“Do we want to live in a permanent Intifada?” asked US Secretary of State John Kerry during the World Economic Forum in Jordan. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel’s President Shimon Peres were in the audience.
Attended by Palestinian and Israeli businessmen in a Dead Sea resort, the forum discussed developments in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. The two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict was praised.
Kerry called for the two sides to break the deadlock by seeking a permanent peace. “The greatest existential threat and the greatest economic threat is the lack of peace,” insisted the secretary of state, who described his economic plan as “transformative and different to anything that has been done before.” It has been developed alongside the Middle East Quartet’s envoy, Tony Blair, and global economic experts.
The belief is that the plan could expand the Palestinian economy by up to 50 per cent in the next three years; cut unemployment by almost two-thirds; and see average wages jump by 40 per cent. However, warned Kerry, the plan depends on parallel progress on peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
The host of the forum was Jordan’s King Abdullah, who brought Abbas and Peres together for a meeting under the heading “Breaking the Impasse”. The PA president spoke about efforts to co-exist with the Israelis as neighbours. He noted that PA security services caught 96 armed Israelis who had strayed into the West Bank; within ten minutes all were returned to the Israeli side. “We want to live in peace and security alongside the state of Israel,” he said.
Abbas also expressed his satisfaction about security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli occupation forces. “We conduct security cooperation with the Israeli side,” he said. “We are not ashamed of that and we will not be ashamed of it as we want to co-exist.”
Saying that he was pleased to be part of a conference that includes Palestinian and Israeli businessmen, who had realised that the basis of any negotiation is based on the two-state solution, Abbas said, “We want two states, not a single state.”
Shimon Peres addressed his PA counterpart directly: “President Abbas, you are our partner, and we are yours. We can and should make the breakthroughs.”