Obama administration reviving the Arab Peace Initiative

posted at 11:21 am on April 8, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

John Kerry has pledged to renew efforts to reach a comprehensive peace agreement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the renewal revolves around a long-moribund proposal from Saudi Arabia.  McClatchy reports that the Arab Peace Initiative, floated by Saudi Arabia in tandem and competition with the Bush administration’s “roadmap,” has become the centerpiece of Kerry’s shuttle-diplomacy initiative.  This time, the Israelis might be more open to the proposal:

The Obama administration is exploring whether a long-abandoned initiative proposed by Saudi Arabia 11 years ago could become the basis for a regional peace agreement between Israel and its neighbors, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials.

With U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry due to arrive in the region over the weekend, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been conferring with other Arab leaders on the viability of the plan, which calls for a normalization of relations between Israel and all the Arab states in exchange for the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state.

Israeli and Palestinian officials confirmed to McClatchy that President Barack Obama raised the possibility of using the Arab Peace Initiative, as the plan was known, as a framework for an agreement when he was in the region last month.

“It was raised directly by Obama during his visit and during his closed-door discussion with the Palestinian leadership,” said a senior Palestinian official directly involved in the talks. It was made clear to the Palestinian leadership that this would be the new direction of U.S. diplomacy in the region.”

The plan involves Israel giving up lands gained in the 1967 war in exchange for normalized diplomatic relations with all Arab states.  That includes the Golan Heights, which Israel has held as a buffer against Syrian aggression, as well as the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel already relinquished.  The Golan might be a particular sticking point now, though, more so than a decade ago.  At that time, Israel might have relied on Bashar al-Assad to keep his word and not use the strategic location for a later military invasion.  With a rebellion increasingly controlled by Islamist forces in Syria about to depose Assad, Israel has to question whether that assumption still holds.

Nor is that the only assumption that this proposal tests.  It also assumes that the Palestinians will settle for the West Bank, Gaza, and a piece of Jerusalem as its end game.  Perhaps that will be the case if the other Arab states pull support for Palestinian agitation for total victory, or perhaps these same states will balance Israeli recognition with continued sotto voce support for the elimination of the Jewish state.  After all, having raised generations of their own subjects on the need for total victory over Israel and the legitimacy of Palestinian claims to Israel’s territory — even pre-1967 borders — how will those subjects react if these Sunni Arab states suddenly declare their recognition of Israel?  They’d almost be forced to frame it as a bitter compromise necessitated by Yankee domination and Crusader interference, which would inflame the population against the West and Israel rather than the Arab regimes that sign off on this plan, and by design.

Still, the Arab nations went public with this plan, and now that it’s aged for a decade or so, it will be difficult to use it as anti-Western propaganda.  The Netanyahu government has already been giving this a strong second look, if quietly doing so:

Ariel Sharon, then Israel’s prime minister, immediately rejected the plan. Subsequent Israeli leaders have periodically warmed to, and then rejected, the plan. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who openly opposed the plan when he was opposition leader in 2007, has since quietly voiced support for it, including in closed-door meetings with Egyptian and Jordanian officials.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said that the Netanyahu government “has publicly praised the Arab Peace Initiative. It’s a great improvement on previous Arab positions, and we look forward to engaging on it.”

Will this work? Be sure to read to the end to remind yourself how the Obama administration fumbled the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations four years ago so badly that State Department ended up alienating both sides by floating a demand for a settlement freeze and then attempting to back out of it.  That was under Hillary Clinton’s “smart power” guidance, however.  Have things changed enough with Kerry that he can get the Palestinians to accept the API as the final say on map drawing in the Middle East?  Anything is possible, although a two-state solution will only be possible when both sides are satisfied with two states. So far, only one side has supported that as a permanent solution.

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It also assumes that the Palestinians will settle for the West Bank, Gaza, and a piece of Jerusalem as its end game.

It’s not, never has been, never will be. They would have taken the original british maps if it were so.

nobar on April 8, 2013 at 11:26 AM

It also assumes that the Palestinians will settle for the West Bank, Gaza, and a piece of Jerusalem as its end game.

Hahahah. Well, if the Palestinians have wised up they will say they accept that as the end game. And that’ll be the end of Israel.

Fenris on April 8, 2013 at 11:28 AM

The only solution to this is to do what was done to the Germans at the end of WWII. Germans in two areas they had lived in for generations were forcefully repatriated to Germany. Remove the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza to Jordan which was to be their state according the agreements,

chemman on April 8, 2013 at 11:31 AM

It will not matter one bit what Israel gives up to make the rop type happy! Nothing will EVER make them happy but to have Israel off the face of the earth!

I just pray Bibi will not cave but this might happen?

God be with you Israel.
L

letget on April 8, 2013 at 11:32 AM

Wow such a deal! Israel gives up it’s land in exchange for the Arab “World” saying they exist…..

sandee on April 8, 2013 at 11:33 AM

Kerry should wipe clean his Syrian blood soaked shoes first.

Ben Hur on April 8, 2013 at 11:34 AM

On Facebook I’ve corresponded with people from Muslim countries. Sometimes I’ve had the opportunity to ask them this question…

If Israel and the Palestinians reached an agreement that resulted in the creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza; and in return the Palestians would be required to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and relinquish any and all claims to any land within Israel; would you support such a deal?

So far every one of them said: NO!

aunursa on April 8, 2013 at 11:38 AM

Actually their responses were more along the lines of: HELL NO!!!

aunursa on April 8, 2013 at 11:39 AM

First things first. Are the Palestinians going to recognize the universal human right of gay marriage?

forest on April 8, 2013 at 11:42 AM

Of course Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt are all willing to accept tiny Israel being carved up, yet not one of the Mid East nations have ever felt compelled to provide a homeland for the so called Palestinians.

fourdeucer on April 8, 2013 at 11:47 AM

The arrogance of this administration is beyond the pale! Every solution is “comprehensive, a grand bargin, the do all to end all” and yet reality rubs their ugly faces in failure everyday.

puke

dmann on April 8, 2013 at 11:50 AM

The political equivalent of the cast of “Jersey Shore” is going to tackle this issue?

Oh…well…there should be a rational, viable, popular solution any day now.

Bishop on April 8, 2013 at 11:56 AM

Benghazi, gun control, Afghanistan, the economy…

LOOK, SQUIRREL!

NavyMustang on April 8, 2013 at 11:59 AM

A return to the 1967 borders would make Israel far more vulnerable. Are we to think that they are going to rely on the Palestinians or Saudis for their security? Why not just invite the Arab Brotherhood to look out after Israeli interests?

Happy Nomad on April 8, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who openly opposed the plan when he was opposition leader in 2007, has since quietly voiced support for it, including in closed-door meetings with Egyptian and Jordanian officials.

If you believe it, you might be living in Colorado and found a really good herb supplier.

Archivarix on April 8, 2013 at 12:07 PM

Will this work?

Oh suuure. Just like one hand clapping. You have to have two sincere parties to have a treaty that’s worth more than the paper it’s printed on.

smellthecoffee on April 8, 2013 at 12:10 PM

First things first. Are the Palestinians going to recognize the universal human right of gay marriage?

forest on April 8, 2013 at 11:42 AM

Haha, make them live up to their own rules. Or are you just a dirty dirty pinkwashah?

thebrokenrattle on April 8, 2013 at 12:20 PM

You have to have two sincere parties to have a treaty that’s worth more than the paper it’s printed on.

smellthecoffee on April 8, 2013 at 12:10 PM

Then there is that whole right of return thing that isn’t fully addressed by a return to the 1967 borders. Peace is not at hand in Israel.

Happy Nomad on April 8, 2013 at 12:25 PM

A return to the 1967 borders would make Israel far more vulnerable. Are we to think that they are going to rely on the Palestinians or Saudis for their security? Why not just invite the Arab Brotherhood to look out after Israeli interests?

Happy Nomad on April 8, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Exactly. And the pre-1967 borders were not the borders Israel was granted in the original UN partition. In the original 1948 partition, both the Gaza Strip and what is now called the West Bank were to be part of Israel. In 1967, the Israelis simply took back what was originally theirs.

The Israelis would be incredibly stupid to even consider giving the Golan Heights back to Syria. There is a reason the area is named the Golan Heights. From the Golan Heights, the Arabs could lob bombs into any part of Israel.

catsandbooks on April 8, 2013 at 12:36 PM

Then there is that whole right of return thing that isn’t fully addressed by a return to the 1967 borders. Peace is not at hand in Israel.

Happy Nomad on April 8, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Yup. And the whole approach to the ROR by the Pals is that all the descendants of any Arabs who lived in Israel at the time of the formation of the state, plus any others who feel like coming along for the ride, ALL get to overwhelm the state of Israel. So it would no longer be a Jewish state. Decimation by demographics.

smellthecoffee on April 8, 2013 at 12:37 PM

The whole thing is a joke. The Pals, and especially their Arab “brothers” haven’t the slightest interest in peace. They wouldn’t know what to do with it anyway. Immediately a civil war would break out between Fatah the PA, and Hamas. Even if the Arabs won the war, heaven forfend, they would lose the peace. And even if the got past the civil war with a few people left, you can’t have a successful culture or economy, when lying is a way of life. It’s a worse habit with them than even the Russians. It’s bad enough when Baghdad Bob would be only a typical journalist. But when Baghdad Bob is the CEO reporting to the shareholders, or the head of shipping talking to the head of customer service–you can’t get economy running right.

smellthecoffee on April 8, 2013 at 12:46 PM

smellthecoffee on April 8, 2013 at 12:46 PM

A lot of major problems in the world are starting to boil down to their root causes, despite massive liberal attempts at diversion. “Diversity” is being revealed as a complete and expensive fantasy that has ruined the richest nation in history. Attempts at creating lasting peace in Arab-land – including handing two nations a starting peace on a silver platter – have COMPLETELY failed.

Arab mindset, beliefs (religious and otherwise), culture, have been shown to be so inferior that they are hopelessly incompatible with civilization.

Or to put it very plainly – They will never be anything but head-chopping, suicide-bombing savages and the only ‘cure’ is desolation followed by colonization by their betters.

MelonCollie on April 8, 2013 at 1:01 PM

The normalization of relations with Arab states comes only AFTER Israel gives up the disputed territories. In other words, they have to trust the Arab nations to keep their word.

Uh-huh. Pull the other leg.

Meryl Yourish on April 8, 2013 at 1:16 PM

Certain of the Middle East’s dynamics have changed. Israel no longer needs oil from Egypt. Soon, she will need far less oil from everywhere else, too.

Imagine a world with the Europeans vying with each other for exports of Israeli natural gas. BTW, Noble Energy’s geologists think that substantial oil reserves may underlie the gas fields.

Gene Hunt on April 8, 2013 at 1:24 PM

Lol. I don’t even think John Kerry, even as much of a dumb empty suit as he is, believes this has even the slimmest chance of going anywhere.

The real story is that Obama, now, emboldened by a second term, is obviously trying to ratchet up his attempts to destroy Israel and kill all Jews. Meanwhile, Jewish Americans continue to give him overwhelming support. Morons.

(Also, may I respectfully suggest that in future HA makes a point of placing “Palestinian” in quotation marks? Since, in reality, there’s no such thing as a “Palestinian.”)

WhatSlushfund on April 8, 2013 at 1:49 PM

That picture of Obama and Kerry….if a dog tries to do that to you….

MichaelGabriel on April 8, 2013 at 2:02 PM

Iran’s ayatollahs hold veto to any peace agreement, and they are vehemently against an agreement in any form that would leave a sovereign Israel.

Any peace agreement with the Arabs or so-called “Palestinians” can only happen with Iran’s permission or if Iranians shake off their tyrannical ayatollahs and the IRGC / Basij and change their form of government.

Neither is imminent.

AlexB on April 8, 2013 at 2:29 PM

In Arabic “peace” means “Israel ceases to exist“.

Working that out is a goal which remains elusive as long as Israel has nukes.

profitsbeard on April 8, 2013 at 2:45 PM

I think I am pretty fed up with both parties but looking at obama and kerry turns my stomach, somehow the vison of jane fonda pops into my head?

Do I need professional help? Tee Hee.

losarkos on April 8, 2013 at 2:48 PM

Remind me how the plan deals with the so-called right of return?

ProfessorMiao on April 8, 2013 at 2:55 PM

Well this can keep Kerry pushing the string for the next 4 years. Keep him busy with this pipe dream so he can’t eff something else up.

Hummer53 on April 8, 2013 at 2:59 PM

The Obama administration is exploring whether a long-abandoned initiative proposed by Saudi Arabia 11 years ago could become the basis for a regional peace agreement between Israel and its neighbors, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials.

A lot of things have changed since 2002. At that time, Israel had a peace treaty with Egypt under Mubarrak, who respected it. How does Israel know that the Muslim Brotherhood won’t exploit tensions in Gaza to further destabilize Israel now?

As Ed pointed out, the Golan Heights were then a buffer against invasions by Syria’s Assad, who later invaded Lebanon. If hard-line Islamist “rebels” topple Assad in Syria, what defense would Israel have against attack from Syria?

Let’s face it, Israel is isolated between the sea and several hostile “hard places”–what incentive does Israel have to give up MORE land? Our last three Presidents (George Bush 41 and 43, and Bill Clinton) have each tried and failed to negotiate peace between Israel and the Palestinians, each time because the Palestinians slammed the door on the way out. With Israel having more enemies now than in 2002, what’s the point of renegotiating this now?

Chalk this one up to DISTRACTION. Whenever there’s a pressing issue on the table, Obama seeks to distract public opinion with a side issue, such as government-funded birth control or gun control, so that we don’t think about important things like the budget deficit or Benghazi. Now that our foreign policy should be focused on the threat of war in Korea, let’s distract the public with some 11-year-old peace proposal in the Middle East, after the Obama administration has bungled Egypt and Libya! What could go wrong?

Steve Z on April 8, 2013 at 4:20 PM

Name one nation, I triple dare you, which is free/freer, due to Obama.

Schadenfreude on April 8, 2013 at 4:27 PM

Sounds like it might work — IF you ignore everything the Arab states have said and done for the past half-century.

Socratease on April 8, 2013 at 6:09 PM

From the caption photo: “You knows I loves ya baby, but next time, I want to lead.”

Old Country Boy on April 8, 2013 at 6:29 PM