Knesset, PM to hold parley on Arab League proposal

Labor, Meretz, some Yesh Atid call to adopt Qatari PM's proposal for minor land swaps between Israel, future Palestinian state; Bayit Yehudi: There's nothing new here, settlements won't be evacuated.

Cabinet sitting down Knesset 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Cabinet sitting down Knesset 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will address the Knesset on the topic of the Arab League’s flexibility on pre-1967 lines, after all 52 opposition MKs signed a petition on Tuesday requiring him to do so.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal- On, who initiated the petition, said “the government cannot continue dragging its feet and miss this great opportunity.”
She added that “The new, promising version of the Arab League’s proposal for peace with Israel and dozens of Arab states is at our doorstep and the government cannot turn its back on negotiations.”
If at least 40 MKs sign a petition for the prime minister to discuss any topic in the plenum, he is required by law to do so. However, the MKs may only do so once a month.
Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich also called for Netanyahu to adopt the Arab League’s agreement to land swaps.
“This is an important step by the Arab world, which has a chance to be groundbreaking. We must examine it seriously,” she stated.
Yacimovich’s comments came after MK Eitan Cabel, one of her major critics within Labor, said in the Knesset plenum that she is avoiding discussion of the topic and thinks peace is a burden.
Labor MK Erel Margalit wrote a letter to Netanyahu calling it an opportunity to reach a regional agreement that will let Israel be “part of the economic and political fabric” of the Middle East.
“After years of a diplomatic freeze with the Palestinian government, Israel does not have the privilege of remaining indifferent to the Arab League’s initiative and avoid stretching out its hand to implement it...while protecting Israeli interests,” Margalit wrote.
“It turns out that, despite all that is happening in the Arab world, the Arab Peace Plan is still alive, kicking and relevant,” MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) said.
“Netanyahu, [Finance Minister Yair] Lapid and [Economics and Trade Minister Naftali] Bennett need to stop talking about destructive nonsense like a referendum [on a peace treaty] and act now.”
Coalition members from Yesh Atid spoke out in favor of Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani's announcement, as well.
“This is an important, encouraging step,” Science and Technology Minister Ya’acov Peri said.
“An announcement like this gives Israel an opening to continue to strengthen large settlement blocs, in exchange for other territory that will be given to the Palestinians. The time has come to check the possibility of adopting the Arab League initiative as part of accelerating the diplomatic process.”
Yesh Atid faction leader Ofer Shelah called for moderates in the Arab world to be involved in the peace process with the Palestinians, labeling al- Thani’s declaration a good sign.
While most Likud Beytenu MKs avoided discussing the topic, Tourism Minister Uzi Landau quipped on Army Radio: “The Arab League proposal offers Auschwitz borders with slight changes.”
Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman Ayelet Shaked was unimpressed with the Arab League’s stance.
“There’s nothing new here. [Former prime minister Ehud] Olmert and [former US president Bill] Clinton talked about this. No one thinks that 400,000 people can be removed from their homes,” she said.
Still, Shaked added that Bayit Yehudi will not oppose negotiations, as long as there is a “give and take, not give and give.” In addition, the party opposes giving up any territory.
MK Motti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) referred to the murder of Evyatar Borovsky by terrorists at Tapuah junction during a speech in the Knesset.
“The answer to the murder is not with delusions that are detached from reality like other MKs suggested," he said. "The answer is strengthening settlements in Judea and Samaria."