Israel welcomes apparent Arab League softening of peace plan

JERUSALEM Tue Apr 30, 2013 12:51pm EDT

A boy stands near a Palestinian flag placed near newly-erected tents in the West Bank village of Beit Iksa, between Ramallah and Jerusalem January 20, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

A boy stands near a Palestinian flag placed near newly-erected tents in the West Bank village of Beit Iksa, between Ramallah and Jerusalem January 20, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mohamad Torokman

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel responded favorably on Tuesday to an apparent softening by Arab states of their 2002 peace plan after a top Qatari official raised the possibility of land swaps in setting borders between the Jewish state and an independent Palestine.

The original Arab League proposal offered full recognition of Israel but only if it gave up all land seized in the 1967 Middle East war and accepted a "just solution" for Palestinian refugees. Israel, which has long said it would never return to narrow pre-1967 war borders, rejected the plan at the time.

"Israel welcomes the encouragement given by the Arab League delegation and the (U.S.) Secretary of State to the diplomatic process," a senior government official said after talks in Washington on Monday between an Arab League delegation and John Kerry on how to advance stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

In the 1967 conflict, Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip - areas Palestinians are now seeking for a state of their own. U.S.-hosted peace talks have been frozen since 2010 in a dispute over Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

After the meeting with Kerry, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, Qatar's prime minister and foreign minister, told reporters: "The Arab League 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.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Thani's statement reflected longstanding Palestinian positions.

"Upon Israel's unequivocal acceptance of the two-state solution on the 1967 border, the State of Palestine as a sovereign country might consider minor agreed border modifications equal in size and quality, in the same geographic area, and that do not harm Palestinian interests," he said.

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, designated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be his chief peace negotiator with the Palestinians, described as "very positive" news of a possible shift in the Arab League position.

"It would allow the Palestinians to enter the room and make the needed compromise and it sends a message to the Israeli public that this is not just about us and the Palestinians," she told Army Radio.

Israel has proposed land swaps with the Palestinians in the past - exchanges that would likely leave some settlements in place - but negotiators failed to clinch a final agreement.

Whatever the Arab League's stance, internal Palestinian divisions pose a serious obstacle, however. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has negotiated with Israel, holds sway only in the West Bank, while Islamist rival Hamas controls Gaza and refuses to recognize Israel or renounce violence.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller, Ali Sawafta and Noah Browning; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Comments (4)
Lemming wrote:
How many more years of the so called peace process pertaining Israel and Palestine do we have to continue to support? Peace will never be achieved between any of them. Too many years of hate, mistrust and religious intolerance plagues them all! More talk is all they’re capable of…

Apr 30, 2013 1:38pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
mils54 wrote:
That may be correct Lemming but better talking than killing!.

Apr 30, 2013 2:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
TBellchambers wrote:
Israel: this anachronistic, latter-day, colonial state.

The Israeli government believes that the current civil war in neighbouring Syria will serve to hide its own continued oppression of the Arabs, the largest and oldest indigenous people of the region for over a thousand years.

The toxic taint of racial superiority that is endemic in today’s Israeli society is an ideology that is increasingly repugnant to the international community. Its legal inequalities and discrimination based on ethnicity and its restrictions on employment and residency, are the foundations that support this anachronistic, latter-day, colonial state.

Just as Nelson Mandela, during apartheid, warned that the spectre of National Socialism was haunting South Africa, so they also haunt modern-day Palestine. Today, Arabs experience similar humiliations and indignities to those that European Jews experienced during the decade leading up to WW2 although not the concentration camps or the industrialised killings.

However, the similarities between the life today of the Palestinians in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem to those who were obliged to live under the former regimes of apartheid in South Africa and National Socialism in Germany, are all too obvious.

Israelis are taught to believe that Arabs, in general, are inferior, untrustworthy and fit only to be unskilled labourers, and consequently have been made into a persecuted ethnic minority in their own lands. There are clear ideological links with apartheid: passes, border controls, prohibited areas, controlled access points, imprisonment without trial, and torture. The prejudice is comparable with other forms of racism. These are racial doctrines of superiority and intolerance.

Israel’s Likud government policies echo the claims of the South African National Party that the system of apartheid was not racist but merely the implementation of a policy of separate development for whites and blacks, only in this case it is for Jews and Arabs across 3m high separation walls that bisect Arab land and divide ancient communities. The failure of Europe, in particular, to respond to the plight of these five million disenfranchised and dispossessed Palestinians is a mirror of the world of European Jewry in the years prior to and during WW2 and the Bantustans of the apartheid regime prior to independence.

An implied, but bogus, biological deficiency in the Arab mentality has led to discrimination and segregation; the illegal expropriation of their lands and the burning of their olive groves. The abdication of the moral responsibility by the Diaspora to unequivocally oppose such racial discrimination, persecution, imprisonment without trial and state sponsored assassination indicates a shameful position of appeasement. Furthermore, those who by inhumanity or cowardice help to keep in power a political party committed to racial superiority and segregation, are no less guilty.

The oppression and injustice of Zionist ideology and the doctrine of racial superiority is an alien concept to most Jews outside Israel and a violation of Jewish ethics and the tenets of Judaism.

Iran’s alleged threat that the state of Israel ‘must vanish from the page of time’ is similar to the Likud manifesto threat to illegally annex the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Neither should ever be allowed to materialise.

Apr 30, 2013 2:55pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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