Statement by Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., at the 8th Annual Peace Prize Forum, Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, 23 February 1996:
On behalf of President Arafat, I would like to say that it is an honor and a pleasure for me to be here today at Luther College on the occasion of the Eighth Annual Peace Prize Forum. I wish to thank all those involved in the coordination and preparation of this event, including Dr. Lundestad, Executive Director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute. Norway's role in international affairs and in promoting peace around the world has been significant and laudable.
This tribute to three Nobel Peace Prize laureates from the Middle East, Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, represents not only a tribute in recognition of their brave and determined efforts to make peace a reality for their peoples, but also a tribute to the overall goal of achieving a just and lasting peace in the Middle East as a whole and to all those supporting the many challenging tasks in this regard. At this time, I cannot fail to mention, in particular, the person who just recently paid with his life in pursuit of this goal, the late Prime Minister Rabin.
Clearly, the peace process begun by the three laureates in Oslo, Norway has already generated serious strides and changes towards a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East. It symbolizes a turning point ultimately leading to a comprehensive and viable solution to the Palestine question, the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Striving for Peace: From National to Common Security
I would like now to begin discussion of the subject we are examining today - from national to common security. For a long time the state has been the cornerstone and foundation of international relations, while national security has represented the most important pillar upon which policies of states were established. The precise meaning of national security has been evolving, however, especially in recent times.
In the past, military challenges to states were most often specific and simple. Also, states were able to pursue their own policies in relative isolation of events all around the world. Some had been able to build walls that isolated their peoples from the outside world. Then came progress in transportation and media technology in a way which transcended isolationist barriers and increased interaction among states and among peoples, making isolation impractical or even unfeasible. That trend has gone even further with the sophistication of satellites, computers and the growth of international information resources generated by the onset of the information age.
With such changes and technological progress and development, even the military meaning of security has evolved and changed, affected by the creation of new generations of ballistic missiles, sophisticated weaponry systems and theoretical concepts such as "Stars Wars". Coupled with this change in the meaning of the military component, new and serious threats to the security of states have emerged. They are broad or even global in nature, not directed towards any country in specific and cannot be defeated without regional, and in some cases international, cooperation. These include direct threats such as diseases, the most prominent and deadly of which is AIDS, the illicit trafficking and use of narcotic drugs, international terrorism and more complex threats such as environmental threats like global warming and ozone depletion, and threats of rising instability due to rapid increases in population, especially in the Third World, resulting in further economic decline and waves of economic refugees over the borders of states.
All of these threats have potential impact on the well being and security of most states in a way which is not less than the potential impact of the military threat. That, of course, has lead to greater prominence and importance to regional cooperation and multilateral diplomacy. To a large extent it has created a shift, moving the world from the fundamental concept of national security to the concept of common security.
While we speak of the broad changes taking place in our world, I must speak about a new important phenomenon, namely economic globalization, which transcends the traditional international economic system of the past. Linked to that is the increasing trend of automation and the quest for greater efficiency in production processes and trade relations. As a result, we can expect a different kind of situation to evolve on the national and international level. Of course, it is still not easy to grasp fully the extent of change to which economic globalization may lead, and it will take some time before we can completely understand it and its various consequences and before states may begin to take concrete steps to deal with its practical effects.
The Middle East is, of course, part of our world and what happens in the world does impact on the region. This includes all that I have already mentioned with regard to the various changes taking place. It could be argued that even the Middle East peace process was partially a result of the important changes taking place around the world, which in a sense had made the standard of living more important than ideologies and the economic situation as important as nationalistic positions, making contemporary competition an economic one more than a military one.
But the Middle East, in addition to being part of the world, has certain special features, the most basic of which is the old and rooted Middle East conflict between the two former enemies - the Arabs with the Palestinian people in their forefront and the Israelis. The question therefore is the following: How can the Middle East move forward in a way which responds positively to all international changes and progress, including in the domain of national and common security? For this to happen it seems to me that there is a need to establish lasting peace and conditions of stability, which are prerequisites for changing the meaning and concept of security. Let us examine the means for such challenging achievements.
In discussing the means, I will concentrate on the Palestinian side, being a Palestinian and because the Palestinian issue is the core of this conflict. Achieving a real solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would greatly alter the spectrum and any regional change is dependent upon this. In my opinion, the means by which the Middle East can change and evolve with the rest of the world and by which the overwhelming negative aspects of this historical conflict may be neutralized are as follows:
First is the mutual recognition between the two sides, which would put an end to the traditional denial of the existence of the other side. Traditionally the Palestinians did not accept the right of Israel to exist and the Israelis did not accept the existence of the Palestinian people or at least the national rights of these people, including their right to establish their own state. It is with regard to this point, more than anything else, that we measure the extreme importance of the Oslo agreement since one of its pillars was the mutual recognition between the two sides.
What does this mean for the future? It means that the two parties must take concrete steps to enforce the important steps already taken in this direction. The Palestinian side needs to produce changes in the convenant of the PLO to enforce their recognition of Israel. And, on the Israeli side there is a need for clear acceptance of the Palestinian State, which in my opinion is equivalent to the recognition of the existence of Israel - it is not a tactical matter. The Israelis may negotiate or argue for specific conditions or the kind of relations between this state and others around it, be it Israel or Jordan, but the real psychological change on the Palestinian side on this issue will come with the Israeli acceptance of the Palestinian state.
The second means necessary is substantial economic development on the Palestinian side, paving the way for future regional development and progress. I am emphasizing the need for economic development on the Palestinian side, taking into consideration the destroyed Palestinian infrastructure and an average individual income less than one-tenth of the average income in Israel. With such a prevailing situation, it is not possible to build a real peace and a stable relationship despite all good intentions on the part of leaders. Also, the Israeli vision with regard to its relationship with the Palestinian economy should change. In the past, Israel has considered the Palestinians to be a good source for cheap labor and a guaranteed market for Israeli products. This is something we don't feel has seriously changed despite other positive developments in the peace process. There is a need for a new perception which would rely more on the real, independent growth of the Palestinian economy and on a new relationship between this economy on the one hand and the Israeli economy on the other.
Another very important aspect of development is, of course, regional development. A lot of discussions, studies and planning could take place in the immediate future in this regard. In my view, however, no big steps can be taken on this front without serious and quick economic development on the Palestinian side, for both practical and political reasons.
The third, very important means is the achievement of a just and balanced final settlement - one which would take the interest of both sides into consideration, which would respond to the stated national goals of the two peoples and which will pass the test of durability. It cannot be one imposed by an imbalance of power. For instance with regard the situation in Jerusalem, Arabs and Muslims will never give up their rights with regard to Jerusalem - it is written in the Holy Koran, not man-made. The same exists on the other side of the coin in the Jewish case. So any imposed solution with regard to Jerusalem, even if it is accepted as de facto, would not be considered as just and will most probably not endure. In other words, imbalanced solutions imposed by imbalances of power call or invite further instability and conflict in the region, which will clearly impede any other kind of progress.
The fourth means relates to actively combating extremism in the region, whether religious or nationalistic. The most viable method of doing so is not just political, but through the combination of the above-mentioned elements - mutual recognition, economic development and the achievement of a just and balanced settlement. Of course, when we speak of combating extremism, we speak not only of the Palestinian side, the extremists of which may be more well known, but also of the Israeli side. The presence of this extremism was clearly demonstrated not long ago with the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.
Naturally, coupled with achievements in the above-mentioned fields, will come achievements in the military field. That includes parts of political agreements on demilitarization, monitoring and observation, etc. However, in addition to this, the region needs to get into serious negotiations related to weapons of mass destruction, with the aim of building a zone free of such weapons in the Middle East. Real integration and genuine cooperation cannot take place under the threat of nuclear armament. Obviously, however, steps in that regard go hand in hand with the overall improvement of the situation in the region.
Without such a combination of developments and achievements, I do not believe that it is possible for the concept common security and ideas of cooperation for the benefit of the whole to take root. Also, the sovereignty of all states in the region and the right to live within secure borders must be respected and guaranteed to allow states to focus their energies and efforts towards various other objectives for their societies, including social and economic development.
Ultimately, it seems to me that we in the Middle East need to follow a known equation to move from the state of balance of power to a state of balance of interest. It is only then that each of our national security concerns can be replaced, at least partially, by common security goals.