The CEPR organised a delegation of 12 European and UK parliamentarians to visit Jordanian, Palestinian, and European officials in Amman, Jerusalem and the West Bank between October 7-12, 2011.
The CEPR organised a delegation of 12 European and UK parliamentarians to visit Jordanian, Palestinian, and European officials in Amman, Jerusalem and the West Bank between October 7-12, 2011. The delegation was led by Lord Hugh Dykes, Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs in the House of Lords, and included two Members of the European Parliament (MEP) from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), a Scottish parliamentarian and a Belgian Senator.
To view more photos of the CEPR delegation in October 2011, click here: Jordan, Jerusalem and the West Bank
The delegation was welcomed in Amman by the Jordanian Prime Minister, Dr. Marouf al-Bakheit, who explained the position of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan regarding the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and the current reforms underway since before the so-called 'Arab Spring'. Dr. al-Bakheit said that "Israel's present attitude of let's wait and see is completely wrong" and the "problem is getting worse" for Israel and the Palestinians. He highlighted that the "peace camp is shrinking" and dropped substantially from the 84 per cent of the Jordanian population in favor of the bilateral peace signed with Israel in 1994.
Contrary to Lebanon where the Palestinians are banned from over 70 official jobs, the Palestinians are allowed to vote in Jordan. Prime Minister al-Bakheit said that "Jordan is ready to support negotations" but that Israel was scared of refugees and the Palestinian right of return. He emphasized the "serious need for cmoprehensive peace in the region" and highlighted that Jordan was carrying out numerous domestic reforms, such as constitutional amendments that would lead to municipal elections by the end of 2011 and national elections in 2012. Jordan seems to be moving towards a parliamentary government.
On Sunday, October 9, the CEPR delegation crossed the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge into the West Bank and met with the elected Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) members currently seeking protection at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). One of the PLC members elected in 2006, Mr. Ahmad 'Attoun, was detained by Israeli security forces in the ICRC compound on September 26 and imprisoned with over 20 other elected Palestinian politicians in Israeli jails. The PLC members hosted a lunch in honour of the CEPR delegation visit to the ICRC.
In the afternoon, the delegates toured the Old City of Jerusalem with Dr. Nazmi Jubeh, a renowned Palestinian archaelogist and professor at Birzeit University. Dr. Jubeh described the different historical eras and the overlapping of history, religion, ethnicites, and politics as perceived clearly by the delegates in the different quarters of the Old City. The incremental but continual Judaization of the Old City was evident with the absence of Arabic names and the expansion of the thriving Jewish Quarter.
The delegates were then greeted by the families of evicted Palestinians from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah who described who the Israeli security forces came and removed their children and belongings from their homes and turned over the dwellings to Jewish settlers. The evicted Palestinians are largely from the Hanoun and Hawi families who were considered 'protected tenants' until 2009. Since 1967 over 15.000 Palestinians have been deported from East Jerusalem.
The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel also provided their perspective on being Arab Israeli politicians within the Knesset (Israel's Parliament). They described the domestic discrimination against Arabs as demonstrated by the recent "Price Tag" organisation that has desecrated Christian and Muslim cemeteries in Jaffa. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel described the Parver Plan to expel 30.000 Bedouin Arabs from the Negev Desert and the new decree against using the Arabic language in Israel.
On Monday, October 10, the CEPR delegation was briefed by the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah), an Israeli-Palestinian human rights organisation, along with the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions (ICAHD) who then led the delegation on a tour of the Silwan neighbourhood, just south of the Old City, where Israel is evicting Palestinians as part of a plan to build a national garden in the "Bustan" (spring) valley. On the hilltop over the valley, 400 appartments are planned as part of the new Nof Zion settlement that is protected by an Israeli police station.
Mr. John Gatt-Rutter, provisional European representative in the West Bank, and Mr. Sergio Piccolo from the European Commission explained the different local and international efforts and initiatives that the European Union has been supporting in the Palestinian territories. In the context of the Palestinian UN membership bid in late September and the ongoing complications of carrying out development projects, the state of Palestine is rather bleak. The PLC Chairman, Dr. Aziz Dweik confirmed the difficulties in state-building during a frank and open meeting in Hebron.
On Tuesday, October 11, the Palestinian Ministry of State welcomed the CEPR delegation in Ramallah and presented the territorial annexation of Jerusalem by the Israeli 'security/separation' wall as well as the 'eastern' Israeli wall that cuts deep into the West Bank far inland from the Jordan River.
"How can one ask the Palestinians to negotiate without any precondition that the ongoing settlement activities - that are illegal under international law - will stop, while they have to watch how the north is being divided from the south of the West Bank, and how, in addition, the access to the Death Sea is being obstructed?" - Alexandra Thein, ALDE MEP, Germany
The expropriation of territory by Jewish settlers is one of the largest impediments to reaching peace. This aspect and the dire effects of the Israeli occupation were reinforced by the independent politician and leader of the Palestinian National Initiative, Dr. Mustafa Baghouti, at the Palestinian Medical Relief Society.
European Parliamentarians listened intently as Dr. Barghouti recounted the complexities of Palestinian politics. He described the international overturn of the 2006 Palestinian elections and the subsequent denial of a national unity government to be created as the "biggest distaster since 1948" and the "collapse of democracy" for the Palestinians. As ways to restore democracy, he mentioned implementing non-violent resistance (boycotts), creating unity amongst the Palestinians, and mobilizing international solidarity to change the balance of power in favor of justice and fundamental rights.
Dr. Barghouti led the CEPR delegation to have an exchange of views with their counterparts in the Palestinian Parliament who described the ongoing hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners for basic human treatment in Israeli jails - not even to be released. This was reiterated by Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr. Salam Fayyad, who added that 3/4 of a million Palestinians had been detained at some points since the Israeli occupation began in 1967. Dr. Fayyad has been focusing on reducing the national deficit so that "Palestine will no longer need external assistance for expenditures in 2012."
Lastly, the CEPR delegation was briefed by the European Union civilian mission for the rule of law and reform of the Palestinian civil police - EUPOL-COPPS - in the West Bank. The Europeans have been active in training the Palestinian police in traffic measures and stopping petty robberies, as well as bridging the gap with the judicial system by creating courts and training judges. However, since all activities in the Gaza Strip have been suspended and East Jerusalem remains off limits for the Palestinian police, the European efforts may be reinforcing geographic, political, social, economic divisions of the Palestinians.