Livni praises Arab League’s land swap endorsement

There’s still a long way to go before peace can be achieved, but ‘good news is welcome,’ says minister in charge of negotiations

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

Minister of Justice and Hatnua party leader Tzipi Livni, April 29, 2013 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Minister of Justice and Hatnua party leader Tzipi Livni, April 29, 2013 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua), Israel’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians, welcomed on Tuesday the Arab League’s announcement that it would integrate the idea of a “minor” land swaps into the Arab Peace Initiative.

Livni said it was important that Arab leaders recognized that there would be a need to adjust the pre-1967 lines in a final agreement.

“Even during a period of ups and downs in the Arab world, they must achieve normalization with Israel when we achieve peace with the Palestinians,” she said. “It’s true that there is still a long way to go, and we can’t accept all the clauses [in the Arab initiative] as holy writ, but sometimes you need to look up over the difficulties and just say good news is welcome.”

Speaking on behalf of an Arab League delegation to Washington, Qatari Prime Minister Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Al Thani on Monday called for an agreement between Israel and a future Palestine based on the Jewish state’s border before the 1967 Six Day War. But, unlike in previous such proposals, he cited the possibility of “comparable,” mutually agreed and “minor” land swaps between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Al Thani spoke after his delegation met across the street from the White House with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been pushing Arab leaders to embrace a modified version of their decade-old initiative as part of a new US-led effort to corral Israel and the Palestinians back into direct peace talks.

President Shimon Peres, who is in Italy, also welcomed the amended Arab League proposal.

“It is good that they have come back to a peace initiative at this time,” Peres reportedly told Pope Francis I during a meeting at the Vatican. “It is very important that they have reiterated their support for the two-state solution. The prime minister has said that he wants negotiations. The sooner we can do that, the better.”

“It seems that despite everything that is going on in the Arab world, the Arab League’s peace initiative is alive, kicking, and relevant,” MK Merav Michaeli from the opposition Labor Party said. “Once again we, Israel, have an opportunity for a general peace with the Arab world.”

Michaeli added that the government should “stop messing around with the damaging nonsense of a public referendum and pick up the gauntlet.”

The cabinet has been mulling the idea of a national referendum on any peace deal with the Palestinians. Livni has criticized the idea, saying a referendum would forestall Knesset and cabinet decisions, and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman has also come out against the idea.

The proposal is being championed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Economics Minister Naftali Bennett. They would require the support of Finance Minister Yair Lapid and other Yesh Atid ministers in order to push it to a Knesset vote, in light of the opposition expressed by the Hatnua and Yisrael Beytenu factions.

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