Egypt's Ambassador in Israel, Hazem Khairat.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The 2002 Arab Peace Plan is the best path to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Egyptian and Jordanian ambassadors said on Thursday in two rare public appearances in Israel.
“Egypt still believes that reaching a peace agreement is achievable,” Egyptian Ambassador Hazem Khairat said at the Herzliya Conference.
He pledged his country will continue to work for a just peace that restores security to the region, which includes “activating the Arab Peace Initiative.”
The Arab Peace Plan, also known as the Saudi Initiative, offers Israel normalized ties with the Arab world in exchange for a withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines and a solution to the Palestinian refugees.
Over the last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for a regional peace process based on a revised version of the initiative, which takes into account the upheavals and changes to the region in the last 14 years. He has not laid out his vision of what those revisions should entail.
Israel has preferred a regional peace process – where it hopes to have more leverage – than in the newly launched French initiative, which it fears would dictate a resolution to the conflict that would be harmful to Israel.
But Khairat said his country thought both initiatives were important.
“Egypt welcomes the French initiative as contributing to the framework of international action” toward ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said, adding it has already “made a new step toward peace.”
Khairat declared that “Israelis and Palestinians should make peace because they must. The two-state solution in the only way to end this conflict. There is not much time left, and there is no other alternative.”
The absence of hope contributed to regional instability, he said, and also feeds global and regional terrorism.
Jordan’s Ambassador Walid Obeidat, who shared the stage with Khairat at the Herzliya confab, also called for an Israeli- Palestinian peace deal based on the Arab Peace Plan, and spoke in support of the French initiative.
“The Arab Peace Initiative stands as the master of all initiatives when we talk about regional approaches.” Obeidat said, adding that the plan has the support of 58 Arab countries.
“What more could Israel ask for than this?” Obeidat asked.
PLO official Elias Zananiri told the Herzliya Conference that part of the problem was Netanyahu’s reluctance to make peace with the Palestinians.
He said Netanyahu wants to skip over the Palestinians altogether, in hopes of normalizing ties with the Arab world without resolving that primary conflict.
Zananiri said Netanyahu has the capacity to resolve the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, but he has to want to do so. “If [former prime minister] Menachem Begin could make peace, so can Netanyahu,” Zananiri said.
Former head of the Quartet’s Jerusalem Mission, Robert Danin, explained that both Israel and the Arab world had warmed to the plan over time.
When the Saudis first proposed it, he said, they had their eye more on improving their ties with Washington post the September 11, 2001, attack on the Twin Towers in New York. When the Arab League endorsed it, it did so “grudgingly,” almost as if it was “a fax under the door,” Danin said.
Since then, however, it “has endured and evolved.”
This is not “a take it or leave it document,” he said, adding that it was also amended in 2013 to include the idea of land swaps in seeing the final borders of the two-state solution.