Palestinians should have a country... Today, not tomorrow

DUBAI - PALESTINIANS should have a country today and not tomorrow, former Lebanese premier Rafik Al Hariri, told delegates at the Arab Strategy Forum yesterday.

By Jamila Qadir

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Published: Wed 15 Dec 2004, 10:43 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:29 PM

Criticising efforts by Western powers to link statehood for Palestinians with ‘good behaviour’, he said: “A Palestinian State should not be a prize for good behaviour. A state is not a piece of chocolate or the promise to take a child to picnic if he behaves well. Arabs are ready for a just peace. I hear that the US and Europe are convinced of a Palestinian state. But Palestinians should have a country today and not tomorrow.” Delivering the keynote address on the second day of the three-day forum, the former prime minister of Lebanon said that for there to be a comprehensive and just peace in the region, Israel will have to withdraw its army from Lebanese and Syrian territories.

Speaking on the theme of ‘Arab World in 2020’, Al Hariri said that he is optimistic, but that optimism is based on factors. One of these is that the world has to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. “We have to achieve just peace. We have to end Israeli occupation. This is a focal point that will define our future.”

He said the Palestinian people have a right to live in peace and security in their own homeland. “There should be confidence building measures. These cannot be built in one day or two or in one year or 10. Oslo was 10 years ago. Today’s roadmap for peace is based on the same principle and that is what is taking us to a dead end. There is increasing violence and counter violence.

“If there is serious political will to achieve a Palestinian state, any delay will give both parties the opportunity to delay peace further,” Al Hariri said. Referring to Iraq, the former Lebanese premier said that the proposed elections are an opportunity for unity among Iraqis. “There should be no discrimination and all people should be able to participate. We have to have the support of the international community, especially the USA.” Al Hariri said another pillar of a better future of the Arab world is democracy. “Reform has not been successful because there was no good base for democracy or freedom. Democracy is a must and not a choice. However, the concept of democracy is not as defined in the US and Europe. Some say that Islam and democracy do not go together. This is very wrong. Islam has its own transparent way of a relationship between the ruler and the people.” He said the present times are critical for the Arab world. “Can we succeed in economic reforms when we have failed in political reforms?” he asked. Though the situation is depressing, it is not entirely pessimistic. “We need to start working today for the future. We need to start working on what kind of a future we want in 2020. We have to identify objectives, otherwise we will continue to be reactive and not pro-active. We have to have a role in the world.

We must be a partner in the dialogue about our fate,” Al Hariri said. “The challenges are not easy. We need to make fundamental changes in sectors such as education, teaching and learning, human resources development and re-training and rehabilitation. That is the best investment we can make. Waiting will not benefit us. Suddenly we will find ourselves in 2020,” he added.

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