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Q&A: the Arab Peace Initiative

What is the Arab Peace Initiative – and how could it benefit Israel? How could it play a part in the current bilateral negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians? And what do Israelis and Palestinians think about it?

What is the Arab Peace Initiative?

The Arab Peace Initiative (API) is a proposal for establishing peaceful, diplomatic relations between Israel and the Arab world – as well as members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which includes Iran.

Which countries are involved?

The Initiative was proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002, and unanimously adopted that year by all 22 member countries of the League of Arab States. It has also been endorsed by the other 35 member states of the OIC, many of which do not currently recognise the state of Israel.

What terms are proposed?

The 22 member states of the League of Arab States, endorsed by the other 35 member states of the OIC, would agree to:

  • Declare the Arab-Israel conflict ‘ended’;
  • Enter into a peace agreement with Israel;
  • Establish normal diplomatic relations with Israel.

In return, Israel would agree to:

  • Withdrawal to pre-1967 lines, including from the Golan Heights in Syria and the Lebanese territories;
  • A just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem (originally outlined in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194);
  • The acceptance of a Palestinian state consisting of the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Where does the Initiative stand today?

Earlier in 2013, the League of Arab States modified the terms of the Initiative so that while it would still be based on the 1967 border between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, member states would be open to the possibility of mutually agreed land swaps. This would allow Israel to keep some of its settlement blocs, which are currently on the other side of the 1967 border on Palestinian territory.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is facilitating the resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinians, indicated that the API could play a part in the negotiations. "Israel needs to look hard at this initiative, which promises Israel peace with 22 Arab nations and 35 Muslim nations – a total of 57 nations that are standing and waiting for the possibility of making peace with Israel," he said in July.

What do Israelis and Palestinians think about the API?

The Israeli government has not supported the API in the past. Recently, however, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni – who is leading the peace talks on the Israeli side – has made positive statements about the 2013 version of the Initiative. While the Israeli public is not well informed about the API, polls show that a majority of Israelis would support an agreement based on its terms.

The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority supports the Initiative. However Palestinian civil society groups have argued that the inclusion of land swaps legitimises Israel’s policy of creating “facts on the ground” through settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territory. Some also point out that the API does not deal with the grievances of those Palestinians who became refugees in 1948. Hamas has criticised the Initiative as an agreement made between other Arab states, not the Palestinians.

Oslo, 20 years on

Twenty years after the signing of the Oslo Accords, how has the agreement played out – and is there still a chance to find a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

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