Experts: Israel faces last chance at peace

Experts: Israel faces last chance at peace

Azerbaijan, Baku, Sept.15 / Trend U. Sadikhova /

Israel may lose its last chance to resolve its near-50-year conflict with the Arab world by continuing to ignore the Arab Peace Initiative, experts believe.

"The Arab Peace Initiative is a unique framework agreement, which will help advance negotiations," Chief Aanalyst on Israeli Policy at the British Chatham House Orit Gal told Trend today.

On the eve of the start of the second round of direct Palestinian-Israeli talks in Sharm El Sheikh, Israeli Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman called upon the country's leaders to correct their "historic mistake" and to accept the Arab Peace Initiative.

The initiative was proposed by Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and adopted at an all-Arab summit in Beirut in 2002. It provides for the establishment of relations between Arab countries and Israel if the Jewish state liberates certain territories, recognizes an independent Palestinian state and finds a just solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees.
The Israeli leadership has repeatedly rejected the document. Arab countries, despite many threats to withdraw the initiative, have kept the document on the negotiation table.

"This was a historical mistake, which must be corrected," the Pan-Arabic al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper quoted the Israeli official as saying.

Braverman, who intends to run for prime minister from the Labor Party during the next elections, called upon the Israeli government to use this rare opportunity to restore ties with the Arab and the Islamic world.

Meanwhile, Fatah Central Committee member and former Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) spokesman in Lebanon Abbas Zaki told Trend that even if the initiative is related more with the League of Arab States, it bears a direct relation to the conclusion of a peace treaty between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

"The initiative is a private matter of the League of Arab States and the Islamic Ummah, part of which is Palestinian," Zaki said. "Israel is not ready for a truce because it has not received any international document with the initiative."

Zaki added that until Israel recognizes all international requirements and documents, it will not become a full partner in the peace process.

The initiative has also been approved by the Middle East "Quartet," which includes Russia, the U.N., United Staets and EU, as a basis for an Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli agreement.

The initiative does not include any elements of a negotiation, but creates an excellent foundation and support for continuing the peace process and forcing the sides to sign an agreement - especially the Palestinian leadership, Gal told Trend.

"It is important to note that the Israeli public does not pay significant attention to the initiative," he added. "It is seen as a public communique, and this does not show the initiative in a positive light. Tthis is a shame."

According to the export, Israel may lose its last chance to establish relations with Syria and the Palestinians by ignoring the initiative.

Other experts believe that while the Arab world has not withdrawn the initiative or abandoned its basic principles, Israel can still hope for peace with the Arabs.

Commentator at the Jerusalem Post Gershon Baskin admitted in a conversation with Trend that the Israeli government has made a mistake in refusing to accept the initiative. However, he is confident that "all is not lost."

"Achieving peace with the Palestinians is a vital issue, which will open the door for full peace with Arab countries" Baskin said.

Despite the Israeli government's refusal, the Arab world is leaving the document on the table, which means there is a chance for a comprehensive ceasefire, he said.

Imad Jadshares, an analyst at the Egyptian Al Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies, agreed, telling Trend that Israel is complicating the process of reaching a truce, but many chances yet remain.

"As long as the initiative remains on the negotiation table, (Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin) Netanyahu may declare its acceptance," he said. "If the initiative is rejected by Israel, it says nothing about the fact that it has lost its relevance. Israel can at any time approve it."

According to the expert, the Arab world should also take the responsibility to promote the initiative to Israel before the document has been on the table too long.

"Arab countries put it forward, but have not taken any additional steps to ensure its successful realization," Jad said.

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