Arab leaders at summit endorse two-state solution

Abbas says rulers to convey message in "one voice."

Hopes for peace plan at Arab League Summit , with Abbas in attendance , on March 29, 2017 (REUTERS)
The 28th Arab League Summit endorsed the two-state solution in its closing statement on Wednesday, saying the Arab world would be ready to reconcile with Israel if it withdrew from the land it conquered in the 1967 war.
“We affirm that we will continue to work to relaunch serious Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations... that take place within a set period of time based on the two-state solution,” the closing statement said, adding that the two-state solution should be achieved through  the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative without changes.
The statement came after a slew of Arab leaders, meeting at the King Hussein bin Talal Convention Center at the Dead Sea in Jordan, reaffirmed their support for the two-state solution in the day’s morning session, as a number of them prepare to meet US President Donald Trump in April.
Jordanian King Abdullah, who presided over the opening session last Thursday, said that regional stability depends on the resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by way of the two-state solution.
Trump surprised Arab leaders on February 15 when he said that he does not commit to a two-state solution.
“I’m looking at two-state or one-state; I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one both parties like. I can live with either one,” Trump said at a White House press conference, standing alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The summit’s concluding statement also called on all countries not to relocate their embassies to Jerusalem, and to respect all UN Security Council resolutions.
The summit approved more than 10 resolutions on Wednesday pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Syrian crisis, the Yemeni civil war, the ongoing conflict in Libya, and other issues.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared the Arab League summit a “success,” saying that its conclusions were “clear” and “specific” regarding the Palestinian issue.
Abbas also said that Arab leaders will convey the summit’s conclusions on the Israel-Palestinian conflict to Trump in “one voice” in their upcoming meetings with the American president.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is slated to meet with Trump on Monday, and Abdullah and Abbas are expected to meet the American leader later in April.
At Wednesday morning’s session, Arab leaders delivered sharp criticisms of Israel for its settlement policies.
Abbas said that “the Israeli government since 2009 has worked to wreck the two-state solution through increased settlement building and land confiscation, to the point that the situation is now of one state with two systems.”
Abbas has consistently defined settlement building as a main obstacle to achieving a peace deal. The Israeli government rejects Abbas’s logic, arguing that the Palestinian leader is unwilling to make a final compromise.
Abdullah issued a pointed rebuke of Israel, saying that its actions are “undermining” the peace process.
“Israel is continuing to expand settlements and undermining the chances of achieving peace,” the king said.
In his speech, Abbas also dismissed the idea of amending the Arab Peace Initiative.
“We reaffirm that it is not worthwhile in terms of peace and justice for some to talk about... manipulating the essence of the Arab Peace Initiative,” he said. “We want it to be implemented as it was [first approved] in 2002, without amendments.”
The Arab League first approved the Arab Peace Initiative in Beirut in 2002.
It calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the pre-1967 borders, an end to all claims, and a “just and agreed upon” resolution to the refugee issues.
In the final year of US president Barack Obama’s administration, Netanyahu, then-secretary of state John Kerry, Abdullah and Sisi met in Aqaba to discuss a regional solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would include a number of amendments to the Arab Peace Initiative.
The parties discussed a final agreement that would include recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and changes to the pre-1967 armistice lines through land swaps.
Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said that the current Arab League summit is a display of the challenges facing the Arab world.
“One of these is the Palestinian issue, which should not be ignored, but at the same time none of us should lose sight of the strategic regional challenges that need to be addressed now, including the Iranian threat, the threat of the Islamic State organization and the phenomenon of the ongoing crisis and conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya,” he said.
Katz said that by working together to address those challenges and common threats, while also advancing initiatives to improve living conditions for the Palestinians, “we can lay the groundwork now for a positive change in the day-to-day security and economic reality on the regional level, as well as in the Palestinian context.”
Twenty-one Arab leaders attended this year’s summit, far more than at the 2016 summit in Mauritania, which many kings and presidents skipped for personal or political reasons.
Syria, which has been suspended from the Arab League, was not invited.