Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently granted an interview on BBC’s Arabic Channel. Netanyahu reportedly hinted during the interview that he may be open to using the Arab Peace Initiative as a potential basis for negotiations if it is open to negotiation:
“I have noticed the Arab Peace Initiative. This is a huge improvement compared with the ‘No’s’ of Khartoum. If it is open for negotiation, then this is an important opportunity”
Interestingly, this is not the first time that Netanyahu has talked about the Arab Peace Initiative as a potential basis for peace negotiations. Netanyahu rejected the Arab Peace Initiative in its current form in 2007. However, Netanyahu showed an increased willingness to build from the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative when he made the following statement in 2009:
Netanyahu’s recent references to the Arab Peace Initiative compelled me to look up information about it to see what the initiative called for. I think it’s worthwhile to take a look at the Arab Peace Initiative because it may provide us with some idea of what an eventual Middle East peace deal (Daniel 9:27’s “covenant with many”) might include as it is something the Arabs are willing to go along with and is something that Netanyahu seems open to considering as a potential basis for negotiations if it is negotiable.
The 22 member countries of the Arab League met in Beirut in March 2002 to discuss a peace initiative inspired by the current King of Saudi Arabia. The members endorsed the initiative on March 27 in a unanimous vote. Here are some key points of the initiative:
- Israel would have to withdraw from areas that they gained in the Six Day War and other conflicts.
- Israel would have to accept an independent Palestinian State and allow that state to have its capital in East Jerusalem.
- The Arab league members would enter a peace agreement with Israel and consider the Arab-Israeli conflict over.
- All parties involved would contribute to the security of the region.
- Relations between Israel and the members of the Arab League would be normalized (i.e. the removal of sanctions, the unfreezing of previously frozen assets, and other moves that improve relations between former adversaries).
- The U.S., the E.U., Russia, the United Nations, other Muslim countries, etc. would be asked to support the initiative.
The following is the complete text of the Arab Peace Initiative: Link I’ve highlighted some aspects which stand out in yellow
The Council of the League of Arab States at the Summit Level, at its 14th Ordinary Session,
– Reaffirming the resolution taken in June 1996 at the Cairo Extra-Ordinary Arab Summit that a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East is the strategic option of the Arab Countries, to be achieved in accordance with International Legality, and which would require a comparable commitment on the part of the Israeli Government.
– Having listened to the statement made by His Royal Highness Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in which his Highness presented his Initiative, calling for full Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab territories occupied since June 1967, in implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, reaffirmed by the Madrid Conference of 1991 and the land for peace principle, and Israel’s acceptance of an independent Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in return for the establishment of normal relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel.
– Emanating from the conviction of the Arab countries that a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties, the council:
1. Requests Israel to reconsider its policies and declare that a just peace is its strategic option as well.
2. Further calls upon Israel to affirm:
a. Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights to the lines of June 4, 1967 as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.
b. Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian Refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194.
c. The acceptance of the establishment of a Sovereign Independent Palestinian State on the Palestinian territories occupied since the 4th of June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
3. Consequently, the Arab Countries affirm the following:
a. Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.
b. Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.
4. Assures the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries.
5. Calls upon the Government of Israel and all Israelis to accept this initiative in order to safeguard the prospects for peace and stop the further shedding of blood, enabling the Arab Countries and Israel to live in peace and good neighborliness and provide future generations with security, stability, and prosperity.
6. Invites the International Community and all countries and Organizations to support this initiative.
7. Requests the Chairman of the Summit to form a special committee composed of some of its concerned member states and the Secretary General of the League of Arab States to pursue the necessary contacts to gain support for this initiative at all levels, particularly from the United Nations, the Security Council, the United States of America, the Russian Federation, the Muslim States and the European Union.
The Arab Peace Initiative covers a lot of important issues, but it does leave some difficult issues relatively untouched. Here are some issues which the initiative does not seem to cover:
- The sharing of the Temple Mount
- The future of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank
- The future of the Jewish populations living in the West Bank
However, the Arab Peace Initiative should not be completely dismissed as something that cannot play a role in forming a future Middle East peace deal.
- One reason is that the endorsement of the 22 members of the Arab league is not something to ignore. An eventual Middle East peace deal is probably going to need the support of many Middle East countries to keep the deal from breaking down shortly after it is put in place.
- The Arab Peace Initiative is also something to not dismiss since Netanyahu seems open to using it as a potential basis for negotiations if it is negotiable, the Arab League endorses it, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas supports it (he actually voted for it in 2007 when the Arab League re-endorsed it).
Last Friday the U.S., Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations (the Quartet) released their own peace initiative in hopes that an end to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is reached by December 2012. The following passage from Quartet’s statement summarizes their timetable to bring Mideast Peace:
1. Within a month there will be a preparatory meeting between the parties to agree an agenda and method of proceeding in the negotiation.
2. At that meeting there will be a commitment by both sides that the objective of any negotiation is to reach an agreement within a timeframe agreed to by the parties but not longer than the end of 2012. The Quartet expects the parties to come forward with comprehensive proposals within three months on territory and security, and to have made substantial progress within six months. To that end, the Quartet will convene an international conference in Moscow, in consultation with the parties, at the appropriate time.
Israel appears to have a more positive view of the Quartet’s peace initiative than the Palestinians at this point (although each side has yet to issue an official stance on the Quartet’s peace initiative at the time of this writing). Israeli officials like Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman reportedly have a positive view of the plan. Meanwhile, the Palestinians are unhappy with the peace initiative because it does not ask Israel to stop settlement construction nor ask Israel to use the pre-1967 borders as a basis for peace negotiations, two preconditions that the Palestinians want before returning to the negotiating table.
I am skeptical whether the Quartet’s peace initiative is going to accomplish much because I think it is the Antichrist who eventually brokers the Middle East peace deal. As we wait for a Middle East peace deal to be brokered, I would keep the Arab Peace Initiative in mind. It seems the Arab Peace Initiative has potential to serve as a basis for negotiations for the coming “covenant with many” if it becomes open to negotiation.