Palestinian, Israeli, & Internatl Women Begin new Peace Initiative

Prominent Women Launch New Mideast Peace Process

United Nations Development Fund (UNIFEM) for Women
September 18, 2006

Prominent Israeli and Palestinian Women Leaders to Hold
Unprecedented Meeting at UN with Women Heads of State
to Initiate New Middle East Peace Negotiations

Delegation of Israeli, Palestinian and international
women leaders achieve historic agreement on principles
for Middle East peace and urge international support.

United Nations, New York

A delegation of top Israeli, Palestinian and
international women leaders arrive at the United
Nations on September 20th to meet with President of the
Republic of Finland Tarja Halonen, at a time when
Finland holds the Presidency of the European Union, in
an effort to marshal high-level political pressure to
restart negotiations in the region. Joining the
President of Finland will be President Ellen Johnson-
Sirleaf of Liberia, Africa's first elected woman head
of state, who traveled to the occupied Palestinian
territory in 2001 to hear the stories of women living
in conflict as part of the Independent Experts'
Assessment on the impact of war on women, commissioned
by the United Nations Development Fund for Women
(UNIFEM). It is hoped that together these leaders,
representing both the North and the South, can begin to
focus international attention on the need to resolve
the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict so as to
prevent broader conflict in the region. Taking
advantage of the opening of the 61st Session of the UN
General Assembly, they are also meeting with Mr. Amr
Moussa, who heads the League of Arab States, and with
critical foreign ministers, as well as with high-level
UN officials.

The International Women's Commission for a Just and
Sustainable Israeli-Palestinian Peace (IWC) convened in
2005 by Noeleen Heyzer, the Executive Director of
UNIFEM, at the urging of Israeli and Palestinian women
leaders, was established to ensure the meaningful
participation of women in mainstream peace
negotiations. IWC maintains that implementing UN
Security Council Resolution 1325, which mandates
women's involvement in conflict resolution, is critical
to restarting negotiations and improving their
outcomes. The IWC charter stresses the goal of bringing
an end to Israeli occupation through immediate final
status negotiations, leading to a viable sovereign
Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel. Since
its inception, IWC has succeeded in joining women
living in different realities and experiences to speak
out on the most difficult political issues in one

Leading the delegation to New York are Dr. Hanan
Ashrawi, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council,
and Dr. Naomi Chazan, former Deputy Speaker of the
Israeli Knesset and professor of political science,
Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The IWC has agreed to the following principles, which
will be presented to the heads of state in New York:

* Civilian lives, especially those of women and
children, must not be used as bargaining chips in
efforts to resolve the escalating conflict in the

* Negotiations and mutual agreements are the only
legitimate means to bring about a just and sustainable
solution. Unilateral measures will undermine a two-
state solution and never bring lasting peace.

* The Arab League Initiative of 2002 provides an
appropriate framework for the resolution of the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and for comprehensive
peace in the region. This initiative could lead to the
realization of 'a new Middle East' that the people in
the region desire, rather than one that would be
externally imposed.

* The escalating crisis demands an international
conference be held immediately to launch permanent
status negotiations based on relevant UN resolutions
and international law and to decide mechanisms for

* In the interim, the international community must
insist on a complete cessation of hostilities and
protection of people in both Lebanon and the occupied
Palestinian territory (oPt), according to international
law. This should be followed by the promotion of good
will measures such as: exchange of prisoners; free
movement of people and goods and the cessation of the
construction of the separation wall in oPt to pave the
way to permanent settlement negotiations.

Members of the IWC at the UN meeting will include: Dr.
Hanan Ashrawi, Member, Palestinian Legislative Council;
Ms. Zahira Kamal, former Minister of Women's Affairs,
Palestinian Authority; Ms. Samia Y.M. Bamieh, former
Director of European Affairs, Ministry of Foreign
Affairs; Dr. Naomi Chazan, Professor of Political
Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Ms. Aida
Touma-Sliman, General Director, Women against Violence
Organization; Dr. Galia Golan, Professor Emeritus,
Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Ms. Leire Pajin Iraola,
State Secretary for International Cooperation, Spain;
Ms. Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of UNIFEM; and
other prominent international figures from Europe and
the United States.

In August, 2005 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
recognized the IWC through an official decree. Before
leaving for the UN meeting, the Palestinian delegation
met with President Abbas to brief him and gained his
support. In Israel, the IWC launch coincided with the
adoption in the Knesset of a law calling for
implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325,
giving credence to the IWC.

With support of its international members and
facilitation of UNIFEM, an IWC delegation visited
Brussels in December 2005 to meet with EU officials. A
visit to New York and Washington took place in May
2006, providing the IWC with a dialogue with high-level
officials in the United Nations and in Washington,
including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and UN
Under-Secretary for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari.

Going forward, the IWC hopes to achieve a breakthrough
in negotiations and offer policymakers a stake in
resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict with fresh,
incisive political analysis and innovative proposals
from women leaders for actions and strategies that can
serve to advance the peace process.