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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Aug 12th
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Extremism In Lebanon arrow Barack Obama links Israel peace plan to 1967 borders deal
Barack Obama links Israel peace plan to 1967 borders deal PDF Print E-mail
Written by Uzi Mahnaimi in Tel Aviv and Sarah Baxter, From The Sunday Times   
Sunday, 16 November 2008


Barack Obama is to pursue an ambitious peace plan in the Middle East involving the recognition of Israel by the Arab world in exchange for its withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, according to sources close to America’s president-elect.

Obama intends to throw his support behind a 2002 Saudi peace initiative endorsed by the Arab League and backed by Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister and leader of the ruling Kadima party.

The proposal gives Israel an effective veto on the return of Arab refugees expelled in 1948 while requiring it to restore the Golan Heights to Syria and allow the Palestinians to establish a state capital in east Jerusalem.

On a visit to the Middle East last July, the president-elect said privately it would be “crazy” for Israel to refuse a deal that could “give them peace with the Muslim world”, according to a senior Obama adviser.

The Arab peace plan received a boost last week when President Shimon Peres, a Nobel peace laureate and leading Israeli dove, commended the initiative at a Saudi-sponsored United Nations conference in New York.

Peres was loudly applauded for telling King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who was behind the original initiative: “I wish that your voice will become the prevailing voice of the whole region, of all people.”

A bipartisan group of senior foreign policy advisers urged Obama to give the Arab plan top priority immediately after his election victory. They included Lee Hamilton, the former co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, a Democrat former national security adviser. Brzezinski will give an address tomorrow at Chatham House, the international relations think tank, in London.

Brent Scowcroft, a Republican former national security adviser, joined in the appeal. He said last week that the Middle East was the most troublesome area in the world and that an early start to the Palestinian peace process was “a way to psychologically change the mood of the region”.

Advisers believe the diplomatic climate favours a deal as Arab League countries are under pressure from radical Islamic movements and a potentially nuclear Iran. Polls show that Palestinians and Israelis are in a mood to compromise.

The advisers have told Obama he should lose no time in pursuing the policy in the first six to 12 months in office while he enjoys maximum goodwill.

Obama is also looking to break a diplomatic deadlock over Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons technology. A possible way forward, suggested last spring by Dennis Ross, a senior Obama adviser and former Middle East envoy, would be to persuade Russia to join in tough economic sanctions against Iran by offering to modify the US plan for a “missile shield” in eastern Europe.

President Dmitry Medvedev signalled that Russia could cancel a tit-for-tat deployment of missiles close to the Polish border if America gave up its proposed missile defences in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Ross argued in a paper on How to Talk to Iran that “if the Iranian threat goes away, so does the principal need to deploy these [antimissile] forces. [Vladimir] Putin [the Russian prime minister] has made this such a symbolic issue that this trade-off could be portrayed as a great victory for him”.

Ross and Daniel Kurtzer, a former American ambassador to Israel, accompanied Obama on a visit to Israel last July. They also travelled to Ramallah, where Obama questioned Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, about the prospects for the Arab plan.

According to a Washington source Obama told Abbas: “The Israelis would be crazy not to accept this initiative. It would give them peace with the Muslim world from Indonesia to Morocco.”

Kurtzer submitted a paper to Obama on the question before this month’s presidential elections. He argued that trying to reach bilateral peace agreements between Israel and individual countries in the Middle East, was a recipe for failure as the record of Bill Clinton and George W Bush showed. In contrast, the broader Arab plan “had a lot of appeal”. A leading Democratic expert on the Middle East said: “There’s not a lot of meat on the bones yet, but it offers recognition of Israel across the Arab world.”

Livni, the leader of Kadima, which favours the plan, is the front-runner in Israeli elections due in February. Her rival, Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of Likud, is adamantly against withdrawing to borders that predate the Six Day war in 1967.

Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, last week expressed his support for Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank Golan and east Jerusalem.



'Obama to endorse Arab Peace Plan'
Nov. 16, 2008


US President-elect Barack Obama is planning to base his peacemaking efforts in the Middle East on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, The Sunday Times reported on Sunday, quoting sources close to Obama.

The Arab Peace Initiative, based on the Saudi peace plan of February 2002, calls for a full Israeli withdrawal from all territories taken in the Six Day War, including east Jerusalem, in exchange for normalizing ties with the Arab world.

Quoting an adviser to Obama, the report states that during his visit to the Middle East in July, the President-elect said Israel would be "crazy" to refuse a deal that could "give them peace with the Muslim world."

According to the paper, Obama's advisers feel that the time is right for such a deal as Arab countries fear rising radical Islamic movements and a potentially nuclear Iran. They have reportedly told Obama he shouldn't lose time and must begin pushing his policies within his first year in office while he still enjoys maximum goodwill.

Senior Jerusalem officials last month dismissed a sudden surge of interest both in Israel and abroad in the initiative, saying it was a function of both a diplomatic process that has stalled and the transition periods in Israel, the US and the Palestinian Authority.

"Whenever the process stalls, there will be those who will pull out the Saudi plan," one senior official said. "And the Saudis have an interest in pushing this out there now, to put on a 'constructive face' with which to greet the new US president."

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1226404745738&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull


Peres lauds Saudi king peace plan 
Shimon Peres said there is a will to bring peace in the Middle East
Israeli President Shimon Peres has praised the king of Saudi Arabia for his Middle East peace initiative.

At an interfaith meeting at the United Nations, Mr Peres told King Abdullah he hoped his would be the "prevailing voice of the whole region".

The Saudi plan, proposed in 2002, calls for Israel to withdraw from occupied land in exchange for Arab recognition.

US President George W Bush challenged Saudi Arabia's outlawing of apostasy, the ability to change religion.

At the conference Mr Bush said that it was a fundamental human right, "everyone has the right to choose or change religions and the right to worship in private or public".

King Abdullah organised the two-day conference in New York to promote a dialogue on religion and culture.

He told the meeting of world leaders that it was time to learn the lessons of the past.

  The [Saudi] initiative's portrayal of our region's future provides hope to the people and inspires confidence in the nations

Shimon Peres

"Terrorism and criminality are the enemies of each and every religion and civilisation," he said, speaking through an interpreter.

"They wouldn't have appeared had it not been for the upset of the principles of tolerance."

Highly symbolic

When Mr Peres took to the floor, he broke off from his prepared speech to address King Abdullah directly.

"Your Majesty, the king of Saudi Arabia," he said. "I was listening to your message. I wish that your voice will become the prevailing voice of the whole region, of all people. It's right. It's needed. It's promising.

"The initiative's portrayal of our region's future provides hope to the people and inspires confidence in the nations."
The Saudi-organised conference has been criticised by rights groups

Diplomats described it as a highly symbolic moment, the BBC's UN correspondent, Laura Trevelyan, said.

The question is whether it means anything for the Middle East peace process, she adds.

Mr Peres told reporters afterwards that he believed they were a step closer to that goal, while acknowledging there were still significant obstacles to overcome.

"I don't deny there are open and difficult questions, but if there is a will - as the Arabs are saying - there is a way. What was today demonstrated was the will. We know that we have to work for the way."

UN Secretary-General, the outgoing US President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown are among the world leaders attending the conference.

The event has been criticised by human rights groups who say it gives a platform to Saudi Arabia, which practises the strict Wahabi form of Islam and allows no other type of public worship. Rights groups also strongly criticise the kingdom's general human right record.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said President Bush believed "the king of Saudi Arabia has recognised that they have a long way to go and that he is trying to take some steps to get there".



Barak urges kiss of life for moribund Saudi 2002 peace plan

DEBKAfile Special Report

October 20, 2008, 9:47 PM (GMT+02:00)

Defense minister Ehud Barak

Defense minister Ehud Barak

Defense minister Ehud Barak has proposed in coalition talks with Kadima leader, foreign minister Tzipi Livni, that serious consideration be given to the 2002 Saudi plan which offered pan-Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for full Israeli withdrawal from all lands captured during the 1967 war: the West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem and the Golan.

“There is definitely room to introduce a comprehensive Israeli plan to counter the Saudi plan,” after individual negotiations with Syria and the Palestinians proved unproductive, said Barak, who heads the Labor party, to Israel Army radio Sunday.

Livni refuses to comment on her talks with Barak.

After failing to form a government in her first round of coalition talks, the Kadima leader must ask the president for another 14 days’ grace from Monday or face the prospect of a snap election.

The Labor leader said in his interview that “moderate Arab leaders” shared an interest in containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, limiting Hizballah’s influence in Lebanon and bringing the Palestinian Hamas under control in the Gaza Strip. He also reproved the demonstrators protesting the government’s failure to secure the release of Gilead Shalit in two-and-a-half years, saying their protest only raised Hamas’ price for the captive soldier’s freedom.

These comments, DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources stress, show how completely the defense minister is out of touch with the emerging dynamic of the contemporary Middle East. The Saudi peace plan is a dead letter for the Arab world, overtaken by tempestuous change. Gone are the days when the Saudis and Egypt, the so-called moderate Arab nations, set the pace in the Middle East, although Israelis in power still cling to them as key trendsetters.

Today, the Saudis are fighting to dislodge Lebanon’s takeover by Iran and Syria and Shiite expansion through the Sunni Arab world.

Many observers view the Syrian troop concentrations poised on the Lebanese border, backed by Iran and Hizballah, against the Saudi-backed and armed Islamic militias led by Lebanese majority leader Saad Hariri in North Lebanon, as the first round in an epic Saudi-Iranian confrontation. Some observers see the coming of Lebanon War No. 2 two years after Israel failed to defeat the Hizballah in 2006. This one, pitting Sunni Muslims against Shiite powers, already dominates the region’s political and military dynamic, relegating the Saudi peace plan to an irrelevant past.

Much water has run under Middle East bridges since 2000 when Barak as prime minister engineered Israel’s pullout from its south Lebanese security zone, and 2005, when his successor Ariel Sharon ordered Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip, making way for Hamas to move in. This move was actively supported by Livni. Summer 2006 saw Ehud Olmert’s botched management of the Lebanon War followed by his failure to arrest Iran’s progress toward a nuclear bomb.

The forces dominating regional affairs today are no longer “moderates” but a radical coalition of Iran, Syria, Hizballah and the Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami. Their pre-eminence makes it pointless for the defense minister to try to administer the kiss of death to the Saudi peace plan as a strategic guideline for a potential government he may share with Tzipi Livni. 




Barak: Israel giving serious thought to Saudi peace plan 
By Haaretz Service and The Associated Press 

Defense Minister and Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak said Sunday that Israeli leaders have been discussing pursuing a comprehensive Saudi peace plan, an initiative touted by the moderate Arab elements across the Middle East.

Barak told Army Radio on Sunday that with individual negotiations with Syria and the Palestinians making little headway, it may be time to pursue an overall peace deal for the region.

"There is room in the Israeli coalition for the Saudi initiative," he said. "We have a mutual interest with moderate Arab elements on the issues of Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas."
The defense minister President Shimon Peres is in agreement with such consideration and he has spoken about the matter with Prime Minister-designate Tzipi Livni about the matter as well.

While outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, has welcomed the Saudi plan, he and other leaders want to keep small parts of the territories captured in the 1967 Six Day War.

Israel also objects to language in the Saudi plan that appears to endorse a large-scale return of Palestinian refugees to lands inside Israel. Israel says a massive influx of Palestinians would destroy the country's Jewish character.

Peres proposed merging Israel's various peace talks into one track last month at the United Nations. In a speech to the General Assembly, he called on Saudi King Abdullah to further his initiative. He has since been pushing the idea in meeting with Israeli, Arab and Western officials, his office said.

In Sunday's interview, Barak said he was in full agreement with Peres, and had discussed the peace plan with Livni as well.

"I had the impression that there is indeed an openness to explore any path, including this one," he said of his talks with Livni.

Barak said Israel had to tread lightly, though, so as not to appear to be coming from a position of patronage to the entire Arab world.

"We are one of the players and it is proper that we introduce an initiative," he said. Livni's office refused to comment on her talks with Barak.

The Saudi peace initiative was first proposed in 2002. It offers pan-Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for Israel's withdrawal from Arab lands captured in 1967.

Erekat: Plan doesn't necessarily undermine Israel-PA talks

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat noted that pursuing the Saudi peace initiative did not necessarily undermine the direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians and he encouraged Israel to pursue this track.

"I think Israel should have done this since 2002. It is the most strategic initiative that came from the Arab world since 1948," he said. "I urge them to revisit this initiative and to go with it because it will shorten the way to peace."

Analyst Ghassan Khatib, a former minister in the Palestinian Cabinet, said that although the Israeli interest in the six-year-old plan was a little bit late the plan was still valid and offered the most promising potential way forward.

"I strongly believe that the Arab initiative is the best approach to peace between the Arabs and the Israelis," he told The Associated Press. "It fulfills all the legitimate objectives of Israel and those of the Palestinians and at the same time it has this regional dimension and it reflects one of the rare issues on which Arabs have consensus."

Yuval Steinitz, an MK from the conservative opposition Likud Party and a member of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said that for Israel the Saudi plan is a non-starter.

"It doesn't recognize Israel's right to defensible borders... [and] demands Palestinian refugees settle in the Jewish state as well as the Palestinian state, which is totally unacceptable and contradicts the essence of the two state solution," he told the AP. "That's why I am really surprised that Barak made these remarks, it was strictly an empty political gesture."

Arab foreign ministers reendorsed the proposal at an Arab League summit in Damascus in March. The ratification included the declaration that advabcement of the plans would depend on whether Israel fulfill its commitment to international agreements.

"The continuation by the Arab side to present the Arab peace initiative is tied to Israel executing its commitments in the framework of international resolutions to achieve peace in the region," a Damascus declaration said.

Arab officials have said that withdrawing the peace plan is not an option and in public they have not proposed alternatives. 



The Arab Peace Initiative, 2002


Official translation of the full text of a Saudi-inspired peace plan adopted by the Arab summit in Beirut, 2002.

The Arab Peace Initiative

The Council 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, 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:

I- Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.

II- Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.

III- The acceptance of the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

3. Consequently, the Arab countries affirm the following:

I- Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.

II- 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 neighbourliness and provide future generations with security, stability and prosperity.

6. Invites the international community and all countries and organisations 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.

For purposes of comparison, the following is an earlier draft discussed by Arab foreign ministers on 25 March, 2002, in advance of the summit:

The Council of the Arab League, which convenes at the level of a summit on March 27-28, 2002 in Beirut, affirms the Arab position that achieving just and comprehensive peace is a strategic choice and goal for the Arab states.

After the Council heard the statement of Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz in which he called for the establishment of normal relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel, and that Israel declares its readiness to withdraw from the occupied Arab territories in compliance with United Nations resolutions 242 and 338 and Security Council resolution 1397, enhanced by the Madrid conference and the land-for-peace principle, and the acceptance of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state with al-Quds al-Sharif as its capital, the Council calls on the Israeli government to review its policy and to resort to peace while declaring that just peace is its strategic option.

The Council also calls on Israel to assert the following:

  • Complete withdrawal from the Arab territories occupied since 1967, including full withdrawal from the occupied Syrian Golan Heights and the remaining occupied parts of south Lebanon to the June 4, 1967 lines.

  • To accept to find an agreed, just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees in conformity with Resolution 194.

  • To accept an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the Palestinian lands occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and with Jerusalem (al-Quds al-Sharif) as its capital in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1397.

In return, the Arab states assert the following:

  • To consider the Arab-Israeli conflict over and to enter into a peace treaty with Israel to consolidate this.

  • To achieve comprehensive peace for all the states of the region.

  • To establish normal relations within the context of comprehensive peace with Israel.

The Council calls on the Israeli government and the Israelis as a whole to accept this initiative to protect the prospects of peace and to spare bloodshed so as to enable the Arab states and Israel to coexist side by side and to provide for the coming generations a secure, stable and prosperous future.

It calls on the international community with all its organisations and states to support the initiative.

The Council calls on its presidency, its secretary general and its follow-up committee to follow up on the special contacts related to this initiative and to support it on all levels, including the United Nations, the United States, Russia, the European Union and the Security Council.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 16 November 2008 )
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