Hanan Ashrawi, an executive committee member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, expressed her lack of faith in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace process during a John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at the Institute of Politics Monday night.
During the address, entitled “Beyond a Last Chance: Challenges to Achieving Palestinian-Israeli Peace,” Ashrawi highlighted the obstacles faced by the current peace process brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry and described the negotiations as “not truly bilateral” and “characterized by a power asymmetry.”
“Israel has hijacked the process itself,” Ashrawi said. “There is a sense of entitlement and exceptionalism, and nobody can hold Israel responsible for its violations.”
Ashrawi also questioned the suitability of the U.S. as an arbitrator in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and said that the United Nations would be a better mediator in resolving the conflict.
“We can’t choose the superpower of the world.... The best approach is to have the UN,” Ashrawi said. “But Israel doesn’t like the U.N. because of its resolutions, and the U.S. wouldn’t do anything to take us to the U.N.”
When asked if she would describe herself as a “pessimist” with regard to her stance on the future of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Ashrawi said she would rather call herself “a critical realist.”
“It takes changing the dynamics, the courage, to understand that it’s not just a question of getting the Palestinians to accept [terms imposed by the Israelis],” Ashrawi said. “It’s a sinking ship, and nobody should be onboard.”
Even though Ashrawi’s speech was met with a standing ovation, audience members had mixed reactions to her address.
“She was clearly biased in favor of the Palestinians,” Richard Koerner, a business consultant based in Boston, said. “I don’t think she said anything that was revealing or new.”
Other members of the audience disagreed.
“She’s very brave and she is telling the situation as it is,” said Randa Khuri, who added that her family was evicted from Palestine. “If only more people will listen.”
Hussein Kalout, a Brazilian research fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, said that we should continue to have more provocative discussions like Ashrawi’s, “especially undiplomatic ones, in order to hear from real sources about real problems of real human beings.”