Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday reportedly said that if Israel was to accept the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative as a framework to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the plan would have to be changed significantly.
“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.
Though Netanyahu praised the willingness of Arab states to negotiate with, and ultimately recognize the Jewish state, he raised objection to the preconditions for reaching a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians, as outlined in the proposal.
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.
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.
“There are positive aspects and negative aspects to it,” the prime minister told Israeli diplomatic correspondents at a briefing on May 28. “This initiative is 13 years old, and the situation in the Middle East has changed since it was first proposed. But the general idea — to try and reach understandings with leading Arab countries — is a good idea.”
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 initiative has all the elements needed for a final resolution,” al-Jubeir said, adding that it could not be “diluted” and that he hoped “Israel will wise up” to the opportunity it constituted.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.