Netanyahu signals readiness to consider 2002 Arab peace plan

JERUSALEM Wed Jun 5, 2013 11:48am EDT

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem June 2, 2013. REUTERS/Sebastian Scheiner/Pool

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem June 2, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Sebastian Scheiner/Pool

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled readiness on Wednesday to consider a 2002 Arab peace plan whose terms were recently softened to include possible land swaps between Israel and the Palestinians.

"We are listening to every initiative - the Arab initiative has been mentioned - and we are prepared to discuss initiatives that are proposals and not edicts," he said in a speech in parliament.

Netanyahu spoke during a debate on the plan, proposed at an Arab League summit 11 years ago. Israel had rejected the initiative that offered normalized ties for it with much of the Arab world, citing its call for complete withdrawal from land captured in the 1967 Middle East war as a main stumbling block.

Israel occupied the West Bank, Arab East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, areas Palestinians seeks for a future state, in that conflict.

Echoing previous Israeli leaders, Netanyahu has ruled out a return to pre-1967 war frontiers, calling them indefensible.

But a month ago, Arab states appeared to soften the 2002 plan when Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, Qatar's prime minister and foreign minister, said Israel and the Palestinians could trade land rather than conform exactly to the 1967 lines.

Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party, has never endorsed the idea of territorial exchange publicly. A 2009 U.S. diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks in 2010 said he expressed support for the concept in a meeting with U.S. legislators.

In his address to the legislature, Netanyahu repeated a call to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to return unconditionally to peace talks that collapsed in 2010 over continued Israeli settlement building on occupied land.

Abbas has said Israel must first stop settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem before the U.S.-hosted negotiations can resume.

"Since he (Abbas) doesn't speak Hebrew, and my Arabic is not great, I am calling on him in a language we both know and saying to him, 'Give peace a chance', Netanyahu said, switching to English to utter the phrase.

"Don't miss the opportunity," he added, saying he was prepared to make "difficult decisions to move negotiations ahead" but cautioning he would take no moves that would jeopardize Israeli security.

Abbas said on Tuesday "the ball is in the Israeli court" and Israel needed to accept the Palestinians' demand for a settlement freeze so that talks could begin.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been trying to restart the negotiations. He has made four trips to the region since taking office four months ago and a State Department spokeswoman said on Tuesday he could return to Israel and the Palestinian territories as early as next week.

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Comments (3)
pavoter1946 wrote:
Is this readiness before or after thousands of new homes are authorized in the illegal settlements on the West Bank?

(Yes, I know Israel can claim settlements have not been ruled illegal, since those proceedings did not have Israel as a participant, so they were not binding.)

Jun 05, 2013 11:03am EDT  --  Report as abuse
usagadfly wrote:
These bargains need to be negotiated and finalized, and finalized soon. We are talking about some of the best bargainers on the planet, on both sides. They are certainly capable of reaching an acceptable deal, with gains and losses balanced between the parties.

But this will never happen unless the USA withdraws the financial and military support that allows both sides to delay, posture, and dissemble away the decades while American are deprived of services they were promised by their own Government in order to pay for such stubbornness. It is time that the American people stop being hurt in order to indulge tiny minorities of US citizens who feel much, much greater closeness to foreign countries and foreigners than to their own fellow Americans. This must stop. It must never happen again.

We must severely curtail the access of foreign governments to our election finance system, our judicial system, and our civil service. No more “dual” nationals in US Government employ, whether directly or by contract, except at enlisted levels in the military. We have too many “immigrants” who are still foreigners with primary allegiance to other countries. This must be halted, completely and soon, without “grandfathering”. The Government owes its real citizens, not foreigners. Repudiation of previous citizenship and a 20 year travel ban on “visits” to the “former” country should be a requirement for citizenship. Pick America or go home!

Jun 05, 2013 1:09pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
suncarriage2 wrote:
It has been clear for many years now that land swops are the only credible way forward to end in a peaceful settlement.But, as Israel needs defensible borders, the Palestinians need a viable territory to call their own.The Israeli settlements must be, in part, up for negotiation because the map as it stands hardly would constitute any viability from a reasonable persons point of view.What is quite clear is that,if Israel truly considers itself to be a democracy it will eventually have to concede one of two solutions for the Palestinians;viable statehood or to give the vote to all who reside in the whole of 1917 Palestine.Its a matter of time,but one American administration or another,will press for this eventually as part of a general pacification for the peoples of the middle east.

Jun 05, 2013 1:31pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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