Arab League's Peace Initiative Puts Israel in an Embarrassing Position

Arab League's Peace Initiative Puts Israel in an Embarrassing Position

Qatari prime minister accepts Kerry's request to sweeten the offer to Israel. Israeli prime minister Netanyahu urgently sends delegates to prevent the U.S from endorsing the initiative -   May 10, 2013
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Shir Hever is an economic researcher in the Alternative Information Center, a Palestinian-Israeli organization active in Jerusalem and Beit-Sahour. Hever researches the economic aspect of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory, some of his research topics include the international aid to the Palestinians and to Israel, the effects of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories on the Israeli economy, and the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel. His work also includes giving lectures and presentations on the economy of the occupation. He is a graduate student at the Freie Universitat in Berlin, and researches the privatization of security in Israel. His first book: Political Economy of Israel's Occupation: Repression Beyond Exploitation, was published by Pluto Press.


Arab League's Peace Initiative Puts Israel in an Embarrassing PositionSHIR HEVER, TRNN PRODUCER: The Arab Peace Initiative was unanimously endorsed by the Arab League in 2002 at the Beirut Summit of the Arab League. The initiative has been ignored by the Israeli government, but has recently resurfaced in a way which exposes Israel's reluctance to engage in the peace process.

The Arab Peace initiative is also nicknamed the ?Saudi initiative? because it was originally proposed to the Arab league by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who was then the crown prince.

The proposal is simple. Israel will withdraw to the legally recognized 1967 borders, find an agreed upon solution to the future of Palestinian refugees expelled from Israel in 1948, and in exchange all Arab countries will normalize relations with Israel.

Israel's response, or lack thereof, to the Arab Initiative demonstrates how Israeli politics have changed as a result of the 1967 occupation. Prior to that occupation, the Zionist movement strived to sign peace treaties with its neighbors in an effort to stabilize its presence despite the occupation and ethnic cleansing of 1948. Shortly after the occupation of 1967, the Israeli government referred to the newly occupied territory as a bargaining chip, with the aim of exchanging these territories back to Syria, Jordan, and Egypt in exchange for peace treaties.

But the occupation has gained a foothold in Israel's society and political sphere. Israel has illegally colonized 550,000 colonists in the occupied territory and built extensive infrastructure for the illegal colonies, including water services, electricity, roads, industrial zones, and countless security measures that separate the colonists from the indigenous Palestinian population.

In 2002, when the occupation was 35 years old, the Arab League's initiative was met by a wall of silence from Israel. Even though the same offer would have been gratefully embraced by Israel before 1967, the Israeli prime minister at the time of the offer was Ariel Sharon, who himself owns an apartment in occupied East Jerusalem.

Despite Israel's lack of reaction, the Arab League ratified the offer year after year for the past decade.

U.S Secretary of State John Kerry has recently referred to the Arab Initiative as a possible starting place for negotiations. Although President Obama's administration has proven through its policies to be extremely supportive of Israeli policies and of the occupation, Kerry's mention of the Arab Initiative has put Israel in a tight spot.

In a speech in the Bar-Ilan University in 2009, Israeli prime minister Netanyahu reluctantly agreed to the two-state solution, albeit with many reservations.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): If we receive this guarantee regarding demilitarization and Israel's security needs, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people, then we will be ready in a future peace agreement to reach a solution where a demilitarized Palestinian state exists alongside the Jewish state.

HEVER: But despite this claim, he has continued to delay and evade any concrete steps towards that goal, while still constructing illegal colonies in the occupied territory.

Kerry re-awakened interest in the Arab Initiative, and after consideration, the Arab countries agreed to soften their proposal to make it even more appealing to Israel.

On April 30, Qatari Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani spoke in Washington and emphasized that mutual land swaps between Israel and the Palestinians would be accepted within the framework of the Arab initiative.

HAMAD BIN JASSIM BIN JABER AL THANI, QATARI PRIME MINISTER: Peace between the Palestinian and the Isaeli is starting. It's a strategic choice for the Arab state, referring to the Arab initiative, peace initiative, as sound, as sound peace for reaching a joint justice and peace between the Palestinian and the Israeli and stability in the Middle East. The Arab League delegation affirmed that agreement should be based on the two-state solution, on the basis of the 4 June 1967 line, with the possible of comparable and mutual agreed minor swap of the land.

HEVER: This change has been included to appeal to Israel, because Israel could negotiate to keep the most densely populated colonies in the West Bank, reducing the number of colonists that would have to be evacuated. In exchange, Israel could offer the Palestinians empty lands.

Palestinians expressed skepticitism about this plan, concerned that these land swaps will not be handled in good faith and could entrench Israel's control over the occupied territory.

Tzipi Livni is considered the most moderate voice in Israel's government, despite serving as minister of foreign affairs during Israel's invasion of the Gaza Strip in the winter of 2008-2009. She currently holds the position of minister of justice. She responded positively to the news about the softening of the Arab Initiative.

But a source close to Prime Minister Netanyahu said to the Haaretz newspaper that Netanyahu is displeased with the offer and wish it ?had never been made.? Netanyahu sent Livni and a personal representative, Yitzhak Molcho, to Washington for urgent conference with Kerry in an attempt to prevent the U.S from endorsing the Arab initiative.

Even if the U.S will endorse the Arab initiative, however, there is no political will in Israel to end the occupation or to recognize the rights of Palestinian refugees. It also seems unlikely that the U.S will impose sanctions on Israel or will even reduce its aid to Israel in light of Israel's reluctance to work towards the two-state solution.

Members of the Arab League of course know this. They have continued to ratify the Arab Initiative not because they believe that Israel will accept it, but because it helps to expose the fact that Israel has no intention of ending the occupation unless external pressure will force it to do so.

This is Shir Hever for the Real News.


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