By: Naftali Raz, Educator and Tour Guide, coordinator of MASAD – Social-Democratic Center
"Government sources" in Israel: "No to preconditions". The peace camp supports the initiative: from Minister Tzipi Livni to Minister Jacob Perry, and including MASAD and the mainstay of Israeli society.
On April 30, a delegation of the Arab League led by Qatar's Prime Minister, Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabar Al-Thani, and including the secretary of the League Nabil Al-Araby and foreign ministers of several Arab countries, renewed, in the presence of US Vice President Joe Biden and of Secretary of State John Kerry, the League's offer to lend a hand to peace. The Qatari PM stated on behalf of the Arab League – which includes 21 Arab states and the Palestinian Authority – its readiness to adopt a more flexible position than the one presented in its original 2002 Peace Initiative: "the agreement" (between Israel and the Palestinians) "must be founded on a two-state solution, based on the June 4th 1967 line, with mutually agreed upon minor land swaps". Thus the Arab League has in principle agreed to back an agreement leaving some settlement blocs under Israeli control in exchange for a transfer of comparable land to Palestinian control. Ben Jabar Al-Thani also stated :"a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is a strategic choice for Arab countries". The American Administration sees in these statements a "constructive step" toward the advancement of the Arab Peace Initiative and of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. It expects a positive response from Israel.
The latest Arab League statements mark an important step forward toward peace. They imply:
1. The Arab League has in effect again ratified its Peace Initiative – contrary to the opinion expressed by some analysts who thought that at its annual meeting in Doha last March, the Arab League had avoided re-endorsing the Initiative;
2. The Arab League has amended its original Initiative – introducing the possibility of mutually agreed upon land swaps;
3. The Arab League has strengthened Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority by siding with Abu Mazen's acceptance of the principle of land swaps in Annapolis. It should be noted that the backing of the Arab League was presented by the PM of Qatar, Hamas's ally and supporter!
The readers of this magazine most probably know that I have supported the Arab Peace Initiative for years. My support has becoming stronger in light of what I saw as Abu Mazen's mistakes – perhaps due to pressures exerted by Hamas: Abu Mazen ignored the advances made by then Prime Minister Olmert and Foreign Minister Livni following the Annapolis meeting. He continued to err, in my opinion, when he demanded a freeze on all settlements as a precondition for a return to the negotiation table with Netanyahu. I am convinced now more than ever that only an endorsement by the Arab League can enable Abu Mazen – or any other Palestinian leader – to be more flexible and agree to compromise.
For his part Prime Minister Netanyahu, has not responded. He used the channel of "government sources" to respond with sourness: "We are not ready to accept preconditions". I beg your pardon? To demand the recognition of Israel as a Jewish State before renewing negotiations is not a "precondition"? Agreeing to land swaps is?
The peace camp did react. It shook the hand that was extended: Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni, responsible for negotiations with the Palestinians; Jacob Perry, Minister of Sciences and Technology; Opposition Leader, Shelly Yachimovich (maybe under the pressure of many members of the Labor Party she heads) and Knesset Member (Head of the "Meretz" party) Zaava Galon.
Accompanied by Attorney Jacob Molho (Netanyahu's "baby-sitter"), Minister Tzipi Livni travelled to the US to speak about the Arab Peace Initiative with representatives of the American Administration. Although it is doubtful that she was given much leeway by Netanyahu, Benet and "his brother" Lapid, we sent her our best wishes for success. Her success is our success!