Arab League offers new Peace Plan motivated by “a strategic choice”
Arab League agrees to potentially dramatic changes in Saudi’s suggested plan.
Justice Minister Livni: “This is a positive development” ,but no comment yet from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The Associated Press, Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff
While the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem had yet to respond on Tuesday to a renewed Arab League endorsement for Israeli-Palestinian peace, Israeli Tourism Minister Uzi Landau (Likud-Beytenu), a staunch opponent of the two-state solution, poured cold water on the League’s proposals.
Tourism Minister Uzi Landau – Photo: Lior Mizrahi
“They’re offering us Auschwitz borders with minor adjustments,” Landau said, invoking former Foreign Minister Abba Eban’s famous phrase warning against a return to indefensible pre-1967 borders.
“The Arab states are disintegrating, so what use is it? Qatar, which heads the Arab League now, supports Hamas, and [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas himself does not recognize us as a Jewish state.”
Speaking on behalf of an Arab League delegation to Washington, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem Al Thani called for an agreement between Israel and a future Palestine based on the Jewish state’s border before the 1967 Six-Day War. But, unlike in previous such offers, he appeared to make a concession to Israel by explicitly raising the possibility of mutually agreed upon land swaps between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It has long been assumed that these would be part of any peace agreement.
Al Thani spoke after his delegation met with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been pushing Arab leaders to embrace a modified version of their decade-old “Arab peace initiative” as part of a new U.S.-led effort to corral Israel and the Palestinians back into direct peace talks.
The Arab League meets in Washington – Photo: AP
Those negotiations have hardly occurred over the past five years amid deep disagreement over Israeli settlement construction in lands the Palestinians hope to include in their country.
“We’ve had a very positive, very constructive discussion over the course of the afternoon, with positive results,” Kerry told reporters in a press conference held after the meeting, with Al Thani at a podium beside him and senior officials from six other Arab governments behind them. “The Arab League’s delegation affirmed that agreement should be based on the two-state solution on the basis of the 4th of June 1967 line, with the (possibility) of comparable and mutual agreed minor swap of the land.”
Kerry praised the Arab League for the “important role it is playing, and is determined to play, in bringing about a peace in the Middle East — and specifically by reaffirming the Arab Peace Initiative here this afternoon, with a view to ending the conflict.”
He further said that he and Biden stressed the vision that U.S. President Barack Obama outlined in 2011, when he became the first American leader to publicly declare Israel’s pre-1967 lines as the basis for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. Al Thani’s remarks suggest that Kerry has had some success in coordinating a more unified regional strategy between the U.S. and its Arab partners. Top officials from the Arab League, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority and Saudi Arabia attended the meeting.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnuah) told Army Radio that the declaration indicated that the Arab League “is ready for negotiations and territorial swaps. This is a positive development. Peace talks are a mutual interest and in the tumultuous world around us, it could allow the Palestinians to enter the room and make the necessary compromises. It also sends a message to the Israeli public that this is not just about us and the Palestinians.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (right) speaks with an Arab League representative in Washington – Photo: AP
It was not clear whether or not Livni speaks for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has tasked her with talking to the Palestinians.
Although revolutionary when it was introduced by Saudi Arabia in 2002 and endorsed by the 22-member Arab League, the initiative has never been embraced by Israel, and Palestinian officials have previously spoken out against any changes to its terms.
The Arab initiative has often been described as “strikingly simple,” essentially offering Israel comprehensive recognition in the Arab world in exchange for all lands seized in the 1967 war. That simplicity has perhaps been the plan’s most limiting feature.
It is unclear what effect the Arab initiative’s modified conditions, as outlined by Al Thani, might have on the Israeli-Palestinian impasse.
Kerry, who has been to the Middle East three times in his short stint as secretary of state, stressed that any peace process would focus on bringing about “direct negotiations between the parties.”
He said the U.S. and the Arab League would hold continued consultations and more meetings because they agreed that “peace between the Israelis and Palestinians would advance security, prosperity and stability in the Middle East. That is a common interest for the region and the whole world,” he said.
Al Thani told reporters that the goal had to be a “fair deal for both parties,” stressing that “peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis … is a strategic choice for the Arab states.”
The Qatari premier, whose country has maintained ties with the Hamas in the Gaza Strip, has also backed Abbas’ peace efforts and called for greater aid for the struggling Palestinian economy.
Kerry’s talks with the Arab officials also focused on new proposals to promote economic development on the West Bank — a scheme in which he is hoping to attract private sector investment to boost Palestinian trust.
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