Letter of Afif Safieh
Palestinian General Delegate to the
United Kingdom and to the Holy See
The Rt Hon Tony Blair M.P.
Prime Minister
10, Downing Street
London
                                                                                    London, 11 July, 2003.

Dear Prime Minister

I am writing to you, Prime Minister, a few days before you receive in Downing Street Israeli Prime Minister Sharon to express some grave worries I have concerning the implementation of the Road Map, a document in whose adoption and publication you have played a deservedly recognized and significant role. Mr. Sharon might want to capitalize internationally on his reluctant verbal acceptance of the Road Map while, on the ground, the situation leaves, alas, much to be desired.

The major reason why the Road Map was welcomed in Arab and Palestinian circles was the involvement and the commitment of the international community through the Quartet and the clarity of their expectations, of both sides, who were called upon to undertake precise measures simultaneously and mutually.

It seems to me that the last weeks, on the Israeli side, were far from convincing. Prime Minister Sharon should not be allowed to drag the peace process into the familiar path of the previous oriental bazaar during which successive Israeli governments thought they could get away with setting the ceiling of the possible and the permissible as well as dictating the pace of progress.

I believe, Prime Minister, that your discussions with Mr. Sharon can help pre-empt and prevent a predictable impasse if no external stimulus is injected. The peace process will be again in your debt, Sir, if you were to raise the following issues:

1- The Road map demands that Israel abandons its policy of repeated incursions in Palestinian territories and its practice of targeted killings. Alas, we have witnessed incursions, assassinations with "collateral damage" and massive arrests.
2- The Road map demands that Israel dismantles all the settlements/outposts, authorized and unauthorized, built since March 2001. The Americans have informed the Israeli side that their intelligence-gathering shows 94 such outposts. The Israeli government started, timidly, dismantling less than 10 uninhabited outposts, and have allowed several new ones to crop up. More dangerously, settlement expansion is underway in occupied East Jerusalem in the Beit Iksa and Abu Dis neighbourhoods.
3- The Israeli military check- points continue to suffocate the Palestinian people and strangulate our economy. Paradoxically, the proliferation of those check- points accompanied the peace process triggered by Madrid-Washington and Oslo. The freedom of movement of people and products still awaits its materialisation on the ground.

4- The "Wall" being erected deep in the1967 occupied territories is another issue                       that needs to be urgently addressed. Already tens of thousands of Palestinian villagers in addition to the city of Qalqylia are trapped by the monstrous and controversial Berlin-like fence. The Israeli political establishment has to become aware that their entire security doctrine is erroneous and counter productive. Security comes not from territorial aggrandizement but from regional acceptance. And we, the Palestinians, are the key to regional acceptance from Morocco to Muscat, from Rabat to Riyadh.

5- The issue of release of prisoners was already mishandled by the Israeli side after Oslo. We kept telling them, and we were not alone, that there should be a massive release of detainees so that every city, village and refugee camp will have cause to celebrate the return back home of loved ones helping to create a new mood, a new atmosphere and shaping a new positive and constructive environment. The Israeli behaviour on that issue is not only unwise, it is simply sadistic.

6- The Road Map calls upon the Israeli government to allow the reopening of the Palestinian institutions that were closed in occupied East Jerusalem. Maintaining and respecting the Status Quo in Religious sites in Jerusalem, is also of capital importance. The breaches that are occurring, with greater frequency the last weeks, on The Holy Sanctuary, seriously threaten to inflame the situation again, in and beyond Palestine.

7- It would be extremely helpful, Prime Minister, if you were to raise with your guest the issue of facilitating the process of voter registration. This will tremendously accelerate the path leading to the second phase of the Road Map which deals with Palestinian elections. Since the publication of the Road Map was unnecessarily delayed, it would be wise to do some catching up. Palestinian presidential, legislative and municipal elections need not be delayed because of acrobatic conditions inflicted on the teams undertaking the indispensable registration of voters.

8- Last but not least, the siege imposed on President Yasser Arafat in what remains of his office in Ramallah. This siege is perceived by the Palestinian people as a collective national insult that mirrors the siege imposed on our entire society. Mr Arafat is the democratically elected President and remains the embodiment of Palestinian legitimacy and the pillar and cement of central authority. Yasser Arafat has always been, in Arab politics and Arab summits, one of the major leaders of the pragmatic school of thought. His freedom of movement regained will be a major factor in the emergence of the perception that the Road Map is not a trap, but a very credible path guided by the international community towards peace and reconciliation.

Please accept, Prime Minister, the expression of my highest consideration.
 

                                                                                               Afif Safieh
Palestinian General Delegate to the
United Kingdom and to the Holy See