Qalandia Military Checkpoint: A press conference was held today by the Independent Palestine coalition, led by Mustafa Barghouthi, head of the list, and candidates Amal Khreishe, Raja Shehadeh and Eyad Masroujeh, in the shadow of the Apartheid Wall and the newly-opened Qalandia military checkpoint terminal.
Dr. Barghouthi opened the press conference by stressing the importance of timely elections, and warned that any delay would damage the democratic process.† He added that a postponement would simply serve the interests both of the Israeli government, and groups and individuals who have gained from corruption within the Palestine Authority, and who fear that an election loss will mean an end to political privileges, and the opening of files on corruption.
Barghouthi addressed these concerns in a consultation with President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday.† Both men agreed that elections must go ahead as planned on 25 January.
Dr. Barghouthi also warned that a delay in Legislative elections would exacerbate the leadership vacuum in Palestinian politics, and associated, growing lawlessness, a void that can only be filled through democratic PLC elections.
He called on all lists and factions to support timely elections.† He also called on Palestinians as a whole to protect the democratic process by preparing to conduct balloting on a street-by-street, and door-to-door basis as a form of peaceful, non-violent resistance, in the event that Israel carries through its threat to prevent voting in East Jerusalem.†
He also criticized the fact that while many representatives of the Palestinian Authority and other groups standing in elections had been granted permission by Israel to visit both Jerusalem and Gaza, he had been prevented from doing so.† Dr. Barghouthi declared his resolve to travel to Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip despite this.
Dr. Barghouthi also took the opportunity to introduce the Independent Palestine coalition, which represents the true face of Palestinian society, bringing together candidates and supporters from a wide spectrum of Palestinian society on a unified platform, in the context of profound, externally-imposed physical fragmentation, and internal political divisions.
Independent Palestine candidates are drawn from all sectors of Palestinian society, including civil society organisations representing the rights of women and people with disabilities, the business sector, academic institutions, medical bodies, trade unions, artistic and cultural associations, and members of the Palestinian National Initiative.
The Coalition is directly responsible to its Council, which is composed of 110 leaders from similarly diverse backgrounds, and is headed by Dr. Haider Abdel Shafi.† The Council will support candidates with comprehensive policies and programmes, and will act as a shadow cabinet should Independent Palestine remain in opposition.
The coalition represents a truly independent force in Palestinian politics, providing the huge majority of silent and undecided Palestinian voters who favour neither the autocracy and corruption of the governing Fatah party, nor the fundamentalism of Hamas, with a viable, democratic alternative.† It consistently gains third position in polls gauging levels of support for the various groups standing in Legislative elections, behind Fatah and Hamas.
It remains free of any ties with entrenched and well-established political parties.† While the coalition is open to cooperation with other parties and lists, it will not permit its agenda to be co-opted, and will not compromise on its demands for far-reaching internal reforms, including:
- An end to corruption, nepotism and political patronage;
- The building of efficient, democratic, modern and transparent institutions;
- Ensuring good governance through the actual separation of powers between the executive, judiciary and legislative branches;
- Enforcing the rule of law;
- The complete overhaul of the numerous security forces towards the creation of a professional service that ensures greater security for ordinary Palestinians; and
- Socio-economic programs and development policies that benefit the Palestinian people.
In terms of external demands, the Independent Palestine coalition seeks a just peace based on a two state solution and an end to the occupation in all its manifestations, including:
- The dismantlement of the Apartheid Wall and all illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem; and
- The release of all Palestinian political prisoners who continue to be held in Israeli jails.
Independent Palestine candidate, Amal Khreishe, addressed these two issues during the press conference, stating that all Independent Palestine policies on external matters will be based on international resolutions such as the International Court of Justice ruling on the illegality of the Apartheid Wall.
She also added that internal conflicts are a blight on the history of the Palestinian struggle, and the nationís long tradition of non-violence.† She called for unity in the Palestinian camp, and for peaceful, popular protests to demand internal security for ordinary Palestinians.