Moussa: Reconsider Arab peace plan

Arab League head tells Post Arabs agreed to full peace with Israel.

Amr Moussa 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Amr Moussa 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
According to Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, the Israelis got the Arab peace initiative of 2002 all wrong. He should know. "I drafted it," he said. In an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post, which took place here the day after the closing of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East, Moussa spelled out the conditions for that initiative, conditions which he said would allow the Israeli government to engage in a substantive peace process. Notably, he spoke of the possibility for territorial adjustments along the Green Line. Moussa, in a rare interview with an Israeli publication, said he had a burning message for the Israeli people. It was evidently so important that he get it right that, at one point, after speaking for half an hour, he stopped the interview and said, "Look, I'm not pleased with this interview. It does not convey my real message to the Israeli people. Let's start again." The message, he said, was that Israel and Israelis needed to reexamine the 2002 plan. Their understanding of it, he said, was mistaken. In March 2002, the Arab League made an offer to Israel in a seven-point document, also known as the Beirut initiative. All 22 Arab countries agreed to full peace with Israel in exchange for a "full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967," the acceptance of a sovereign Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital and the achievement of "a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194." Israel ignored the offer, dismissing it as unfeasible. "We have two main problems with it," a Foreign Ministry official said this week. "One, it contradicts the road map by predetermining that the borders between Israel and the Palestinians will be based on '67. The road map says let's sit together and agree together upon the borders." Not so, said Moussa. Everything, including the '67 borders, he said, "is subject to the negotiations that will take place between the two parties." "What we are offering in the Arab initiative is two states," Moussa said. "An Israeli state with the Jewish people living there and a Palestinian state, dividing the land of Palestine along the lines of 4 June 1967... If there are changes in the borders, or around the borders, they have to be astride the borders. You take this, I take that. Just to adjust." Everything must be negotiated, he said, "in order to reach a solution that if this piece of land is to be given to Israel... the Palestinians should be compensated with another piece of land." Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's convergence plan could only work if it were clear that it was a step before a negotiated final settlement, said Moussa. "I still have to know the details about the offer Mr. Olmert has in mind. Is he going to leave 90 percent of the territories and leave the rest to further negotiations within an agreed short period of time?" Moussa asked. "Or just, 'OK, that's it. Here's our borders, good-bye and do whatever you want.' Such an offer would not work. Any resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict would be based on negotiations and mutual understanding in order to have a settlement that both partners can live with." The other reason Israel ignored the initiative was due to the inclusion of UN Resolution 194 regarding solving the problem of the Palestinian refugees. It states that refugees can return to their homes in Israel if they choose. This "opens the question and doesn't rule out the possibility that millions will come and settle in the State of Israel," said the Foreign Ministry official. "Which means the destruction of Israel, because demographically it won't survive it." However Moussa said that the issues of refugees was also subject to negotiations. Indeed, the Oslo Accords stipulate that the Palestinian refugee problem will be dealt with in the final-status talks. "How many will return, how many will return to the Palestinian state, how many will return to the Israeli state, how many will be compensated, how many are ready to return to either state or a third state... It can take its time," he said. "They can agree on the time frame of such negotiations. But meanwhile, withdrawal can take place, a Jerusalem solution can be reached, certain security arrangements for a certain period of time can be agreed, then we move on." The time frame is five years, he said. Negotiations could be done "within a year or two" and implemented "in the next five years or so." Moussa questioned Israel's desire for peace. "This requires a partner. Do we have a partner in the Israeli government that would accept that? Withdrawal? A Palestinian state? A solution for Israel - an agreed solution for Jerusalem, the achievement of a solution for the refugees?" he said. Moussa said the initiative has the support of the Arab world. "I've talked to all of them," he said, "from presidents and kings to the simple man in the street. All of them agree. We want to solve the Palestinian problem. We cannot live for decades or generations with the same Arab-Israeli conflict." But what about Hamas? "We want it to support [the initiative]," he said, "and there is a possibility for success." He added that acceptance does not mean recognition of Israel. "No, no, it's not recognizing Israel. But it shows the readiness to recognize Israel in case it negotiates peace." "We have accepted that Israel will exist in our midst - and read the Arab initiative again - we are ready to end that conflict," he added. For the Arabs, he said, the 1973 war was the last war. It was meant to recover their hurt pride from the defeat in the 1967 war, he claimed. "[The 2002 initiative] was not based on the fear of what happened in '67, but the confidence gained in '73," he said. "We don't want to have other wars or enter into any gimmick... No! The time has come [for] us to be sincere in our endeavor for the peace solution between the Israelis. Believing that this thing is finished. Israel is there. Israel will remove its settlers from the occupied territories, help establish a viable Palestinian state, the Arab citizens will be returned back. There will be no reason for further confrontation or clashes between the Arabs and the Israelis, especially in view of the fact that it is not a question of Jewish vs. Muslims or Jewish vs. Arabs... "This is the message we want the Israelis to know. We are not playing games."