Former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger sits calmly as Code Pink demonstrators demand his arrest.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Regional turmoil makes it impossible to use the regional 2002 Arab Peace Plan to help end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger told the 2016 Herzliya conference on Wednesday night.
“A number of state are not in a position right now to undertake any regional peace initiative,” Kissinger said.
He was interviewed by Israeli journalist and author Ari Shavit, and spoke via a video hookup from the United States.
Shavit raised the idea of the 2002 Arab Peace Plan, based on the Saudi Initiative, which offered Israel normalized ties with its neighbors in exchange for a withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, and a solution for Palestinian refugees.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for a regional process based on a revised version of that plan.
But Kissinger said such an option was not feasible given that states like Syria, Libya and Iraq were dissolving, and that because it was still unclear what the new government structures would look like, it was hard to imagine that they could be part of any such deal at present.
“If one asks oneself who are the members of such a regional agreement, it is not obvious that it can’t be achieved?” Kissinger asked.
For such an agreement to be worth the paper it is written on, he said, the regional Arab and Islamic states would have to offer Israel guarantees, and “one would have to ask oneself which countries are in a position to extend guarantees.”
Kissinger recalled that under former US president Jimmy Carter – who had brokered a peace deal between Israel and Egypt – it was believed that a state-bystate approach was best. Kissinger said that Egyptian president Anwar Sadat – who was the partner to that deal – believed that holding a regional peace conference to resolve the Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians and its neighbors was risky, because any process with that many partners increases the risk that it could fall apart.
So many years later, he said, he still holds by that idea.
“I have doubts about the composition of such a conference, the procedures and its outcome,” he said.
Rather than trying to resolve everything at once, Israel should take small doable steps with its neighbors that can be built upon for a future peace deal.
Looking at a direct Israeli-Palestinian process, Kissinger said he was “not optimistic that the outcome can be negotiated this year or in the very near future.”
Kissinger ducked the question of what the counters of a final-status agreement should look like, but here too, he preferred a step-by-step approach with an interim solution rather than a final one.
He did deal with the issue of security arrangements for a two-state solution, noting that it was important that such arrangements were compatible with the Palestinians’ sense of dignity.