August 20, 2018

Palestinian priorities

Meeting the Chief of Palestinian Mission, H.E. Ms. Rawan Sulaiman.

Recently, during a lunch at the prestigious Hotel Des Indes* in The Hague, the Chief of the Palestinian Mission to the Netherlands gave us an overview of the bilateral relations with the Netherlands, the current situation in Palestine, and an update on her upcoming projects.

The last year and a half in The Hague served as an important milestone in the career of H.E. Ms. Sulaiman, who began her function as Desk Officer for the Netherlands in the early 80’s. The Netherlands have been very supportive towards Palestine in different fields, related to water management, the rule of law, justice, human rights, state building capabilities. Moreover, the government has created several programs, such as the Dutch-Palestinian cooperation forum and the Netherlands’ food security program in Palestine, and it has contributed to the UN Relief and Work Agency’s work for Palestinian refugees and to the reconstruction of Gaza.

After the Oslo Agreements in 1994, the Netherlands was one of the first countries to decide to open a representation office in the Palestinian territories, in order to establish a partnership in development cooperation. Prime Minister Mark Rutte has visited Palestine, and his Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Koenders and Rosendal. PM Rutte has been asking on several occasions for moderation and the solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; and still continuously receiving delegations for political consultations.

Stressing the importance of the economic sector, the Chief of Mission in The Hague said: “The economic sector is important for us, and also the exchange of knowledge and technology.” With the support of civil society organizations, the private sector, and the Palestinian Investment Agency, the Palestinian Mission is actively considering projects on water management, solar energy, IT, infrastructure improvement, and the development of import-export capabilities.

We need to work on the economy to improve the quality of life of our people, and we are organizing a business trip before the end of the year, in order to promote the commercial exchanges between us and the Netherlands. It is true that the occupation prevents us from accessing our natural resources, and that we don’t control our borders: this is a fact. However, we are resilient people, and we are going ahead, with the help of the international community.”

Half a century of occupation

Last year, was the 50th anniversary of the 1967 War, in which Palestinians suffered the occupation of a vast amount of their land, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. “Our nation continues to suffer from the world’s longest sustained military occupation in contemporary history,” the Chief of Mission said. “It means that my people have been living under military rule, without their right to self-determination for an incredibly long time.”

H.E. Ms. Rawan Sulaiman, Chief of Palestinian Mission.

70 year of Nakba

“On May 15th, 2018, Palestinians commemorated 70 years of what is known as the ‘Nakba,’ which means catastrophe, or disaster. This day marks the forced expulsion of our people from our homeland by the actions of Israeli forces and Zionist militias in 1948. It marks loss, dispossession, and injustice suffered by the Palestinian people, and this injustice still continues today. The Nakba commemorates the period in which approximately 800.000 Palestinians, at the time two-thirds of the population, became homeless and stateless refugees.”

“I am a refugee myself,” H.E. Ms. Sulaiman said. “My late father was expelled from Jaffa during the Nakba and he was never allowed to return. In fact, in order to achieve peace with the Israelis, the Palestinians gave up the claim to 78% of our historic homeland, and recognized Israel. We have endorsed the two-state solution for the past 30 years, but this solution is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve as time passes.”

“In response to this historic compromise, the illegal settlements on our land keep growing, our children and politicians are being arrested and imprisoned by military ‘courts’ without a fair trial. The peaceful protesters in Gaza are indiscriminately shot by Israeli snipers without mercy.”

“Peace is not a piece of document that is signed between leaders. People from both sides need to see and feel the benefits of it and realise that it is a just peace. Any peace agreement that is forced on us rather than being just will be a failure. This will remain the case as long as there is no upholding of the universal standards of human dignity, and as long as there is an absence of accountability for the continued violations of international law.

We still believe in the path we have chosen to claim our rights and achieve peace, that is the path of international law, even though we realise it is long and often frustrating.

Now President Trump, in his own words, took ‘Jerusalem off the table’ and is planning to move the American embassy to Jerusalem. This decision disqualifies the United States from its role as mediator in the conflict, and puts it squarely in the position of bias towards and hostility against Palestinian rights and the international law.”

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*Hotel del Indes is an emblematic historic hotel in The Hague, symbol of Dutch beauty, tradition and class, charm and character, elegance and grandeur with more than 132 years of credentials: www.hoteldesindes.nl

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