Palestinian Moderates Seek a Voice

[Jerusalem Post] Sheera Claire Frenkel - Muhammad Dajani, 61, director of the American Studies Institute at Al-Kuds University in Jerusalem, recently founded a new Palestinian party - Wasatia - meaning "moderation," often used in the Koran to mean "middle ground," "centrism" and "balance." It is an Islamic religious party that advocates a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a tolerant, democratic society at home. Dajani founded Wasatia in March 2007. It is the only Palestinian political party that does not support the "right of return" - a perennial stumbling block in the peace talks. "We have to get over this. Why create such a big obstacle to the peace process when it's not practical to make this demand?" he says. Wasatia calls for establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with eastern Jerusalem as its capital. It defines itself as an Islamic party, but seeks to foster a tolerant society in the territories that protects freedom of religion and expression. Dajani is also creating a new textbook for kindergartens in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. "The current books that they use espouse a philosophy that supports Hamas. It is a philosophy which supports a jihadist approach," he says. Munbi al-Masri, a former Fatah loyalist, recently launched Muntada as another third-party movement. Educated in America, he returned to the West Bank to help establish the Paltel phone company and the Palestinian stock exchange. But in the last parliamentary election, centrist parties garnered just six of 132 parliamentary seats. Nicolas Pelham, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group in Jerusalem, said that centrist groups such as Wasatia face serious problems. "Political power relies on patronage," he said. "Those factions which do maintain some form of popular allegiance are those which can offer services and jobs and some access to the remaining centers of power or salaries."

2008-01-11 01:00:00

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