In reporting the death of Oslo peace process founder Ron Pundak on Friday, Arab and Palestinian media outlets described him as a key architect of that process and a peace activist. The Palestinian press agency WAFA did not report Pundak’s death, but the Palestinian daily Al Ayyam published a short article by press agencies.
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Nevertheless, Pundak had many close friends among the Palestinians, some who knew him before Oslo. These included Dr. Samir Hazboun, head of the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce in Bethlehem.
“He very much believed in the two-state solution and wanted to move it forward from a broad strategic perspective, and despite the crises, and mainly the Second Intifada, he continued to work for those same principles. He fought his illness, but I think that he understood that even if it vanquished him, he would leave this world knowing that we was leaving an important legacy, which is faith in the just peace.”
Hazboun said that contrary others, even including some in the peace camp, Pundak was a grass-roots man. He visited villages and refugee camps and knew things, “not only from cocktail parties and the academic world; he listened to people and talked to them.” Hazboun said.
Hazboun and others, including Pundak’s close friend, Saeb Bamya, worked together as members of the Aix Group, an Israeli-Palestinian-international economic study team. “We lost him in critical times, with public discourse becoming more extreme and the two-state solution slipping away.” Bamya said.
Senior Fatah official Nabil Sha’ath, said that he knew Pundak as a man who had made a “personal commitment to work for true peace.” Sha’ath recalled the last time he saw Pundak, at a meeting Pundak had set up for him with the late Amnon Lipkin-Shahak a short time before the latter passed away.
“He left us,” Sha’ath said referring Lipkin-Shahak, “but he spoke of Ron who would stay with us in this war for peace. Unfortunately they both have left us at a time when we very much need them,” Sha’ath said.