Statement of Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., before the Dor Hemshech Cabinet Forum on the Peace Process, 13 March 1996:

When I accepted the invitation for this evening's forum, I was prepared to speak of the peace process in a different light than that in which it stands today following the recent tragic events, which of course requires a shift of focus in our discussion despite the fact that the fundamentals of the peace process remain the same.

I believe that the peace process was about to move on to a new level of achievement and success following the results of the important Palestinian elections and the evident support of the majority of Israelis for the peace policies being pursued by the present government. In addition, there were the smooth proceedings of the Israeli-Jordanian peace and even some positive indications emerging with regard to the Israeli-Syrian negotiations. The Middle East was indeed on the verge of taking further qualitative steps in the direction of the establishment of a comprehensive and lasting peace. It was at this particular stage that those horrific bombings took place. They occurred, in my opinion, because of the above-mentioned prevailing situation, with the aim of preventing those new qualitative steps from being carried forth and even with the larger aim of killing the peace process as a whole.

I would like, at this time, to make some further comments in this regard.

1) These bombings have taken place out of a desire to destroy the peace process and not as a result of that process. It is clear that the alternatives to this process could only be more extremism, more bloodshed and less compromise and coexistence. We believe that while those bombings are aimed at Israeli civilians for the purpose of causing as much damage as possible, they are also against the national interests of the Palestinian people and the attempts to build a new Middle East.

2) There has been clear and unequivocal condemnation by the Palestinian side at all levels of those bombings. This reflects our general position of condemning any violent act directed at civilians, particularly more so at a time of peace making.

3) The relevant organs of the Palestinian Authority have been taking concrete actions in confrontation of extremist groups conducting violent actions. The recent steps taken by the Authority are based on the decision outlawing all paramilitary groups in the areas under the Palestinian Authority, including Izzedine Qassem Brigade and Islamic Jihad. We believe that there has been some important success in this regard and we intend to continue in this direction.

4) We believe, however, that the doors should remain open for all those who believe in the democratic process and are ready to abide by the rule of law, away from violence and terror to participation in Palestinian political life.

5) It is also our belief that the security aspect, in spite of its importance, cannot alone provide for a solution to the complex problems we have. We stress the importance of the political dimensions and the economic dimensions as well. In other words, to solve the crux of the problem there is a need for political progress towards the achievement of the Palestinian goals of freedom and statehood. There is also a need for economic progress, which would lead to a different standard of living and greater stability.

6) We disagree with many measures and actions taken by Israel in response to the recent bombings. While one may understand the amount of pain and pressure that is being felt, no actions should be taken in violation of the agreements between the two parties or in violation of international humanitarian law and other human rights instruments. While we must take into consideration the concerns of the immediate future, the actions of the two parties have to be based on the necessity of maintaining sight of our mutual goals in the longer term.

Today's Summit of Peacemakers was concluded in Egypt and as the final statement reads, "The meeting took place at a time when the peace process confronts serious threats. The Summit had three fundamental objectives: to enhance the peace process, to promote security and to combat terror". I believe that the summit was a very important event, which will hopefully help to achieve those objectives. Let us all reaffirm our commitment to such noble objectives.