After 11 years of not accomplishing anything on the Israel-Palestinian peace process, and arguably taking many steps backwards, the US is dusting off the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative (API) as a basis for future talks.
In essence, the API followed the UN Security Council’s 1967 resolution calling the Israeli conquest of the occupied territories unacceptable, and offered region-wide recognition and peace treaties in return for a Palestinian state along those borders.
The decision to bring it back is interesting, as the US was mostly ambivalent on the matter in 2002, with the Bush Administration spending the year talking up Iraq’s non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” and Israel rejecting the API out of hand, seemingly ending the proposal.
A lack of better ideas seems to have revived it, but the most interesting aspect is that Israel’s government is suddenly claiming it has always “publicly praised” the API and looks forward to the talks.
The reality couldn’t be farther from the truth. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the API in 2002 then again in 2007, saying that the Gaza pullout proved that any plan that involved giving Palestinians territory for peace was unworkable. Incoming Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has been particularly critical of the API, calling it a plan to “destroy Israel.”
Palestinian officials have long endorsed the API, and polls have long showed it enjoys broad support among the Palestinian public. Polls have also shown Israelis opposed to the deal, however, and since consecutive Israeli governments have rejected ending the occupation of East Jerusalem under any circumstances it seems like a non-starter.
A lesser difficulty may be the Arab Spring, with Arab League nations that were supposed to agree to a peace deal with Israel in return for the API greatly changed in the last 11 years. Syria, in particular, appears to be an obstacle, though the API would return the Golan Heights to them, since they are in the middle of a civil war and there is no real front-runner among the rebels to see if they are on board.
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