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The Arab Peace Initiative

Emblem: League of Arab States.

Relevant Links
A Signal from the Crown Prince  Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times. The unofficial 2002 offer to Israel: full withdrawal in return for full normalization of relations.
The Head of the Arab League Speaks  Sawsan Abu-Husain, Asharq al-Awsat. When it comes to peace, the Arabs, in the judgment of Amr Musa, have done everything, only to face Israeli intransigence.
Hamas Rejects Arab Peace Initiative  Associated Press, Ynet. Hamas’s foreign minister dismisses the plan as impractical, and derides as a “waste of money” a Palestinian referendum on a two-state solution.
All or Nothing  Joshua Teitelbaum, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Why, from Israel’s point of view, the Arab peace initiative is unacceptable.  

Among the things remaining unclear in the aftermath of the visit to Washington last week of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the next negotiating move of the Palestinians.  President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has warned that if his objectives in the "proximity talks" mediated by the U.S. are not achieved by mid-September, he will ask the Arab League to press harder with its 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. This document has become part of the verbiage of international declarations on the Arab-Israel conflict. According to the American envoy George Mitchell, it has also been incorporated into the Obama administration's peacemaking strategy. What is it?

The initiative was born after the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States, carried out by Muslim terrorists fifteen of whom were citizens of Saudi Arabia. Recognizing that his kingdom's image as a viper's nest of Islamic fanaticism undermined its vital relationship with Washington, and in the midst of the Palestinians' murderous second intifada against Israel's civilian population, Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah invited New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman to Riyadh to present a peace plan. The plan was touted as offering Israel "full normalization" of relations with the Arab and Muslim world in exchange for an Israeli "full withdrawal" to the armistice boundaries in place from 1949 until the outset of the 1967 Six-Day War.

The following month, an already watered-down version of Abdullah's plan was officially adopted by an Arab League summit in Beirut. Its inauspicious unveiling took place on the day after the ghastly terrorist suicide-bombing of a Passover Seder in Israel's coastal town of Netanya. In a muted reaction to the plan, Jerusalem acknowledged that it did reverse the League's long-standing policy of "No peace, no negotiation, no recognition" set forth at its infamous August 1967 Khartoum summit.  

Yet the plan did little else. Instead of offering the promised "full normalization," it vaguely held out a "full peace," presumably along the cold Egyptian model. It also referred to UN General Assembly Resolution 194, commonly understood to grant the 700,000 Arab refugees from the 1948 war, along with millions of their descendants, the right to "return" to a now-truncated Israel in what would amount to a demographic death-knell to the Jewish state. The initiative absolved the Arab countries of any responsibility for absorbing their Palestinian brethren. And by calling for a withdrawal from all territory captured by Israel in the Six-Day war, the initiative patently rejected Security Council Resolution 242, which since 1967 has been the sine qua non of all peacemaking efforts. Nor did the initiative make even a fleeting mention of the inalienable rights of the Jewish people to a national homeland. Finally, it was put forward as a non-negotiable, take-it-or-leave-it diktat.

In the eight years since the initiative was announced, the Palestinian polity has been torn asunder, with the comparatively less extreme Fatah running West Bank affairs and the rejectionist Hamas ruling the Gaza Strip. With the Palestinians thus fragmented and the Arab League frozen in intransigence by radical forces, can anything transform this dead-letter initiative into a linchpin for peace?

Egypt and Jordan broke with the Arab consensus to make their separate peace with Israel.  No one expects that kind of courage out of Riyadh. But what if the Saudis were to announce that, from their point of view, the plan is an overture, i.e., not a diktat but a starting point for direct negotiations with Israel?

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rami tal on July 12, 2010 at 7:39 am (Reply)
It would take too much of my time to refute in detail all the inaccuracies in this article. I'll refer to only two:
1. In no part of the initiative is it said - or even implied - that it is a diktat. True, it does not call explicitly for negotiations, but that is very obvious. And that is the reason that Israel has been so akward in its attitude to it - kbowing that this could open serious negotiations vis-a-vis the Arabs, namely Syria and the Palestinians, of which Israel is so scared, realizing the territorial price to be paid. Yes, Israel is interested in peace with Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait and Tunisia etc., because that does not oblige her to pay in conquered territory.
2. In contrary to what most Israelis (and Jews worldwide) are led to believe, resolution 194 calls for the solution of the refugee problem by negotiation. There's no way the Arabs are going to give up the demand for "the right of return" before there is a comprehensive agreement, in which Israel will have to give up the occupied territories and parts of Jerusalem. Then, and only then, will the Arabs agree to a solution for the refugees which does not ivolve their return to pre-67 Israel.
Joshua Muravchik on July 12, 2010 at 12:38 pm (Reply)
1. True, Mr. Tal, the text does not preclude negotiations, but public appeals at various times by Israeli leaders--Sharon, Olmert, Peres--have been ignored or rebuffed.
2. Perhaps what has "led [most Jews] to believe" what they do about Resolution 194 is . . . its text with which apparently you are unfamiliar. It reads: "The General Assembly . . . Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date." And what source of information affords you unique foreknowledge of what the Arabs will agree to and when even in contradiction what they have said?
Ben on July 12, 2010 at 4:33 pm (Reply)
The API at this point IS a diktat, whether you want to use that exact term or replace it with, for example, "deal that has to be accepted in its entirety or not accepted at all". The reports I read that quoted leaders in Saudi Arabia said that it wasn't going to be subject to negotiations, which sounds pretty explicit. It sounds like the main reason this article might be "inaccurate" to readers is that it doesn't lie about the Arab point of view, pretend that it offers anything other than a demand for a full Palestinian Right of Return, or make the API into a holy writ. It's a nice idea, but as it stands right now, it's going nowhere-deservedly.
Peter Rothberg on July 13, 2010 at 2:57 pm (Reply)
The Arab Peace Plan is, in reality , a draft of Israel's Act of Capitulation and a part of anti- Israeli propaganda campaign , aimed at portraying Israel as an intransigent militarist Entity and the main reason of regional wars and instability.
These are the Arabs who reject any constractive negotiations , based on bilateral concessions and comprimises and try to promote " a peace process" with final results of it declared in advance.In other words , all they are prepared to discuss with Israel is the terms and conditions of its capitulation.
Israel has to stand firm in face of these provocations and should suggest its own constructive and convincing alternatives , to take initiative in leading the process instead of being led into treacherous traps prepared by our enemoes and their supportes.
Peter Rotberg

David Aharon Lindsay on July 16, 2010 at 11:17 am (Reply)
As a thinking Traditional Jew, I posit the following radically different approach with respect to the conflict.

Israel could say to the entire Non Jewish World

a] We are now the Custodians to Hashem's Land
b] As such we will observe G-d willing all of Hashem's Commandments here.
c] you are welcome to come into our land as a Ger Toshav as long as you observe the Seven Noahide Laws

This provides the correct position that the world Today should be looking at ...

It means that the Arabs could choose to establish a harmopnious relationship both b'eretz Yisrael and Chutzah La'Aretz.

As a Ben Noach any Arab could live in Eretz Yisrael as a Ger Toshav

Is this an impossibility?

Imagine a world where the Voice of Hashem is verbrating and pulsating from Tzion ...

It is now erev Shabbos of the days before Tisha B'Av where the 2nd temple is in ruins for 1940 years because of Sinas Chinom ... it's time to consider an alternative approach that may end this Bimheira B'yameinu

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