05/15/2008, 00.00
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Christian ex-minister: It is time for the Palestinians to have their own state

Joudeh Mourqos speaks on the 60th anniversary of the "catastrophe". The only Christian minister in the government headed by Hamas in 2006 emphasises the urgency of passing from words to actions, and of bringing about peace: Israel cannot negotiate and then maintain its checkpoints.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) - "It is time to take the historic decision of granting the Palestinians an independent state beside the Jewish state". In commenting to AsiaNews on the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, the "catastrophe", Joudeh Mourqos, the former tourism minister (who resigned in 2006) and the only Christian in the Palestian government, addresses himself to the international community, and in particular to the United States: "Without your committed support, we cannot attain this, there is no time to waste, and the moment is now".

On May 15, while Israel celebrates the sixtieth year since its foundation, there are marches and demonstrations in Palestine for peace, the former minister reports by telephone from Bethlehem. The date, in fact, marks at the same time the expulsion of the Palestian people from their territory. The exodus, which would involve at least 750,000 people, began in 1947, when the British mandate in Palestine ended with the decision by the UN to authorise the separation of the territories into two states, one Jewish and the other Arab.

"This commemoration", Mourqos says, "must bring to the world, and especially to the United States, the clear and urgent message that it is time for the Palestinians to have an independent state. In the twenty-first century, it is a disgrace that a people should be forced to live in these conditions. We suffer from every point of view: political, economic, social, and security. Israel also has its problems, we know this, and it is precisely for this reason that it is impossible to continue forward like this. It is time finally to grant the Palestinians their own state; only in this way will Israel, too, have the peace that is its right". These words are very similar to the statements made today by Palestinian president Abu Mazen in Ramallah: only the constitution of a Palestinian state can bring security to Israel. The president said he is determined to carry peace negotiations forward with Israel, but he warned against the construction of Jewish settlements in Cisjordan and east Jerusalem.

"Decisions must be taken; words must be turned into concrete actions. The Palestinians have been waiting for too long. With president Bush, it seems to me that the United States is seriously committed to peace, and I think the Israeli government is as well, but it must demonstrate more consistency", the former minister suggests, "sitting down for peace negotiations is not enough if peace is not then fostered on the ground: the checkpoints have not been eliminated, and everything possible is being done to isolate the Palestinians, military actions are ordered". "I hope", he concludes, "that in the tour he has just begun in the Middle East, George W. Bush will give a clear and strong message on the urgency of a Palestinian state, which would exist beside Israel. Both in peace".

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