PM welcomes PA ads in Israeli newspapers

But Livni slams "all or nothing" attitude as PA head appeals to public to support Arab League initiative.

livni abbas shake hands 248.88 (photo credit: GPO [file])
livni abbas shake hands 248.88
(photo credit: GPO [file])
Declaring that Israel is willing to talk with "all of its Arab neighbors" on the basis of 2002's Arab League peace initiative, the Prime Minister's Office on Thursday said it welcomed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's move in which he appealed to the Israeli public to support the plan by publishing a copy of the initiative in four Israeli dailies. The ad appears on page 11 of today's Jerusalem Post. Israel has already held talks about the Arab League plan with some of its neighbors, including Egypt, Jordan and the PA, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev told the Post. Israel has balked at accepting the plan, in part because it provides for the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to within the Green Line. It also calls for Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 borders, including ceding the Golan Heights and portions of Jerusalem. "We have been praising the Arab League initiative for a couple of months," Regev said. "We see this [initiative] as an important step forward. The Arab League has called for recognition of Israel and for peace with Israel. This is important progress," he said. "We are willing [to engage] in open dialogue with all our Arab neighbors on the basis of the Arab initiative." In a sign of the rift between Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on negotiations, Livni said on Thursday, "Israel has interests that are incompatible with the Arab peace initiative, including the issues of borders, east Jerusalem and refugees. These [issues] are presented in the plan in a way that I find unacceptable." What needed to happen here was for the Israelis and the Palestinians to continue the bilateral process, Livni said during a tour of the Tefen Industrial Park in the Galilee. "Negotiations should not be conducted by bringing the plan to the table with an 'all or nothing' attitude," she said. The PA's chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, however, told the Post <that Israelis were rejecting the plan, which offers Israel full recognition by all 57 Arab and Muslim nations, because they did not understand it. "This is his [Abbas's] attempt to make them more knowledgeable. We want to tell you, as an Israeli, 'You have heard so much about it, now look at it in your language,'" Erekat said. The plan is so important to Abbas that he carries a copy of it everywhere he goes and has offered it many times to Olmert. He also plans to publish it in other countries, including in Palestinian and Jordanian papers. Publication of the plan and Abbas's promotion of it is intended to help bring the ongoing PA-Israel talks to a conclusion. MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) blasted the plan as unacceptable to Israel. Then-prime minister Ariel Sharon had called it a "nonstarter," Steinitz said. There were positive elements to the plan, but they were not worth the price, which was compromising on Israel's security and its very existence, he said. The timing of the advertisements was also suspect, Steinitz said. The gesture could be an attempt by Abbas to help Olmert and the Left in general during this election period. Col. (res.) Shaul Arieli, a former brigade commander in the northern Gaza Strip and a member of the Council for Peace and Security, is one of the initiators of the Geneva Initiative, a proposed PA-Israel agreement developed by nongovernmental figures. He said Abbas might be placing the ads in an effort to gain support within the Arab world for his talks with Israel. If Abbas worked under the umbrella of the Arab League, it would be harder for Hamas to oppose his efforts, Arieli said. It was also important to remember that even Hamas and Iran had said they would accept the plan. As for Olmert's positive attitude to the initiative, it was too little, too late, Arieli said.