One of the great blunders of US and Israeli policymakers alike was the decision to simply ignore the 2002 “Arab peace initiative” putting forward a vision for comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a context that would have normalized relations between the US and Israel. It’s completely understandable that Israel didn’t want to accept the exact deal on offer, but it was the serious Arab-side proposal that Israelis had spent the previous two years complaining that Arafat hadn’t had at Camp David. And while Ehud Barak has taken the view that what he put on the table back that is now magically off the table, Saudi Foreign Minister Al-Faisal was at pains Wednesday to say that’s not the case with his government’s initiative:
In 2002, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia proposed a peace plan to end the Arab/Israeli conflict. This plan, named the Arab Peace Initiative, was unanimously adopted by the Arab League at its Summit in Beirut in 2002.
It is a simple and straightforward plan and one that offers justice, security and peace for all parties.
The Arab Peace Initiative calls for an Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967, the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital and the just settlement of the refugee situation in exchange for peace and normal relations with all Arab countries.
The initiative provides for a formal end to the conflict. All Arab countries have committed themselves to it, and it has garnered the support of more than 60 countries, including the United States. The initiative is still on the table.
The Arab Peace Initiative has become a major reference point for all attempts to solve the Arab/Israeli conflict and it is time we turn it into a mechanism to end this longstanding conflict.
Enough blood has been shed. It is time to stop the violence and start the peace. There is more than enough blame to go around, but the simple fact remains that innocent people are dying. And this must stop.
I don’t expect the Israeli government to leap to say yes to this, especially since the idea of a “just settlement” of the refugee issue is in need of definition, but they really ought to be leaping at the opportunity to talk about it. As Scott MacLeod argues, it was a big deal when this was first proposed and it remains a big deal today. Meanwhile, Israel is clearly in need of some kind of political horizon that this military campaign is supposed to be aiming to and a conference to discuss the Arab peace initiative—if only to seek greater clarity on what it really means and therefore what the gap between the Arab and the Israeli position really is—could be that horizon.