Yesterday, the Middle East Bulletin published an exclusive interview with Israel’s President Shimon Peres, in which Peres said that “ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and reaching regional peace is a mutual Israeli-American interest.” Peres also argued that “it is essential that the United States keep supporting an Israeli-Palestinian agreement” while also promoting “the Arab Peace Initiative as a means to achieve comprehensive peace between Israel and the Arab states.”
Peres’ comments come six years after the Initiative was first endorsed by the whole Arab League, and a few weeks after Peres himself endorsed the “spirit” of the Initiative. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also published Hebrew-language ads in the three top Israeli dailies featuring the full text of the Initiative, and a group of former Israeli diplomats and generals launched their own campaign promoting the Initiative.
Calling Abbas’ advertisements a “welcome step” Peres added:
Our negotiations are with the other side and when we ignore their voices by writing in our own papers and then reading what we write, we fail to understand their position. We should do the same as Abbas on the other side.
Writing about the renewed interest in the Initiative, Ghaith al-Omari, director of advocacy at the American Task Force on Palestine and a former adviser to President Abbas, argues that for it to be successful, “Arab leaders need to explain the Initiative, not only to the general public, but also to policy makers in Israel.” Moreover, the Initiative must go from being an idea into being a plan. He suggests replacing the “all-or-nothing approach” with “a gradual, reciprocal process,” and defining the security guarantees promised in the plan.
“With so many challenges and obstacles in the path of forging Arab-Israeli peace,” al-Omari concludes, “it would be a mistake to fail to avail ourselves of such a potent tool as the Arab Peace Initiative. Yet, for it to be a truly effective tool, all the parties must bring the skill, energy and determination to make it succeed.”