We condemn in the strongest possible terms the latest outbreak of violence in the Middle East, with the Israeli attacks on Gaza, in response, it claims, to rocket attacks on Israel itself.
- · We urge Israel to reconsider its rejection of the European Union proposal, put forward by the French presidency, for a humanitarian temporary ceasefire, as a first step to a permanent end to all violence.
· Since such violence will always end in political and diplomatic failure, we call on the members of the United Nations Security Council to immediately do all they can to bring about a negotiated solution as quickly as possible – not least to protect civilian lives, particularly in Gaza. · They should jointly call for an immediate ceasefire, to be enforced through sanctions if necessary, and then bring all the parties to the conflict, including Hamas, to a conference designed to achieve a two-state solution based on the principles of the 2003 Geneva Accord, the 2002 Arab League peace initiative, as reaffirmed in 2005, and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations. The current violence will do nothing but create misery and hatred. It will neither eliminate Hamas nor create security for Israel. It is excessive, disproportionate and ineffective, whatever the provocation may have been, just as it was in Lebanon in 2006. It contravenes the basic principles of international law. And it will render any genuine effort at peace ineffective for years to come. Already Syria has withdrawn from its indirect talks with Israel over peace and the Arab world has been riven by angry demonstrations.We are deeply concerned over the humanitarian situation that has resulted from the violence. In the first four days of the attacks, over three hundred and fifty people died, at least sixty-two of them civilians, according to the United Nations, and over one thousand five hundred people were injured after Israel opened its campaign against the Gaza Strip on December 28, 2008. At the same time, four persons died and at least ten were injured in Israel as a result of the rockets fired from Gaza in return. The strategy of Hamas, based on rocket attacks from Gaza on nearby Israeli towns, may well have adversely affected any solution of the Palestinian question. That strategy was, according to Hamas, a response to the isolation imposed, since January 2006, on the Gaza Strip. Hamas, however, should have adopted a strategy consonant with its own democratic legitimacy and with international law, for the strategy of isolation has clearly failed to undermine it. And it is worth remembering the deprivation visited upon the Gaza Strip throughout the past year as part of Israel’s blockade strategy, with the tacit support of outside powers.In any case, the unilateral use of force never, in itself, ends conflict, for that can only come through negotiations between partners genuinely committed to such an outcome, on the basis of international law. And for that to be achieved, the rift within Palestine must first be healed. And that, in turn, can only come about if the Siege of Gaza is lifted so that Hamas and Fatah can negotiate away their differences in good faith. Then Israel, too, will have to confront the issues it has long evaded; of Jerusalem, the settlements, the right of return and the sanctity of frontiers – those of Palestine as well as its own. The role of the United States in any solution of the Israel-Palestinian question has always been critical, despite the disinterest of the Bush administration over the past eight years. The incoming Obama administration, given its interest in improving Arab-American relations, must not be diverted from taking up the challenge of enforcing an immediate ceasefire by any strategy seeking to constrain any of the options available to it.And Europe must support that initiative, in accordance with its call for a permanent halt to the violence, by playing the role sought by Palestinians and Arabs alike; as well as by moderates in Israel; that of active even-handedness in promoting a compromise solution based on two sovereign states side-by-side in the Levant – one Israeli and the other Palestinian. As part of that process, it must engage in bringing Hamas itself, alongside all other relevant Palestinian political actors, into the negotiating process.Asymmetric warfare, in which the stronger, through “shock and awe”, seeks to cow the weaker, has never truly succeeded; whatever short-term successes may seem to emerge. Nor do coerced solutions, achieved through economic pressure and isolation. Negotiation – a political process – is ultimately the only viable way forward, even if neither side can fully offer what the other wants. And in the end, that is what both sides will have to do, for Israel cannot eliminate Hamas.We, the undersigned, have many years of engagement with the affairs of the Mediterranean, and it is in that spirit of engagement and concern that we make this appeal. Mahdi Abdul Hadi George JofféRoberto Aliboni Maria do Rosario de Moraes VazAmr El Shobaki Abdallah SaafAtila Eralp Nadim ShehadiSenén Florensa Álvaro de Vasconcelos Fouad Ammor Mensur AkgünYavuz Tekelioglu Niall GreeneTuomo Melasuo