Statement of Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., before the Jewish Labor Committee's Biennial Convention, 10 September 1995:

It is a pleasure for me to meet with you today to exchange views and perspectives on prominent issues of concern to all of us with regard to the current Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

I believe that the two sides are truly engaged in the steering and building of the future in the Middle East in a way which is drastically different from the Middle East we have known for the past 50 years. The future towards which they strive is one promising peaceful coexistence, serious economic development and cooperation, social justice and democracy. Often times, in historic processes such as this, people do not fully realize the importance and magnitude of the practical results that are being achieved on the ground and the impact of such results on future generations.

Speaking about today, however, there is no doubt that the Middle East is different than that before the famous handshake on the South Lawn of the White House. Politics have changed, facts on the ground have changed and, most importantly, the psychology of people has been changing. There are many new dynamics at play.

This, of course, does not belie the fact that there have been serious difficulties throughout the course of the peace process and many stumbling blocks that remain. In this regard, I speak not only of those related to the difficulties of any similar process of negotiating peace, but also of those problems created by the enemies of peace - by extremists on both sides who do not hesitate to use violence to achieve their political goals. I refer here to actions by Palestinian extremists, which we condemn, but also to Israeli extremists, especially the settlers.

Unfortunately, the authorities on both sides, in my opinion, have not been decisive enough and, in many cases, have shown hesitance in the political as well as the practical sense with regard to their support of the peace process on the one hand and their confrontation with the enemies of the process on the other. This has put them at a disadvantage on several occasions. Worse still is the fact that the two parties, the Israeli government and the Palestinian National Authority, have failed to comply with many provisions of the Declaration of Principles as well as the Agreement on the Gaza Strip and Jericho Area. The most prominent example of non-compliance is the fact that we are almost 13 months behind schedule with regard to the agreed timetable for the holding of Palestinian elections.

The two parties are, however, close to achieving an extremely important step with the conclusion of the Temporary Agreement on the second stage of the implementation of the Declaration of Principles. Differences do remain on important issues, such as the redeployment of Israelis forces from Al-Khalil, the participation of Jerusalemites in the election and issues related to land and water. These are very important issues and, in my opinion, the key to reaching any agreement would be once more full compliance with the spirit and letter of the agreements already reached. By succeeding in reaching an agreement this time, the two sides will succeed in taking the Middle East a huge step forward on the road to permanent peace and prosperity.

The economic situation of the Palestinian people in the Palestinian territory has not improved enough since the beginning of the peace process. In my opinion, this has been due to the lagging of the international community in fulfilling the pledges and commitments made and due to some of the measures and tactics pursued by the Israeli side, whether those which directly harmed the economic development process or those which created a state of tension. It is extremely important for the Palestinian people to experience a better economic situation, not only as a natural right of peoples, but also for extremism to vanish and the peace process to succeed.

While we meet here in the United States, we cannot fail to refer to the importance of an active American role in support of the peace process. This holds true in terms of both political support and financial support with regard to the economic development of the Palestinian territory. It is the realization of this importance that has led the Israeli right to wage such a war in Washington on Capitol Hill against the peace process in general, and the PLO in specific, in a campaign full of distortion and stereotypes. Here, it is now time for the forces that do support peace to stand up against this campaign to reflect the new political realities of the Middle East in Washington once and for all.