under the worst system of racist apartheid in history. As for the roadmap, Sharon wants to select the elements that suit him and cross out what he doesn't like. That is why he is making 100 alterations to the text, under 15 rubrics. He wants to stop the Palestinian struggle, while refusing to freeze the settlements. He wants to abrogate the right to return, while refusing to discuss Jerusalem.
The maps printed here show how Sharon is just another link in the Zionist chain. The maps show how the borders of the putative Palestinian state keep shrinking, until finally a wall consecrating racial segregation is built and the occupied territories are broken into tiny plots. The 1947 partition scheme gave the Palestinians 45 per cent of the land, whereas the two- state solution based on 1967 borders had given them 22 per cent of the land. Sharon's proposal would give them a mere nine per cent. The figures themselves are telling; but what really matters is the underlying trend.
Whereas the Palestinians have lost more land with each confrontation, their resistance has grown. They have refused to leave, their numbers have continued to increase, and they have committed themselves to a life of struggle, to strengthening their institutional structures, to enhancing their nation's awareness of its rights, and to rallying international support. Through all this, like a thread, runs the fact that the human factor is the most valuable asset we have working for us.
In the past, we employed, and sometimes exhausted, our domestic human resources. Yet we had failed, particularly since Oslo, to organise and employ the human potential of the Palestinians living abroad. To achieve this is one of the core aims of the Palestinian National Democratic Initiative, launched in June 2002.
The roadmap is doomed because Sharon wants it to fail and because the United States is not yet in a mood to pressure him into accepting it. The most likely scenario is that the roadmap will be altered to accommodate Sharon's reservations. This will place the Palestinian people in a situation of unprecedented danger. For the conflict will no longer be a conflict over the percentage of land we are allowed to keep, but over our right to survive as a nation with a cause to live for and an identity to maintain.
It is essential not to allow the current struggle to be distorted or reduced to Israel's point of view. The conflict between the Palestinians and the Israeli occupation is not a dispute between two equal parties; it is not a disagreement over a real estate transaction. One cannot equate the oppressed with the oppressor, or the occupiers with those living under occupation. The Palestinian struggle is that of a nation deprived of freedom, independence and homeland for 55 years, and subjected to occupation for 36 years. It is the struggle of a nation seeking to exercise its right to self-determination -- a right that is commonly exercised by all nations, including the Israelis.
The Palestinians are struggling for a homeland that is free, sovereign and independent, where people can live in freedom and dignity, without persecution or racism. We want a home where the law is upheld and citizens can lead fulfilling lives. The party that is threatened in the current conflict is not Israel, which has the fourth-largest nuclear arsenal in the world, the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction in the region, and one of the most powerful armies in the world. The party under threat is the Palestinian people. We will not rest until we have a free and independent state, one in which we enjoy genuine and undiminished sovereignty, as well as genuine and lasting peace.
All Palestinians need to identify the true nature of the conflict, if we are to reshape the collective awareness of our nation. It is equally important that we strengthen our commitment to domestic democracy, as this is a pre-requisite for transforming our common vision into common action and for building the Palestinian people both at home and abroad into a force to be reckoned with.
THE ROAD AHEAD: In the face of Sharon's designs, and in particular his plan to resolve the Palestinian demographic problem by a system of ghettoisation and apartheid, we need to deploy all five of the fundamental methods which we have at our disposal.
1- A united national command
The first step is to form a united national command to act as a framework for organising collective participation, defining our national resistance strategy, and guiding the various forms of struggle and political action, including negotiations. The gap that currently exists between the PA and the national liberation movement has two possible outcomes: it may cause a catastrophic rift, or it may be resolved through the merger of the two sides into a unified national leadership. Of course, the current situation may also simply continue as it is. But while this may avoid a rift, at the same time it will prevent the nation from converting its sacrifices and steadfastness into concrete achievements. The Palestinians are not the only people who have differences within their ranks. The only way to resolve these differences is through democratic elections. We have to accept the view of the majority, while affirming the right of the minority to continue to work and voice its views.
If we simply allow the current situation to continue, the right circumstances for holding elections will never emerge, and there will never be spontaneous momentum in that direction. What we need is prompt action to form an interim unified command -- a leadership that can provide a modicum of coordination and reconciliation, and offer our people the vision, leadership, and guidance which we have lacked for so long. A unified command is more than a simple gathering of the representatives of various factions. These factions are already represented in many existing structures -- the Executive Committee, the Factions Coordinating Committee, and the various Intifada bodies. The unified command should be an executive body, comprised of the representatives of all political forces, along with representatives of civil society and public figures. For this command to be effective, it should have the power to decide future political action, including negotiating positions. The command should also be empowered to decide on the forms and tactics of the struggle at every stage.
This proposal may seem far-fetched. Some will wonder how the Islamist movements, the PA, and the democrats could ever agree on common negotiating positions. The answer, however, is simply that this is what they have to do, if they care for the common good of their people more than for their own factional interests. At any rate, what is being proposed is simply a provisional leadership, that would not prevent any party from advocating their own final programme to the people in the next elections. The success of this formula, however, will require a consensus on two matters: that elections should be completely free from all the forms of fraud we witnessed in the previous elections; and that all factions should be committed to the rules of the democratic game, should accept the decision of the majority, and understand the merits of pluralistic politics and the rotation of power in a peaceful manner.
Hamas and the PA have had reservations in the past. Right now, the problem is that Hamas and the PA, or part of the PA, still harbour doubts. Some PA leaders want unity, but are not prepared to involve others in political decisions. They want support without accountability, legitimacy without periodic elections, and the right to negotiate on behalf of the nation without the people giving them a clear mandate through democratic means. All these attitudes must be brought to an end, and be replaced by the principles of participation and involvement. At the end of the day, a democratic electoral mandate is needed to provide solid credibility for any Palestinian negotiator. Such a mandate would restore balance to the negotiations, which have so far been lop-sided. Sharon is able to negotiate with overwhelming support from an elected Knesset, whereas Abu Mazen, like Yasser Arafat before him, can only rely on a minority government representing no more than one-fifth of the Palestinian population, and supported by a Legislative Council whose electoral mandate, based only on a section of the Palestinian people, expired in 1999.
President Arafat, for all his political weight and despite the fact that he was democratically elected, had to go back to the National and Central Councils to secure political backing for his decisions. Abu Mazen is in an even weaker position. He was not elected to his current post and he lacks Arafat's stature within Fatah or the PLO. More than any previous PA government, Abu Mazen's needs a unified national command to back it, until elections can be held. And no one should be allowed to procrastinate about the holding of elections. Otherwise, the government will never achieve the legitimacy it needs to conduct the negotiations. Instead, it will have to renegotiate every single decision it makes separately with the various factions, a process that is as unjustifiable in principle as it would be untenable in practice.
There are four things the Palestinian people need to do at this juncture: (a) preserve our national unity and not allow anyone to challenge the integrity of our vision; (b) transcend attempts to sow division in our ranks; (c) nurture our national legitimacy and capacity for independent decision-making at a time when even powerful nations seem unable to do so; and (d) introduce genuine domestic reforms that will clear the leadership of all charges of inefficiency and unaccountability. On the political level, we need to free our political system from outdated restrictions, open the system to full participation, particularly by women and the young, redistribute resources in a manner that supports the steadfastness of the poor and underprivileged and their ability to stay in their homeland, and energise our human resources -- the main source of our vigour -- to the greatest possible extent.
We therefore need a unified national command, as a temporary structure that will be dissolved once elections have taken place. Struggle, both through diplomatic channels and through other political means, cannot be conducted by a divided people with conflicting interests, or through decisions taken by a minority which are strongly contested by the majority. We also cannot afford to confuse the world, and especially our friends, with conflicting messages and rhetoric.
2- Free elections
Palestinians are entitled to free and democratic elections, facilitated by an international presence that would replace the Israeli forces. We should be allowed to elect people whom we trust to negotiate all aspects of the final settlement. This is the only course of action that can end the marginalisation of the Palestinian people and allow us to take an active part in shaping our own future.
Elections would strengthen civil resistance and fortify the apparatus of an independent state. They would not be difficult to organise. Indeed, elections figure in the roadmap, an independent committee has already been formed to supervise them, and European funding has been earmarked. Elections are the only way we can end the current imbalance between Israeli and Palestinian demands. How many times has the international community succumbed to manipulation by Israel using the pretext that Israel is a democratic state while Palestine is not? Palestinian demands have to be backed by public participation in the democratic process. Elections would establish accountability for every Palestinian public official, parliamentary representative, and negotiator.
It is hard to imagine that the apparatus of the Palestinian state can be created without first holding elections for municipal councils, the Legislative Council, and the presidency. All of these are urgent matters. Elections for the municipal councils have not been held since 1976. The Legislative Council's mandate expired in 1999, and as a result the Council lacks both the political and the moral authority to ratify any agreements concerning the final peace settlement.
The Palestinian National Council, which is supposedly the main source of legitimacy for the PLO, has been in office for over a decade, and is not expected to hold elections soon. In practical terms, most of its powers have already been taken away from it. This is true for most other PLO bodies too, whose powers have been subsumed within the PA. As a result, democratic life within the PLO has simply come to a standstill.
Once democracy has been revived, the Palestinians will have a powerful argument with which to debunk Israel's claim that it is the only democratic country in a region peopled by barbarians, and that military oppression and terror are therefore necessary to protect its democracy. The involvement of the broad democratic movement in the elections would also refute the Israeli claim that the Palestinians are either despotic rulers or fanatic fundamentalists.
3- Rejection of partial solutions
As Palestinians, we should resist all attempts to sabotage the essence of our national independence. In particular, we should refuse to be dragged into the long dark tunnel of partial and transitional "solutions". Instead, we must insist on the establishment of an independent state with full sovereignty, one that has real control over its borders, its natural resources and its water reserves. We should therefore regard with caution any stage defined as an "interim state" or a state with interim borders. We should insist that all issues relating to the final peace settlement be addressed and resolved: settlements, borders, Jerusalem, and the refugees. In Israel's lexicon, "temporary" means "permanent". Truly temporary measures should only be used to alleviate pressure and return the crisis to square one, as happened under Oslo. What is needed is a collective stand which rejects partial and transitional solutions and insists that any solution should include all four core issues: refugees, borders, Jerusalem, and settlements. The only real solution is the creation of an independent, democratic state with genuine sovereignty and control over its borders, land, airspace, and natural resources.
The Palestinians have the right and ability to resist the idea of an interim state. I have not met one single emissary, either European or American, who was excited or even slightly hopeful about the interim state arrangement. That is because the idea is simply, and self-evidently, untenable. If it figures in the roadmap at all, that can only be because it was adopted under Israeli pressure. In response to this kind of blackmail, we must insist on a fully sovereign Palestinian state. In other words, we must insist on real, last peace to end the suffering of both peoples.
4- Support for the disenfranchised
The Palestinian National Initiative has called for the energising of the potentials of the Palestinian people and for the deployment of this potential in the struggle for liberation and independence. To do that, we must provide sufficient support for the working and disenfranchised sections of the population in the occupied territories. And we must find a way of rallying expatriate Palestinians to the cause, and restoring the bonds between them and the rest of the nation. This can be done through the revival of the national project and various forms of public and civic struggle against occupation.
A cease-fire and cessation of military operations, if it is, hopefully, to last, would free the Intifada from its military associations, reassert the moral integrity of the Palestinian national cause, and fling the door wide open to the masses to engage in broader forms of civil struggle. Cease-fire does not in any way mean ending the struggle, and the negotiations to come should mirror the course which that struggle will take, particularly since the latter is likely not only to continue, but to escalate. One can already sense how the struggle will develop, by observing Israel's plans for new settlements and for the further Judaisation of Jerusalem. Sharon's refusal to negotiate over Jerusalem and the refugees is a case in point.
5- Rallying international solidarity
We need to rally the support of the growing international solidarity movement. One day, history will perhaps record that the foremost achievement of the Al-Aqsa Intifada was to revive the support of the international solidarity movement for the Palestinian people, which had dwindled due to our failure to defend our own rights effectively, and the false impression produced by Oslo that peace had been achieved, when actually the claws of occupation and settlement had never ceased tearing Palestinian land apart.
The creation of the grass-roots international campaign to protect the Palestinians (GIPP) was a brilliant step towards reshaping the international solidarity movement. And that solidarity movement can expand yet further. Along with our own public defiance, it is an important bastion for the Palestinian struggle. If we can combine the international solidarity movement and our own national resistance, we will generate a force comparable to that which fought apartheid in South Africa, a force capable of exposing the ills of occupation and settlements and bringing to an end the occupation and racism from which our people have long suffered.
If this were to be achieved, it would provide at last a partial vindication for our people after a century, if not centuries, of suffering. For generations, we have known nothing but foreign rule, and have had to put up with persecution and injustice. For centuries, we never had a chance to rule ourselves, determine our own future, plan our lives, and live in freedom and pride. Yet despite this, we have been able to transcend our suffering, banish our sense of victimisation, and focus on self-improvement and education. Scientific, professional, and national struggle has become, for each one of us, a way of paying homage to our beloved Palestine.
Palestinians have helped build dozens of countries and supported scores of national liberation movements. Now is the time for us to have our own state and finally achieve the freedom we deserve. This would represent a major achievement, not just for the Palestinians, but for the rest of humanity and for the cause of peace with justice throughout the world. It would be an achievement for the Israelis, too, for they would finally be able to see the world from a whole new perspective, not just down gun barrels and through the panels of Apache helicopters. The Israelis must be aware that a nation that has to persecute and occupy others to survive cannot itself be free.
Palestinians everywhere need to have faith in themselves and in their ability to attain freedom and independence. This faith will help us preserve the moral integrity of the Palestinian struggle and steer clear of practices which may tarnish this integrity.
That we must rely on ourselves and develop our own potential was the lesson we learned from the painful experience of the first Camp David conference in 1978. The more we organise our people, civil society, and official apparatus, the more effective we will be in our struggle.
We must surmount divisions and embrace democracy as the means of resolving all our differences. Diversity should become a source of vitality, not division.
The Palestinian National Initiative can open up new horizons for the Palestinian people and enable us to revive our potential, consolidate our resolve, energise our struggle, and attain our goal of a free, peaceful, independent, and democratic state.
As difficult as it looks, I'm fully confident that there is a place for our dream; there is a place for peace and for Palestine.
* The writer is secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative and president of the Palestinian Medical Relief Committees.