22 MKs sign petition rejecting Arab Peace Initiative
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22 MKs sign petition rejecting Arab Peace Initiative

Lawmakers say Saudi plan, first proposed in 2002 and recently partially backed by Netanyahu, contradicts their ‘moral and political position’

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely attend a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset, December 21, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely attend a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset, December 21, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Nearly two dozen right-wing lawmakers put their names to a document rejecting the Arab Peace Initiative, saying the plan would not provide security or peace and “completely contradicts our moral and political position.”

The document, prepared by the Land of Israel Caucus in the Knesset, was publicized on Tuesday, a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that for Israel to accept the peace plan, first proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002, significant changes would have to be made to its terms.

Among the 22 MKs who signed the rejection were members of the Jewish Home and Kulanu parties as well as Netanyahu’s own Likud party.

The MKs began by declaring they were “in favor of peace and economic ties with the Arab states.”

However, they continued, “we strongly oppose the principles of the Arab peace initiative” and went on to list its troublesome conditions, including the establishment of a Palestinian state on 1967 lines, the division of Jerusalem, the evacuation of the Golan Heights, the removal of hundreds of thousands of Israelis from their homes [due to evacuating settlements] and the entry of Arab refugees into Israel [as demanded by the Palestinians].

“These components don’t lead to peace, they stand in contradiction to justice and security and completely contradict our moral and political position,” the MKs said, and declared “we see ourselves obliged, as public servants, to act against the advancement of this initiative and against any process similar to it.”

Coalition chairman MK David Bitan and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, from the Likud party, both signed, as did Deputy Defense Minister MK Eli Ben Dahan of Jewish Home.

On Monday Netanyahu rejected the clauses in the Saudi-drafted initiative that require a full Israeli withdrawal from all territories captured in the 1967 Six Day War and that set out terms for a resolution of the issue of Palestinian refugees in return for normalized ties with the Arab world.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in his Jerusalem office on June 13, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/POOL/RONEN ZVULUN)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in his Jerusalem office on June 13, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/POOL/RONEN ZVULUN)

Though Netanyahu praised the willingness of Arab states to negotiate with, and ultimately recognize, the Jewish state, he raised objections to the preconditions for reaching a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians, as outlined in the proposal.

“If Arab states understand that they must amend the initiative according to Israel’s demands, then we’ll have something to talk about,” the Haaretz daily quoted him as saying during a closed-door cabinet meeting.

“But if they present the 2002 version, and say, ‘Take it or leave it,’ then we’ll opt to ‘leave it,’” he said.

On June 3, as diplomats and officials from 28 countries gathered in Paris to discuss ways to kick-start the stagnant Middle East peace process, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters the initiative was “still on the table.”

The Israeli government has never fully endorsed the Arab Peace Initiative, but Netanyahu recently said he backed the “general idea” behind the plan, stopping short of a full endorsement.

Earlier this month the Arab League chief said in an interview Netanyahu’s recent interest in the Arab Peace Initiative stems from his desire to elude a French peace drive and claimed further that the prime minister is also motivated by eagerness to expand trade in the Middle East — not reaching an agreement with the Palestinians.

Speaking to pan-Arab daily newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, Nabil Elaraby dismissed Netanyahu’s new openness to the Arab Peace Initiative saying “he doesn’t really want the Arab Initiative; its terms are well known..”

The Israeli leader “only wants a way to enter the Gulf market to strengthen the economy,” Elaraby charged. “We won’t change the text of the initiative; why did Netanyahu wake up now? It’s to get around the French efforts.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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