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NJ Jewish News Reports On ATFP @ Princeton U

Date: Mon, 20 Feb 2006 12:03:03 -0800
Subject: NJ Jewish News Reports On ATFP @ Princeton U.

New Jersey Jewish News Story

By Marilyn Silverstein
NJJN Staff Writer

The head of a moderate Washington-based Palestinian group credited
the Hamas victory to its social service programs and anti-corruption stance,
not its rejection of Israel or use of violence.

Speaking to a Princeton University audience Feb. 12, Rafi Dajani,
executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine, called
the recent Palestinian parliamentary elections a referendum on the
old guard and urged Hamas to accept a two-state solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Why did Hamas win? I think the
overall reason was Fatah’s disorganization and its failure to
deliver on two big goals — establishing statehood for the
Palestinians and improving daily life,” Dajani said. “But there was
a more immediate failure. There was the failure to address
corruption, to deal with the entrenched old guard, and to deal with
security,” he said. “Hamas did not win, in my opinion, because the
Palestinians support an Islamic state or Hamas’ non-recognition of
Israel or Hamas’ use of violence. “There’s no doubt that Hamas
delivered on social services,” he said. “Now it must deliver on

Dajani’s talk, The New Palestinian Political Landscape: Challenges
and Responsibilities, brought out more than 50 students and
community members to a classroom at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson
School of Public and International Affairs. The program was
sponsored by the Princeton Committee on Palestine and cosponsored
by the university’s Institute for the Transregional Study of the
Contemporary Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia. Founded
in 2000, after the beginning of the second Intifada, the Princeton
Committee on Palestine is made up of undergraduate and graduate
students, research fellows, and faculty members. It has a core of
about 20 active members and a mailing list of some 200, according
to Asli Bali, a doctoral candidate in politics who serves on the

The group, which sometimes partners with the Center for Jewish Life
and the Princeton Israel Public Affairs Committee, works to promote
events that will enable the community to understand the different
perspectives surrounding the Middle East conflict, Bali said in an
interview before the program. The presentation by Dajani was a case
in point.

Dajani, a native of Kuwait who holds a master’s degree from the
University of Central Florida, said he has been active in promoting
peace and Israeli-Palestinian coexistence since 1995. His
nonpartisan, nonprofit task force is designed to broadcast the
benefits that Palestinian statehood would have for stability in the
Middle East. “Our focus is on moving the ball forward,” he told the
gathering. “The United States is a critical actor in resolving the
conflict. As an American of Palestinian descent, I feel it is our
obligation to articulate to the government at the highest level the
American interest in the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
Polls show that 70 percent of Palestinians support a two-state
solution and 80 percent reject a return to violence — positions
that Hamas cannot ignore, according to Dajani. “Hamas is now
obligated to respect the will of all the Palestinian people for
keeping the peace and [forging] a two-state solution, with all that
these two responsibilities imply,” he said. “The final challenge is
the immediate delivery of reform and change that Hamas promised to
the Palestinian people. If Hamas cannot deliver on this, its
non-ideological support base will soon evaporate.” In the midst of
these challenges, Dajani said, there are signs of hope for
moderation within Hamas, and he called for flexibility in dealing
with the terror organization. “It has observed a yearlong truce,
despite Israeli assassinations, and it has hinted at negotiations
with Israel through third parties,” he said. “The issue is not to
push them into a corner with threats, but to nudge them along in
the process.”

By illustration, Dajani suggested that the demand for
Hamas to recognize Israel might be converted into several different
formulas. “Hamas might allow the Palestinian Authority president to
negotiate with Israel,” he said, “or it might allow the PLO
[Palestine Liberation Organization] to bargain with Israel. These
mechanisms are examples which will allow Hamas to hold onto its
position while bowing to political realities.”

Dajani’s remarks were followed by a brief response from Kamal Abdulfattah,
a visiting senior research scholar at the Transregional Institute. “I
have lived on the West Bank since I was a child,” said Abdulfattah,
a professor of geography and chair of the departments of geography
and Arab studies at Birzeit University in the West Bank. “I know
the origins of Hamas. I know the people of Hamas. I know also that
they have changed in the last three or four years. They have
changed dramatically, and this change is very positive, I hope.
“They are not against negotiations,” he said. “They are asking
[Palestinian leader Mahmoud] Abbas and Fatah to take care of
negotiations. So I’m optimistic in this sense, and I think this
will develop into a coexistence policy.”

In the question-and-answer period after the program, Dajani stressed
the importance of the Palestinians’ achieving statehood with a state
that allows them to flourish and survive — one that is viable and contiguous
and that encompasses all of the West Bank and Gaza an d Arab eastern
Jerusalem. Without such a state, he said, the region will continue
to be engulfed in conflict. “The hope is they will get a state that
at least meets their minimal national aspirations,” he said.


The ATFP is a not-for-profit organization that aims to educate the
American people about the national security interests of the United
States in establishing a Palestinian state. Specifically, ATFP seeks to
promote the awareness of the far-reaching benefits that Palestinian
statehood will have for the United States in the following areas: (1)
enhancing national security, (2) proliferation of American values of
freedom and democracy, and (3) expansion of economic opportunities
throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds.

American Task Force on Palestine
815 Connecticut Avenue, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20006
Phone (202)887-0177 Fax (202)887-1920
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