The Times of Israel reports that Kerry expected to revive 2002 Saudi peace initiative:
While US President Barack Obama’s visit to the region has been described as a listening tour, for Secretary of State John Kerry the visit is all business. According to a report in Yedioth Ahronoth Tuesday, Kerry is in the region to kick-start peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, using the 2002 Saudi Peace initiative as the starting point of future talks.
According to Yedioth Ahronoth, Kerry intends to put the Arab League peace initiative, proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002, back on the table for Israel and the PA. According to that plan, Arab nations would recognize and make peace with Israel in exchange for Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 armistice lines, an agreed solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, and acceptance of the formation of an independent Palestinian state.
This is hardly the first time that the Obama administration has toyed with the Saudi Peace Initiative. On November 16, 2008, Uzi Mahnaimi reported in The Times Online: Barack Obama links Israel peace plan to 1967 borders deal:
Barack Obama is to pursue an ambitious peace plan in the Middle East involving the recognition of Israel by the Arab world in exchange for its withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, according to sources close to America’s president-elect.That same day, Haaretz reported Top Obama aide denies report president-elect will back Arab peace plan:
...On a visit to the Middle East last July, the president-elect said privately it would be “crazy” for Israel to refuse a deal that could “give them peace with the Muslim world”, according to a senior Obama adviser. [emphasis added]
A senior adviser to Barack Obama on Sunday denied reports that the U.S. president-elect plans to throw his weight behind the 2002 Arab peace plan, which calls for Israel to withdraw from all territories captured during the 1967 Six-Day War in exchange for normalized ties with the Arab world.But by January 23, 2009, Obama was already talking openly about the Saudi Peace Plan:
The British Sunday Times said Obama expressed this sentiment during his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories last July.
Dennis Ross, Obama's adviser on Middle East policy, issued a statement Sunday, saying "I was in the meeting in Ramallah. Then-senator Obama did not say this, the story is false."
He called on Arab governments to “act on” the promise of a Saudi-led 2002 Arab peace initiative by supporting the Palestinian Authority headed by President Mahmoud Abbas “taking steps towards normalising relations with Israel, and by standing up to extremism that threatens us all.”By April 2, 2009, a White House statement made it clear that Obama was discussing the plan directly with the Saudis:
The President met with King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia today in London. The leaders reaffirmed the long-standing, strong relationship between the two countries. They discussed international cooperation regarding the global economy, regional political and security issues, and cooperation against terrorism. The President reiterated his appreciation for Saudi Arabia's leadership in promoting the Arab Peace Initiative. He and King Abdullah agreed to continue close consultations on a range of bilateral and regional issues.The basics of the peace initiative are provided in The Beirut Declaration:
As it stands, in exchange for Israeli acceptance of indefensible borders, the dilution of the Israeli majority and recognizing the existence of an unstable terrorist state on its border -- Israel will receive a peace similar to what it has now with Egypt, where the government is looking for ways to get out of the agreement. As it is, Abbas already has abrogated its agreement with Israel by going to the UN to upgrade Palestinian status at the UN and avoiding talks with Israel.
In return the Arab states will do the following:
- Complete withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the 4 June 1967 line and the territories still occupied in southern Lebanon.
- Attain a just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees to be agreed upon in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution No 194.
- Accept the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since 4 June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.
- Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict over, sign a peace agreement with Israel, and achieve peace for all states in the region
- Establish normal relations with Israel within the framework of this comprehensive peace
While it appears that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, agreed that his proposed initiative is supposed to serve only as a basis for negotiation, it's not clear how that is any different than where matters stand now: the need for negotiation that the Abbas regime is doing everything possible to avoid.
And with the current upheaval in the Muslim world, just what kind of peace with the Muslim world is possible?
Now more than ever, one can argue that it is peace in the Middle East that must precede Israel-Palestinian peace -- and not the other way around as Obama likes to claim.
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