Reviving the Arab Peace Initiative

Seems there is a coordinated campaign to revive the Saudi Peace Plan, [AKA Arab Peace Initiative]. In what seems like a coordinated media blitz, several regional leaders and commentators have brought it up today.

First, there was Ehud Barak, who said on Army Radio this morning that Israel was seriously reconsidering the plan: “There is room in the Israeli coalition for the Saudi initiative,” he said. “We have a mutual interest with moderate Arab elements on the issues of Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.”

The plan was first floated by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah to NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman in 2002 and then formulated into an Arab Peace Initiative that was discussed and modified at an Arab League summit conference in Beirut in March of 2002. The original plan called for peace with Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal from all territories conquered in conflict. Barak added that President Shimon Peres was in agreement, and that he has spoken about the matter with Foreign Minister and Kadima chair Tzipi Livni as well.

Ian Black, Middle East editor for The Guardian newspaper, in an article today entitled “Time to resurrect the Arab peace plan”, writes that the king’s nephew, Prince Turki al-Faisal, is promoting the peace plan again now, and that he has been joined by “leading Israelis [that] are planning a campaign to breathe new life into the Arab peace initiative, advertising the benefits of a comprehensive settlement which consigns the entire conflict to history.

Black: “Every Arab state, as Turki put it, “made clear that they will pay the price for peace, not only by recognising Israel as a legitimate state in the area, but also to normalize relations with it and end the state of hostilities that had existed since 1948. The quid pro quo was that Israel too must “accept peace as a strategic choice … withdraw completely from all the lands they occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem … accept a just solution for the refugee problem … and recognize the independent state of Palestine.”

Also today, Jordan’s king Abdullah II said Israel has to decide whether it wants to keep its future as fortress Israel or if it wants to engage in the Muslim and Arab worlds, local daily the Jordan Times reported on Sunday.

While the Arab peace plan has been in place, “I have not heard of an Israeli peace plan,” the King said.

Former Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh penned an Op-Ed in the Boston Globe called: “A Mideast plan for the next president,” in which he argues that the next American president should “remove the two practical obstacles blocking the way to an Israeli-Palestinian agreement: relocate 120,000 Israeli settlers who now live in the West Bank in the areas that Israel will evacuate; provide new jobs, proper housing, and a better future to the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who live in poverty and despair.” This is a basic rewording of the Arab Peace Initiative.

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