Israeli and Palestinian Women meet to discuss peace talks

An international women's commission met with U.N. officials urging that women play a stronger role in talks between Israelis and Palestinians and use the newly elected Hamas government as a vehicle for peace negotiations.

Members of the International Women's Commission, comprising Israeli and Palestinian delegates, urged Wednesday that peace talks between Israel and Hamas continue despite the deep political disagreements on both sides.

"The more we say this is impossible, the more impossible we will make it," said Colette Avital, deputy speaker of Israel's Parliament, the Knesset, and a key presenter at the panel discussion.

Avital, a member of the Labor Party, pointed out that for the first time since 1967 the majority of Israeli parliament members openly support a peaceful resolution. While most consider it a "necessity" for coexistence, they also called for help from the U.S. government to succeed.

"For the past three or four years many of us have been advocating for the Bush administration to get out of its lethargy and to try to help us," Avital said. So far, the "administration has no great successes."

The Palestinian delegates agreed that American support was needed, but argued that while Hamas is subjected to international pressure to recognize Israel and renounce suicide bombers, it was elected in a democratic process and should be an equal partner in a two-state solution.

"In this kind of conflict there should be no losers. If one side feels defeated that is not peace," said Maha Abu Dayyeh Shamas, director of the Women's Center for Legal Aid, a Palestinian nonprofit organization. "We have to break the way things are being handled."

Members of the commission are traveling to Washington on Thursday to meet with members of Congress and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in hopes of triggering new peace negotiations.

"As women, we have a key role to play in meeting challenges and starting the longer-term process of rebuilding communities, reviving dialogue among all parts of society and showing that there are other ways to live," said Naomi Chazan, former deputy speaker of the Knesset and a member of the Meretz Party, who participated in the discussion at Norway's U.N. Mission, reports the AP.

I.L.