While stopping short of fully endorsing the Arab Peace Initiative, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that he welcomed the general idea behind it — a regional agreement between Israel and the moderate Arab states.
The Arab Peace Initiative, originally proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002, has many problematic aspects to it, the prime minister said, such as its call for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights and the return of Palestinians refuges to Israel. “There are positive aspects and negative aspects to it,” he told Israeli diplomatic correspondents at a rare on-record briefing. “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.”
In the framework proposed by the initiative, all Arab and Islamic states would establish normal diplomatic relations with Israel after the successful conclusion of the peace process with the Palestinians.
The Israeli government has never fully endorsed the plan. But Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that given Iran’s nuclear and regional aspirations, the moderate Arab states and Israel have a common enemy and grounds for increased coo
Speaking at the Israel Defense Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv on Thursday, the prime minister also sought to explain the apparent disparity between his pre- and post-elections statements regarding Palestinian statehood.
“Before the elections, I was asked in an interview [about the possibility of a Palestinian state coming into being on my watch], and I replied that I don’t estimate it will happen. I don’t think it will happen,” he said. “After the elections, they jumped on it, so I explained my position.”
At no time did he rescind his agreement in principle to the creation of a Palestinian state, as long as it was demilitarized and recognized Israel as the Jewish homeland, Netanyahu asserted. “I did not renounce the idea, but I explained what’s the problem with it,” he said. “If the Palestinians change their positions, that it’s a different situation.”
Netanyahu on Thursday said there are several core problems that stand in the way of a peace treaty with the Palestinians, such as Jerusalem, which he said “will not be resolved – we’ll set this aside.”
However, the most important question was security, he said. “One of the key questions will be who guarantees the security of the territories that Israel is ready to vacate?
Israel rejects the prospective agreement for three reasons: For one thing, even if Iran honors the agreement, when it elapses after a decade Tehran will be in a position to build as many uranium enrichment centrifuges as it pleases, which “is dangerous to the security of Israel and the entire Middle East,” Netanyahu said.