I helped Dr. Sari Nusseibeh with the Palestinian side since I was his assistant at the university. As time passed, we noticed that there was a large sector of Israeli society missing from peace activities-people who may approve of a just peace for the Palestinians, not necessarily through peaceful coexistence but rather through separation and independence of each people in their own state. I even remember Ayalon saying that even though the Israelis believe they have triumphed, the Palestinians believe that their success is the mere fact that Israelis are afraid of violence. The Israelis don’t realize that Palestinians consider their fearfulness a success.
Israelis have realized and become convinced that Israeli peace can be achieved through acknowledging Palestinian identity, which is a prerequisite for fulfilling the Palestinian national aspiration. The moment Israelis became convinced of this idea, they started advocating for the independence of both Israelis and Palestinians, based on shared principles. Jerusalem should remain one city; East Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine, shall be governed by the Palestinian leadership, and West Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, shall be governed by the Israeli leadership. Another sensitive issue was the refugee problem, a question that was addressed by Dr. Sari Nusseibeh in different scenarios. Why should the Palestinian refugees be allowed to return only to the Palestinian homeland but not to the place or house they left? It is true that talks were taking place regarding the five million Palestinian refugees and the fact that Israel would never agree to their return to the occupied territories of 1948.
Israel did not allow a Palestinian state comprised only of Palestinians, nor an Israeli state with another five million Palestinians in addition to the current six million Israelis, of which 1.25 million among them are Arabs. Therefore, he was suggesting realistic solutions to the Palestinians and the Israelis. If one studies resolution number 194, it states the right to return or compensation. The Palestinian refugees deserve to return from the refugee camps in Lebanon
and other countries to their homeland, and to have their own identity, to live in dignity, to be compensated on an individual level and on a national level in order to build a country which would allow the Palestinians to live in dignity. In fact, there were two leaders: Ayalon on the Israeli side and Dr. Sari Nusseibeh on the Palestinian side. They had similar values based on turning certain unrealistic dreams into a reality in which both could live. First, they came to an agreement and then they signed a paper. I was one of those who worked on the translation and publication of this paper from the beginning through November 2003, the day it was published in the newspapers.
After it was published, more than 1200 Palestinians signed it in approval of these principles. Then both Israelis and Palestinians began organizing, not as a party or movement, but to spread the ideas among all Palestinians and Israelis who seek peace; for example, Fatah and other parties. People from the revolutionary council and central committee of Fatah, people in universities, and lecturers and so on, all were approached.
In other words, both sides, Israelis and Palestinians, were active. The campaign was officially started on June 5, 2003, when we started to collect as many signatures as possible from the entire population. In the same month, the Israelis also started the campaign Mifkad Hale’umi,
and were also going after signatures. At regular intervals, we publish in both our websites and newspapers the number of votes and signatures we have received. The number of votes was three at first, then rose to reach 1,000. It continued to rise through today to reach 210,000 signatures among Israelis, and more than 160,000 signatures among Palestinians.
These statistics were from the year 2004. During Abu Mazen’s election campaign, we halted activities in order to support the campaign. In fact, the reality was that Abu Mazen’s attitudes and beliefs reflected many of our campaign’s goals, including not targeting civilians, nonviolent responses towards our problem, a period of truce for a just and peaceful political settlement, and finally, suggesting issues agreed upon by Palestinians that we can all work on solving.
After Abu Mazen's victory, we resumed our activities to promote our campaign, and we continued to collect more signatures. Collecting signatures indicates the number of participants and the extent to which the idea is spreading. There are posts in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. There are coordinators and a structural body in each district. An executive council is elected in each district. There are executive council coordinators and central commissions for women, youth, projects, media, external relations, public relations, awareness and political activities, in addition to some of the organizing members. Together, 51 members-- including the executive council of the National Campaign for Peace and Democracy, and the General Director Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, in addition to the current organizing body and executive council--democratically elect the new council, according to the laws and orders which the institution follows. I am a member and a decision maker in the executive council. We have an office in Jerusalem. We carry out different activities all over. What is interesting is that I am proud of the members; I am proud of Bethlehem and the activities there. I am proud of all the people working on the campaign in different districts: Qalqilya, Jenin, Nablus. I am proud of every place where people are working appropriately and in the right place to publicize their ideas.