Socialist International in the Middle East at a critical time

1-3 November 2004

The Socialist International held talks with Palestinian and Israeli leaders at crucial times for both, as Palestinian institutions live in the absence of their President, currently undergoing treatment in a hospital in Paris, and Israelis debate their disengagement plan for Gaza.

On the occasion of a meeting of the SI Middle East Committee, SIMEC, specially scheduled to discuss latest developments in the region, Thorbjorn Jagland, Chair of SIMEC and Luis Ayala, SI Secretary General, held talks on November 1 and 2 2004 in Ramallah with Mahmoud Abbas, responsible for the Political leadership of the PLO and Ahmed Qurei, Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority.

Later in Jericho, on the afternoon of November 2 in the first of a two-day session, the SI Middle East Committee convened for a meeting with Palestinian representatives to hear their views on the current situation. Participants included Nabil Shaath, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the PA, Saeb Erekat, Minister for Negotiations and Abbas Zaki, responsible for international relations of Fatah, among others.

On November 3, the Committee members convened in Jerusalem for their second session, this time held at the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, with a similar purpose. Participants at this meeting included the leader of the Israeli Labour Party Shimon Peres, MK Amir Peretz, Chairman of the Histadrut, MK Colette Avital and MK Efraim Sneh, as well as members of the Yachad party, including MK Abu Vilan, Ruby Natanzou and Sheva Friedman.

The deepening of the tensions in the region, the increasing toll in human lives, the continuing spiral of violence and the lack of a political horizon for peace in the Middle East - major concerns for the Socialist International - formed the basis of the discussions which sought to define, in advance of the next SI Council meeting, the most effective ways in which the International can continue actively supporting efforts for peace. The Committee discussions and recommendations will be incorporated in a resolution to be presented to the SI Council on 15-16 November in Johannesburg.