Rethink And Re-Evaluate Strategy, Palestinians Told, 22 January 2009

Palestinians suffering at the hands of the Israeli Zionist regime over the last few decades need to consider their history, strategy, action and what they had achieved during that time before deciding on the next course of action, 1996 Nobel Laureate for Peace and Timor Leste President Jose Ramos Horta said here today.

Palestinian leaders, on the other hand, need to adopt more effective strategies to touch the hearts of the people of the land and try to heal deep wounds endured by them due to the Israeli atrocities, he said.

"Sixty years after the founding of Israel, Palestinians are still living in refugee camps. Israel, on its part, should try soothe the mental wound and battered pride of the Palestinian people. Suicide bombings by the Palestinians are signs of desperation. But no amount of bombs would be able to subdue the will of the people in Palestine," he said.

Horta said this in a keynote address entitled "Is Long-lasting Peace an Attainable Dream?" at a public lecture organised by the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli) here.

He said that to attain sustainable peace in the troubled region, Israel should take a step back and rethink its strategies and, at the same time, the two countries should also think of the 1967 border pact.

"Hamas (the ruling government of Palestine) should also step back. The West, in the meantime, should not be too quick to brand people as terrorists. While the United States promoted democracy, the election of Hamas by the people of Palestine was chastised. That is not good. Everyone deserves a chance and so does the Hamas-led government of Palestine," he said.

The 60-year-old leader, who survived an assassination attempt early last year in Timor Leste, said that while Hamas was aggressive in nature it should be allowed to administer Palestine before any judgement could be passed.

"I agree power can corrupt but power can also moderate you. Hamas was not given a chance but now I think the situation has changed and Hamas would be allowed to run Palestine. Yasser Arafat was initially a terrorist but he made an excellent leader ... this is what power can do," he argued.

Horta, who was considered a possible candidate to succeed Kofi Annan as the United Nations secretary general but dropped out of the race to serve as East Timor (now known as Timor Leste) prime minister two years ago, said the world body would be able to operate efficiently only if its procedures were simplified.

But, he pointed out, there were many aspects that went beyond the powers of the UN secretary general and that was the political will of member states to solve a problem or dispute between nations.

On Barrack Obama taking over as the president of the United States, Horta said Asean would not top the agenda of the first black American president as other world issues would take centre-stage.

"It is not because he is giving unimportance to over 600 million people living in the Asean nations but because we are living in peace without any major conflict among us. Asean nations must be proud of this fact.

"He (Obama) needs to first deal with the economic mess created by American multinational companies. Then the Palestine-Israel issue, Iraq, Afghanistan. He would need to make the US more proactive," he said.

On peace, Horta said that though achieving it could be a long process, it needed humanity from those in power to engage people as "a lot of governments fall due to the perception of arrogance".

Those in power, he said, needed "to get down to the ground" and meet those on the fringes of power to ensure successful leadership.

"If you can't display humbleness genuinely, at least pretend to be humble. Avoid confrontations. Do not marginalise any segment of society, and address the root cause of a conflict. Leaders of all nations must do this to achieve lasting peace," he added.

On the current global economic crisis, he said Timor Leste could thank its lucky stars as it would be one of the very few nations in the world which would maintain its growth rate, which was at 10 per cent last year.

"This is because we import almost everything. The cost of things imported has to come down due to the economic gloom. Using this savings, we are providing US$20 (US$1 = RM3.60) every month to anyone above 60 years old in Timor Leste.

"Although this is not much in Malaysia, it is a lot for someone who has never seen a US dollar," Horta said.