New Middle East Newspaper Promotes Peace
While the Middle East peace process has made little progress, Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians and Jordanians have gotten together to try to advance the mutual dialogue by means of a new Internet newspaper - Partners for Peace. By Igal Avidan
Partners for Peace forms a platform for publishing reports and analyses on the current state of relations between the two sides. Through meetings between the editors, the last one in late May in the Jordanian capital of Amman and the next planned soon in Jerusalem, this unique regional peace movement tries to win over the various peoples involved for the idea of a peaceful dialogue.
The so-called Copenhagen Group was established in 1995, when the Danish foreign ministry invited Israeli and Egyptian intellectuals, politicians and journalists to meet, on the initiative of the former editor-in-chief of the Danish newspaper Politiken, Herbert Pundik.
Warmer feelings to the icy peace in the Middle East
It was hoped that the encounter would contribute some warmer feelings to the icy peace between the two states. Later, following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the electoral triumph of the right-wing nationalist Likud block in the Israeli parliamentary elections at the end of 1996, the dialogue was extended to include Palestinians and Jordanians.
At the beginning of 1997, the newspaper was then launched on the Internet, with funding from the Danish foreign ministry. "We have no ambition to become a printed paper, because we don't have the means and because our partners have problems with freedom of speech in their countries," says Pundik.
"We do not under any circumstances want to provoke friction with the governments. Since all of our readers speak English, we have no need to translate articles into Hebrew and Arabic. We don't have a common lead article, because each regional desk has sole responsibility for reporting from their own country."
"Reports submitted should express the will to peace," adds publisher Shlomo Gal. "We are now reaching 500 Internet readers daily and we would like to reach thousands."
Reports on rapprochement and dialogue
Four editors (in Egypt, Jordan, Palestine and Israel) send in commentaries on news in the local media. Reports on rapprochement and dialogue are joined by others on conflicts and problems – and statements by Hamas, calling into question Israel's right to exist, are also taken into consideration.
On a day-to-day basis, the Israeli desk, for example, informs readers on news such as defense minister Shaul Mofaz's intention of handing over three of the cities in the West Bank to the Palestinians even before the settlements have been vacated. The prerequisite is that the Palestinian authorities first gather up all the militants' weapons.
Sharon's closest advisor, Dov Weisglass, promised that, after clearing out of Gaza, Israel would evacuate the illegal outposts in the West Bank. On the other hand, resigning army chief of staff Moshe Yaalon warns that violence could break out again in the West Bank if these outposts are abandoned.
In his article, Israeli founding member Dave Kimche appeals to Israel to launch negotiations on the final peace treaty immediately after withdrawing from Gaza. Palestinian Labor Minister Ghassan Khatib expresses the fear that Israel will try to drive a wedge between Gaza and the West Bank. There are also reports that Hamas considers the postponement of the Palestinian elections to be equivalent to an end to the ceasefire.
Meanwhile, Egypt informs readers about the new Israeli ambassador to Cairo, and about the upcoming stationing of Egyptian troops in an effort to facilitate an orderly Israeli withdrawal. In the same issue, the Egyptian ambassador to Israel, Assef Ibrahim, warns that his security forces would not prevent any attacks on Israel coming from Gaza.
From Jordan, readers learn that the Israeli chief of police in Amman has drawn attention to safety issues on the Temple Mount, and that exports from the Israeli-Jordanian free trade zone have increased.
Readers of the new Internet newspaper – Israelis and Arabs alike – seem to be in agreement on at least one thing. 85% of them support a return to the negotiating table – without any preconditions. Now, all they need to do is convince their fellow citizens.
© Qantara.de 2005
Translation from German: Jennifer Taylor-Gaida