Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for a revival of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative at a Cairo donor conference on Sunday that raised $5.4 billion for Gaza and featured world leaders who urged an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We should turn this moment into a real starting point to achieve a peace that secures stability and flourishing and renders the dream of coexistence a reality, and this is the vision of the Arab Peace Initiative,” said Sisi.
The 2002 initiative, initially proposed by Saudi Arabia, offers Israel full recognition by the Arab world, if it withdraws to the pre-1967 lines and agrees to a “just solution” for Palestinian refugees.
In a speech that did not focus on any one specific peace plan, US Secretary of State John Kerry told the conference, “We’ve got to find a way to get back to the table and help people make tough choices.”
He added, “Even the most durable of cease-fires is not a substitute for peace. Even the most durable of cease-fires is not a substitute of security for Israel and a state and dignity for the Palestinians.”
The US is committed to the renewal of talks because the status quo is not sustainable, Kerry said.
But he did not offer a new peace initiative to replace America’s last effort, which fell apart in April after nine months of US-brokered negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Although the process did not produce tangible results, Kerry said that “real and significant process was made on substantive issues. Longtime gaps were narrowed and creative ideas were actively being deployed to solve remaining differences.”
The conference, which was co-sponsored by Egypt and Norway, focused the attention of world leaders on the frozen peace process. While in Cairo, Kerry met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
He also spoke with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman by telephone on Saturday night.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is to visit Israel on Monday to hold talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. On Tuesday he is to visit Gaza.
In Cairo, he called on both sides to make peace and condemned the rocket attacks against Israel that helped spark this summer’s conflict in Gaza. But he blamed the war on Israel’s “occupation” of Palestinian territories, as he called on the parties to finalize an agreement for a two-state solution.
“We must not lose sight of the root causes of the recent hostilities: a restrictive occupation that has lasted almost half a century, the continued denial of Palestinian rights and the lack of tangible progress in peace negotiations,” Ban said.
Ban added, “Going back to the status quo is not an option; this is the moment for transformational change.”
Gaza, he warned, remains a “tinderbox.”
Without a peace agreement, Ban said, he feared that Gaza wars and donor conferences to repair the damage would become an annual ritual.
In a side conversation with reporters, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said his country plans to back a Palestinian United Nations Security Council resolution that sets a deadline for a two-state solution that includes an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and east Jerusalem by November 2016.
Both Russia and the US are permanent members of the 15 nations that comprise the UN Security Council and both countries have veto power. The US often uses that veto power to stop Palestinian resolutions at the UNSC.
Although Russia is a member of the Quartet, which calls for a negotiated solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, Russia also has a history of supporting unilateral Palestinian statehood initiatives, particularly at the UN.
Russia has already recognized Palestine as a state. In 2012 it supported the UN General Assembly resolution that granted Palestine de facto statehood recognition by upgrading its status before the international body from that of an observer nation to a nonmember state.
According to the English language website of the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, Bogdanov spoke with journalists in Cairo about his country’s support for the Palestinian UNSC resolution.
“I cannot see any reasons to cavil about this text, or about [the] Palestinian people’s wish to say once again ‘Let’s have a look at this situation in the UN framework.’ So we say [to Palestinians], if you find one option or another suitable, then we will support you as friends. You know better what you need and how to achieve it.
We think that the Palestinian case is fair, meaning that people have a right to self-determination, up to establishing their state,” Bogdanov said.
Abbas, in his public speech to the Cairo donor conference, urged the international community to follow suit.
“The international community is called upon now, more than any time before, to support our bid to obtain a UN Security Council resolution that sets forth a [deadline] for ending the occupation and engaging in serious negotiations to solve all final-status issues,” Abbas said.
“This starts with delineation of the borders within a specific time frame that is in line with our obligations toward achieving a just and comprehensive peace that guarantees security and stability for all peoples and countries in the region,” he said.
Israel’s failure to abide by UN resolutions, its rejection of the Arab Peace Initiative and its dismissal of a two-state solution at the pre-1967 lines had to lead to a renewal of the cycle of violence, he said.
On top of that, he added, settlement activity over the pre-1967 lines “is like adding fuel to the fire in our region.”
Abbas said a new international approach was needed to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This approach, he said, should reflect a vision of the Arab Peace Initiative.
Israel has rejected the Arab Peace Initiative. It had been asked not to attend the Cairo conference out of fear that some Arab countries, such as Qatar – which contributed $1 billion to Gaza rebuilding efforts – would then boycott the event.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told Israel Radio that Israel had an important role to play in the reconstruction of Gaza irrespective of whether it was at the conference or not.
In light of regional violence, it should be clear that preserving Israel’s security needs would be an important part of any final-status arrangements, he said.
He noted that the Gaza war was sparked by the Hamas kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June. The Palestinians can prevent future violence in Gaza by refraining from attacking Israel, Liberman said.Reuters contributed to this report.