The Prime Minister’s Office responded cautiously but positively on Tuesday to an
Arab League delegation’s statement in Washington that it would accept “minor”
land swaps as part of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement on the basis of the
Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad
bin Jassim al-Thani said Monday, following a meeting he and a delegation of Arab
League foreign ministers had with US Secretary of State John Kerry, that any
agreement “should be based on the two-state solution on the basis of the 4th of
June 1967 line, with the possibility of comparable and mutual agreed minor swaps
of the land.”
The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement in the name
of diplomatic sources, saying that Israel “welcomed the support given by the
Arab league delegation and the US secretary of state to the diplomatic
The statement further said that Israel was prepared to start
negotiations with the Palestinians immediately, without preconditions, and that
it expected them to refrain from placing preconditions on the talks as
“The two sides can present their positions in the negotiations,”
the statement read.
Thani’s statement appeared to be a softening of the
2002 Arab Peace Initiative which called for a two-state solution based on a
complete Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines and making east Jerusalem the
Palestinian capital, in return for “normal relations in the context of a
comprehensive peace with Israel.”
The 2002 initiative also called for the
“achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed
upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194.” In the Arab world,
that resolution is viewed as enshrining a Palestinian refugee “right of return”
The cautious response from the Prime Minister’s Office, along
with the lack of a direct response from Netanyahu himself to the comments
Tuesday, indicates that he wants to tread carefully because of uncertainty about
the significance of Thani’s statement, and whether it represents any type of
The response shows that at this point he wants neither to
pour cold water on, nor to embrace, a possibly revised Arab Peace
The initiative, however, is emerging as a key element in
Kerry’s efforts to get the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating
While Netanyahu did not address the developments directly,
President Shimon Peres did, saying in Rome, “I believe that there is a chance to
open negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and that Abu Mazen
[Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] is a genuine partner for peace.
The ministers of the Arab League once again expressed their support for the
two-state solution, which is also accepted by us, and a broad structure of
support is being created for making progress.”
Likewise, Justice Minister
Tzipi Livni, who is to head the Israeli team in negotiations with the
Palestinians when they restart, wrote on her Facebook page that she welcomed the
“messages” coming from the Arab League.
“The important message is that
they also recognize that there will be adjustments to the 1967 lines, and that
also during days of turmoil in the Arab world, they are committed to
normalization with Israel when an agreement is reached with the Palestinians,”
Livni said that while there was still “a long way to go” – and
while Israel could not accept all the elements of the Arab peace initiative as
sacrosanct – “sometimes it is possible to rise above the differences and say
succinctly that it is good news that should be welcomed.”
meanwhile, also voiced cautious support for the Arab League endorsement of minor
land swaps, with chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat saying there was nothing new
about this position.
The Arab delegation, he said, “presented the
official Palestinian position. Upon Israel’s unequivocal acceptance of the
two-state solution on the 1967 border, the State of Palestine as a sovereign
country might consider minor agreed border modifications, equal in size and
quality, in the same geographical area, and that do not harm Palestinian
Erekat said that the Arab League delegation had ratified the
Arab Peace Initiative, which has received the endorsement of 57 Arab and Muslim
The peace plan, he said, provides for a comprehensive regional
solution based on Israeli implementation of international law, in exchange for
full normalization with the rest of the region.
“Israeli rejection of
this initiative shows once again that the Israeli government lacks a peace
plan,” Erekat added.
“Rather, it is fully engaged in further colonization
and attacks against Palestinian rights and regional stability.”
who is visiting Austria, avoided commenting on the Arab League’s proposal for a
In the past, he has not ruled out the possibility of “minor
shifts” in the future border between Israel and a Palestinian
Speaking to reporters in Vienna after meeting with Austrian
President Heinz Fischer, Abbas said that ongoing construction in the settlements
and the imprisonment of thousands of Palestinians in Israeli jails were an
obstacle to achieving peace.
Reiterating his commitment to the twostate
solution, Abbas said he wasn’t setting preconditions for the resumption of peace
talks with Israel.
“The ball is now in the Israeli court,” he added,
“We talked [with the Austrian president] about the
dangers of settlements in the Palestinian territories, especially in Jerusalem,”
he said. “I also clarified the exceptional situation of Palestinian prisoners
who are suffering behind Israeli bars.”
Abbas said he was committed to
achieving reconciliation with Hamas and forming a unity government to prepare
for new presidential and parliamentary elections within three months.
PA official in Ramallah said the Palestinians were fully coordinated with the
other members of the Arab League, whose representatives met with Kerry in
The official pointed out that PA Foreign Minister Riyad Malki
was among the Arab League ministers who had met with Kerry.
the PA had been notified in advance of the Arab League’s support for land swaps
between the Palestinians and Israel, the official said, “This is an old idea
that was discussed with previous Israeli prime ministers. President Abbas has
stated in the past that he does not rule out the possibility of small changes
along the border.”
But while the PA leadership supported the land swap
idea, the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine group condemned
The group accused the Arab foreign ministers of “begging”
the US to resume the peace process between the PA and Israel.
Palestinians don’t need anyone to make concessions on their behalf,” the PFLP
said in response to the land swap proposal.
“No one authorized the Arab
delegation to voluntarily give up Palestinian lands. We condemn this proposal as
an attempt to legitimize settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in
violation of international laws and the Geneva Fourth
Another radical group, the Democratic Front for the
Liberation of Palestine, also condemned the land swap idea and accused Qatar of
seeking to liquidate the Palestinian issue.
Muhammad Jadallah, a senior
member of the DFLP, said that Qatar was seeking to take over the Arab League in
order to serve US interests in the region.