Buenos Aires – Monday, November 15, 1999
I do not know people who love war (view)
Suhail Akel is the representative of the Palestinian government in the country and today he inaugurates his representation in a mansion –donated by the Argentine government- which is located at 900 Riobamba street.
The house was in ruin and its reparation lasted a year. With regard to the peace process, Akel is optimistic. For the future, he thinks about the existence of a kind of Mercosur in Middle East with Israeli, Palestinian and Jordan integration.
By L. B.
-Is the inauguration of this embassy important in the history of relationships between Palestine and Argentina?
-According to us, it is highly important because it consolidates the Palestinian presence in Argentina and Argentina becomes a friend of Palestine’s. I want to remind you that the Argentine government has donated this house, contributing to the peace process because it helps to rebuild our country, our State. This generosity has been proven not only with this donation but also with the sending of White Helmets to Palestine and the donation of ten technological community centers. This is a house ready for receiving all those people who are committed to peace. From the Argentine Republic, this headquarter is going to work to achieve a better approximation between Palestine and Israel, and the rest Arab countries in the region.
-Had there been a Palestinian diplomatic representation or a Palestinian political representation before?
-In 1990 I was in charge of a Palestine Information Office which dealt with OLP’s interests. At that time, we tried to be respectful of the Argentine government. We understood that Argentina had gone through difficult situations such as the Gulf War and the regrettable terrorist attacks on the Embassy of Israel and AMIA. We were interested in tightening relationships, but we were prepared to wait for Argentines’ time. It is important to emphasize that the elected government of Dr. Fernando De La Rua has shown signs of sympathy towards Palestine through the meetings the elected President has maintained with our president, Yasser Arafat. Dr. De La Rua has manifested he wants Argentina to continue supporting the peace process and the best understanding between Palestinians and Israelis.
-Were you born in Jerusalem?
-I was born in Jerusalem in 1946. In 1948, when the State of Israel was created on my country, I became a refugee. I had a long exile in several Arab countries and in Americas. In 1995, I was finally able to go back to my country after 46 years of exile. There is no doubt that that moment was highly important and moving. However, after so many years, it particularly allowed me to visit the dead relatives rather than alive ones.
Relations I: “the elected government has shown signs of sympathy towards Palestine through the meetings it has maintained with our president, Yasser Arafat “.
-You experienced that moving stage in your country, what do you think of the present peace conversations in Middle East and the future of the Palestine State?
-Since the administration of Ehud Barak, the situation has favorably changed. Barak understood the peace of the braves which was once assumed by brother president Yasser Arafat, as well as, by the murdered Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the former minister of foreign affairs Shimon Peres. Barak has given the peace process a new boost, leaving aside the regrettable three years of the Mr. Netanyahu’s administration, which was on the verge of going back to war situations. After signing the accords in Sharm el-Sheik on September 4, this year –they continue the White River accords which were signed on October 28, 1998-, we decided to go through the last stage of Oslo accords. Our President Yasser Arafat and Prime Minister Rabin attended Oslo meeting –where they were supported by the American President and the Russian Foreign Affairs Minister- and they managed to start going through this last stage. It consists of defining the accords and reaching the proposed date, September of 2000, in order to definitely sign a Palestinian-Israeli peace for an independent and sovereign Palestinian State.
-Both in Israel and Palestine there are sectors which are opposed to the peace accords and the negotiation process. How is this situation going to be solved in both countries?
-I believe that the best answer to violence is conversation, comprehension, tolerance and fundamentally being together in this peace process. As soon as the peace process advances, conversation and dialogue deepens and Israeli and Palestinian people do not feel frustrated because of this delayed and expanded process, we are going to be able to cause an opposing effect on these extremist groups. There is a reality: there is a State of Israel and there is a Palestine State which has to declare its independence and sovereignty with East Jerusalem as the capital city. We also have to take into account that there are outstanding issues between Israel and countries such as Lebanon, where Israel occupies Southern Lebanon and it keeps the population from that area on tenterhooks by means of its continual air attacks.
Relations II: “ We also have to take into account that there are outstanding issues between Israel and countries such as Lebanon, where Israel occupies Southern Lebanon”
Israel still keeps the Syrian Golan Heights. We believe that it is very important to achieve a global peace. We expect that Israelis fulfil UN resolutions 242 and 338, which are the soul of the Oslo accords; resolution 425, which urges Israel to withdraw from Southern Lebanon, and resolution 478, which urges Israel to withdraw from East Jerusalem and not to convert it into its capital city.
-After so many years of clashes, getting used to cohabitation, not only among leaders but also among people, is going to be another problem...
-I believe that this is the easiest part of the peace process. I do not know people who like violence. The Israeli and Palestinian people want to live in peace. Then cohabitation takes place. There are over 1,200,000 Palestinians who live in Israel and who are Israeli citizens. People love life, music, beauty; they want to work and give education to their children. This facilitates everything. A few days ago, I saw on the Palestinian television that two Israeli families and two Palestinian families met in Gaza, at the house of one of the Palestinian families. They sat at the table and, of course, there were some tea, coffee and pastry: all necessary for establishing a good relationship. The families took out the pictures of their martyrs, who have recently died, and the important thing was that they realized they have to live together. After the meeting, they ended up shaking their hands, hugging each other and kissing each other. I also want to remind you that an Israeli child died in a car accident two years ago and his heart was donated to a Palestinian girl, who was operated on by Israeli doctors in Israeli hospitals. These human acts are more important than any other claim at the political level. We need to revalue live in the region.
-Besides, the necessity of two countries which are going to be related from the geographical point of view from here to the end of history...
-Of course, we are talking about a small territory which is 227 thousand square kilometers, where two States and two people have to live. It is impossible to live together if there is not a good relationship. People are ready, but we also understand that Middle East cannot be in the margin of this new period the international community is experiencing -globalization and the unions of international communities. The creation of a community consisting of all the countries in the region is very important. Today, the best benefit would be a Palestinian-Jordan-Israeli confederation, where we could be able to face this new world through a unity of people, a land unity, a social unity and a cultural unity. I want to emphasize that the Palestinian government is trying to do its best to reactivate the economic and tourism development. With regard to this, we are preparing the project “Bethlehem 2000” in order to receive the 1999-year Christmas and the new millenium from that Holy City where Jesus Christ was born.
Relations III: “an Israeli child died in a car accident two years ago and his heart was donated to a Palestinian girl, who was operated on by Israeli doctors”.
This project counts with a strong international and UN support. There is a committee made up of His Holiness, the Pope Juan Pablo II, and other great leaders such as President Carlos Menem. President Arafat invited President Menem and elected President, Fernando De La Rua, to this great event.