In December 2011, a conference of the Israeli Palestinian Confederation (IPC) was slated to be held in the Ambassador Hotel in East Jerusalem, but was prevented from taking place by protestors who swarmed the hotel. A similar conference, set to be held in Beit Jala a number of days later, was also cancelled after dozens of youth staged a protest against it.
In the wake of these events, Al-Quds University President Dr. Sari Nusseibah published an article on December 20, 2011, denying any responsibility for organizing the IPC conference, to which he said he had been invited as a guest speaker. That being said, he defended the notion of a confederation between Israel and the Palestinians, explaining that it was meant to end the occupation rather than lead to normalized relations with Israel, as its opponents claimed.
Following is an overview of the article:
Nusseibah described the disruption of the conferences as a manifestation of Palestinian society's political illnesses, which he said must be eradicated so as to avoid incurring diplomatic harm. He said the notion of a Palestinian-Israeli confederation aimed to achieve the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with relations of equals with Israel, rather than relations characterized by subjugation or occupation. He claimed the creation of such a confederation would bring an end to the occupation, including military control, usurpation of freedoms, confiscation of land, and the destruction of homes, replacing it with a completely different political situation. He also said the same would be true if a confederation were established between the future Palestinian state and Jordan, with the possibility of extending it to include three or more members.
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In any of these cases, Nusseibah wrote, the guiding principle would be one of a people with the right to self-determination and one free of hegemony and occupation at the hands of any other people or country. He noted that all of the PLO's past deliberations over a confederation with Jordan had been with an independent Palestinian state in mind.
Nusseibah claimed that in his time, Yasser Arafat had approved considering parallel confederations with Israel and Jordan as an option to ending the occupation, and one that would allow the Palestinian state access to the other countries' ports and to develop a tourism industry and infrastructures. Nusseibah added that it would also allow the Palestinians to take advantage of natural gas discovered in the territorial waters of Israel, Lebanon, and Cyprus, and enable development initiatives such as sea canals, energy initiatives, and tourist and agricultural enterprises in the Jordan Valley.
He said that allowing an IPC conference to take place would also improve the Palestinians' image, after they had been labeled as hostile to peace with Israel. In this vein, he noted recent reports that the Palestinian leadership had ordered to cancel meetings between Palestinian and Israeli intellectuals on the claim that these had been arranged without the leadership's knowledge.
Hafez Al-Barghouti, editor of the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, also spoke out against the disruption of the conferences and came to Nusseibah's defense, recalling how the latter had been attacked by Fatah youth at Birzeit University for meeting with a delegation of youth from Israel's Likud party, headed by Moshe Amirav. Al-Barghouti said that Nusseibah was well known for his ties to Israeli streams seeking alternatives ways to reach a Palestinian-Israeli arrangement, such as the establishment of a "federation" and Nusseibah's collaborative peace initiative with Amihai Ayalon, the People's Voice. He stressed that there was nothing wrong with considering these ideas, and that there was no longer any room for obstinate opposition to normalization, as contact and agreements with any Israeli elements calling for peace were political necessities vis-à-vis the Palestinians.
He added that in some cases, initiatives which at first seem irrelevant, such as Mubarak 'Awad's initiative on the eve of the First Intifada for nonviolent popular opposition, eventually come to be seen as an effective "means of struggle against the occupation."