In a sign that Israel will keep its large illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, Arab foreign ministers have said that they are ready to endorse a new peace plan which includes land swaps and a Palestinian state built otherwise on the 1967 borders. The announcement was made following a meeting between an Arab League delegation headed by Secretary General Nabil Elarabi and US Vice-President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington.
Speaking on behalf of the Arab League delegation, Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad al-Thani said, “We understand that peace is a strategic choice for the Arab states. We all think that we should work together to find a sound economic package to help the Palestinian state.”
Sheikh Hamad renewed the obligation of the Arab states to the Arab Peace Initiative with the addition of their readiness to accept land swaps. The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said that Kerry has been working recently to bring the Palestinians and Israelis back into the negotiating table.
Secretary of State Kerry said, “We have had a very positive, very constructive discussion… with positive results.” He praised the Arab League for the “important role it is playing, and is determined to play, in bringing about a peace in the Middle East, specifically by reaffirming the Arab Peace Initiative with a view to ending the conflict.” Kerry reaffirmed, on behalf of Barack Obama, “The US commitment to pursue an end to the conflict based on the vision that President Obama outlined in May of 2011: Two states living side by side in peace and security brought about through direct negotiations between the parties.”
According to Yedioth Ahronoth, “While little has changed in Israel’s public posture, the remarks by Al-Thani suggest that Kerry has had some success, at least, in coordinating a more unified regional strategy between the US and its Arab partners.” It said that the sign of Kerry’s success is that top officials from the Arab League, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, the occupied Palestinian territories and Saudi Arabia attended the meeting.
The Arab Peace Initiative offered full Arab recognition of Israel if it withdraws from the Palestinian land occupied in 1967 and accepted a “just solution” for the refugee issue. The Initiative was rejected by Israel in 2002.