PEACE AND DEMOCRACY
A PROJECT SUPPORT BY THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR DEMOCRACY
Many observers attribute one of the failings of the Oslo Peace Process to the lack of democracy in the Palestinian Authority. These observers believe that when the time for making hard decision came in the final days of negotiations, the very fact that there was no democratic regime in Palestine with a public constituency that had to be taken into account, allowed for the leader to avoid making the difficult decisions. The lack of accountability, the lack of transparency and the centralistic control of both decision making and of the economy have all been pointed to as failings in the Palestinian Authority. President Bush has on many occasions spoken strongly on the need for real democratic reforms in the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian civil society leaders and politicians have also joined in the calls for democratic reform.
In May 2004 IPCRI conducted an Israeli-Palestinian workshop on these topics. The following is the content of that workshop:
In the first Session the group dealt with the question "Is Democracy a prerequisite to peace?" The group had started the discussion with the notion that they need to define what is Democracy, and what is peace. The main questions that rose in the room were as follows: Is democracy a regime or maybe a way of life? Is the model of the west democracy is the perfect one, the one that we aspire to implement? What is Democracy about: Elections? Decision Making? Balance of power between the various branches of the government? Accepting the other's opinion? Peace could be defined as many things for example we have cold peace and warm peace so the participants raised the question how does Democracy in Israel and in Palestine affect the Peace Process? The participants also noted that Democracy could be dangerous. The discussion went further on and the participants tried to answer the opening question which was "Is Democracy a perquisite to peace". They reached to the conclusion that democracy and occupation don't go together: you can't be an occupier and still be Democratic. Another perquisite is to create a social economic basis. The participants also agreed about the importance of education.
In the second Session the working group discussed the question of Israel: "What is right and good and what is bad and wrong in our society concerning democracy? What is the state of Democracy and the challenges facing Democrats in Israel Self and Mutual Critiques". The group discussed the flaws in the Israeli democracy, The main ones that were challenged were: 1) The social rifts 2) Government stability 3) Constant decline in participation 4) Low trust in Democratic institutions. In this stage the Palestinian participants confronted the Israelis with the crucial questions such as: can a Jewish state and Democracy go together? Can a Jewish state be democratic? The Israelis on their side tried to explain the importance of having a Jewish state.
In the third Session we discussed Palestine and asked several questions: "What is right and good and what is bad and wrong in our society concerning democracy? What is the state of Democracy and the challenges facing Democrats in Palestine Self and Mutual Critiques". The participants began this session asking "what is democracy in the eyes of the Palestinians? It was agreed that as an out come of the social political process the Palestinians are not ready for a democratic state. The Palestinians claimed that the Israelis have caused the fragmentation of the Palestinians society and the intervention in the Palestinian politics doesn't assist in the building of a Democratic society. A question was raised about the ability of the Israelis to accept the results of the democratization of the Palestinian society. The Palestinian participants mentioned that in the past they had though that they can implement Democracy in their society, and as prove they stated that they were considered as a bridge to Democracy, and they practice Democracy in Universities and the Municipalities. But, today after two Intifadas, the situation has worsened and it is quite difficult to create Democracy under occupation. Despite this conclusion the Palestinians agreed among themselves that that they should not wait until the occupation ends. One way that was suggested to assist the building a Democratic state is through International Involvement.
In the fourth session the group dealt with the question of threats to Democracy and threats to peace: Confronting extremists and anti- democratic segments within our societies. The main question here was how can we support Democracy in the other side? The group mentioned several threats to Democracy: 1) Issue of Borders 2) Issue of Refuges 3) Threats from Islam extremists 4) Corruption 5) Terror 6) Settlements 7) Luck of one authority on the ground in the Palestinian society. Also some of the participants raised the question how can you exercise Democracy if you have a leader the Israel and the United States do not consider as legitimate? The Israelis raised the question Can the Palestinians build Democracy in a society that supports killing the other? The general fear on both sides was of the extremists that are determining the facts.
In the fifth session we discussed the question of how should both societies confront issues of human rights during the conflict? What is the rule of Human rights community? How can we create awareness? In this session the group came up with several ideas: 1) Create a joint team in order to report what is happening in the area of human rights and to help expose human right violations 2) The Palestinians requested advise from the Israelis how to apply to the Israeli high court. The general agreement was that there is lack of information concerning the legal procedures- and this in return affects the ability of the Palestinians to fight any human rights violations. 3) Create a joint committee to visit the military courts and to inspect the legal procedures. 4) Institutionalize talks between Israelis and Palestinians. It was suggested that this could be done under the auspices of the UN The higher commission of the human rights so that in the long run these talks could turn into a pressure group. 5) Create a workshop on the subject of "flying checkpoints" 6) Create a "hot line" for human rights violations. 6) Arrange a study day for the Human rights lawyers regarding the humanitarian law 7) Create a group of people who have the connections and the knowledge about how to solve problems on the ground, a list of these people should be prepared and distributed to whoever needs that kind of help. 8) Create and Israeli- Palestinian newsletter
In the sixth session we asked what structural, democratic reforms are necessary for both societies to become more democratic. The participants agreed that in order to have a more democratic Palestinian society there is a need for economic- social reforms, also there should be some reforms in the Palestinian Jurisdiction system
In the last session we dealt with the question what can be done to bring about mutual support of democracy in Israel and in Palestine?
Following the workshop, IPCRI began to initiate a program of writing articles and op-ed pieces on the various relevant subjects. These articles and op-ed pieces can be viewed on the IPCRI web page:
Introduction to Democracy Dr. Mkhaimer Abu Sada, Al-Azhar University, Gaza (Arabic)
Democracy and Peace in Jewish Tradition Gideon Admanit (Hebrew)
Peace and Democracy: A Multicultural View - Dr. Sharonah Fredrick (English)
The Role of Islam in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - By: Bassem Eid (English)
Israeli Democracy and the Slippery Peace - By Dr. Reuvan Pedatzur (Hebrew)
A way for Israel to show its magnanimity Uri Dromi International Herald Tribune, March 18, 2005 (http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/03/17/opinion/eddromi.html)
Don't wait for Palestinian democracy Uri Dromi International Herald Tribune, December 18, 2004 (http://www.iht.com/articles/2004/12/18/eddromi_ed3_.html)
Withdrawal remains problematic Uri Dromi Miami Herald, March 18, 2005 (http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/columnists/uri_dromi/11166087.htm)
Dear Marwan: Don't do it Gershon Baskin, International Herald Tribune, December 13, 2004 (http://www.iht.com/articles/2004/12/12/opinion/edbaskin.html)
Elect a Leadership As Fast as Possible Gershon Baskin, Haaretz, November 14, 2004 (Hebrew) (http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/pages/ShArtPE.jhtml?itemNo=501240&contrassID=2&subContrassID=3&sbSubContrassID=0)
A Legitimate Palestinian Leadership Gershon Baskin, November 13, 2004 (English)
Give the Man a Chance, Khaled Duzdar, AMIN, January 7, 2005 (http://www.amin.org/eng/uncat/2005/jan/jan7.html)
The Myth and the Math Khaled Duzdar, January 23, 2005 AMIN (http://www.amin.org/eng/uncat/2005/jan/jan23.html)
COLLECTING ILLEGAL WEAPONS IN PALESTINE AND ENCOURAGING THE DEVELOPMENT OF A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY
By: Bassem Eid*