With new backing from Washington, the Arab League on Monday re-launched its Arab-Israel peace initiative, following day long meetings with Secretary of State John Kerry at Blair House.
Analysts said Washington’s embrace of the initiative could make way for a Madrid-like process of Arab-Israeli discussions to occur in parallel to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
“The Arab League delegation affirmed that agreement should be based on the two-state solution on the basis of the 4th of June 1967 line, with the possible of comparable and mutual agreed minor swap of the land,” Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani said at a news conference with Kerry Monday night.
“On behalf of the President of the United States, I underscored the Arab League’s very important role… in bringing about a peace to the Middle East and specifically by reaffirming the Arab Peace Initiative here this afternoon with a view to ending the conflict,” Kerry said.
Israeli peace negotiator Tzipi Livni welcomed the initiative, which Al-Monitor reported earlier this month was expected to be rolled out anew at the April 29 meeting.
“Even during a period of ups and downs in the Arab world, they must achieve normalization with Israel when we achieve peace with the Palestinians,” Livni said. “It’s true that there is still a long way to go, and we can’t accept all the clauses [in the Arab initiative] as holy writ, but sometimes you need to look up over the difficulties and just say good news is welcome.”
Kerry “has on his desk a proposal to replace the bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians with a multilateral platform,” Akiva Eldar reported for Al-Monitor last month (March 29).
Using the Arab peace initiative as a framework “will enable the renewal of the multilateral channels established following the 1991 Madrid peace conference on the issues of regional security, refugees, water and economic and environmental development,” Eldar wrote.
Former US Middle East officials said the Obama administration and Kerry appeared to be giving overdue consideration to a 2002 initiative that had been neglected at the time by Washington and Israel.
“It does appear that Kerry is trying to move on several fronts simultaneously: putting together the elements to restart negotiations; some confidence building steps; activating the [Arab Peace Initiative],” former US Ambassador to Israel and Egypt Daniel Kurtzer told Al-Monitor by email Tuesday.
“If this is so… this is a very good thing,” Kurtzer continued. “The Israelis still don’t like elements of the API but their overall attitude has softened in recent years; …they may accept as beneficial a more robust Arab role to shore up the Palestinians.”
It’s “a very positive statement,” Sandra Charles, a former Pentagon and Bush 41 White House official, told Al-Monitor. “This is really a first with the US working with the Arab collective on the API after it has been sitting on the shelf for 11 long years.”
(Phooto: Secretary of State John Kerry, right and Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, who is leading the Arab League, smile, during a news conference following their meeting at Blair House in Washington, Monday, April 29, 2013. Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP.)