“We can’t miss this opportunity to return to negotiations,” Olmert told an Israeli television news channel. “The taboo, that there isn’t anyone to talk to, has been broken.”
The Arab League announcement earlier this week was significant as it represented the first time the Middle East bloc endorsed any kind of land swaps.
“I don’t think you can underestimate the significance of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Arab Emirates, the Egyptians, the Jordanians and others coming to the table and saying, ‘We are prepared to make peace now in 2013,'” said Secretary of State John Kerry, who called the move a “big step.” Current Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni — who arrived in Washington on Thursday to meet with Kerry — also said she was encouraged by the move.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu downplayed the Arab League’s announcement, insisting instead that the most important issue is that the Palestinians recognize Israeli as a Jewish state. “The root of the conflict is not territorial,” he said on Wednesday. “The Palestinian lack of will to recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish people is the root of the conflict.”
Meanwhile, 52 opposition members in Israel’s parliament signed a petition requiring Netanyahu to formally address the Arab League peace plan. “The government cannot continue dragging its feet and miss this great opportunity,” said Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On, adding, “The new, promising version of the Arab League’s proposal for peace with Israel and dozens of Arab states is at our doorstep and the government cannot turn its back on negotiations.”
In other news:
The Wall Street Journal reports: The Obama administration has returned to the idea of arming moderate Syrian rebels, current and former officials said, because many officials see it as one of the few steps available to shore up the opposition without drawing the U.S. military into the two-year-old civil war.
The Journal also reports: Governments around the world have failed to investigate and prosecute the killing of hundreds of journalists in recent years, a report by a nonprofit group said Thursday. Nearly 1,000 journalists were killed in the two decades since 1992, more than two-thirds of them in homicide cases, said the Committee to Protect Journalists, a figure that counters the assumption that most reporters die in wartime crossfire.