Arab nations must revise the deal to reflect Israeli demands, prime minister reiterates. ‘If they bring the proposal from 2002 and define it as ‘take it or leave it’ — we’ll choose to leave it.’
Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem June 13, 2016.Ronen Zvulin, Reuters
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Likud ministers Monday that he will never accept the original Arab Peace Initiative as a basis for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, according to two sources at the meeting.
“If the Arab nations grasp the fact that they need to revise the Arab League proposal according to the changes Israel demands, then we can talk,” Netanyahu said. “But if they bring the proposal from 2002 and define it as ‘take it or leave it’ — we’ll choose to leave it.”
The positive part of the plan, he told the ministers, was the willingness of the Arab nations to achieve peace and normalization with Israel. On the other hand, its negative elements include the demand that Israel retreat to the 1967 borders in the West Bank with territorial adjustments, and leave the Golan Heights, as well as the return of the Palestinian refugees.
During the Likud meeting, Netanyahu said that an article 10 days ago in Haaretz by his former bureau chief, Nathan Eshel, wasn’t coordinated with him. Eshel, in Haaretz, claimed that Netanyahu had been about to enter a coalition agreement with the Zionist Union, prior to making a diplomatic move, but that such a decision was thwarted due to opposition in leftist circles to sitting in a government with Likud. Eshel’s article does “not reflect my position,” Netanyahu said in the meeting.
Netanyahu has mentioned the Arab League proposal time and again over the years, but has repeatedly said he hopes it is open to changes.
For example, in May 2015, during a briefing with diplomatic correspondents, Netanyahu called for the initiative to be revised, saying that while he saw some good things in it, it also contained “bad things that have become obsolete — such as the demand for Israel to return the Golan, or the issue of the refugees.”
A great deal had changed in the years since the proposal was drafted, the premier added at the time, “but the general idea of an attempt to achieve understandings with leading nations in the Arab world is a good one.”
Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, for one, rejects Netanyahu’s demand that the Arab nations “update” the original proposal due to changes in the Middle East in the interim.
Answering a query from Haaretz at a press conference following the foreign ministers’ summit in Paris 10 days ago, the minister said, “Why should the Arab Peace Initiative be changed?” He added that he didn’t support the approach that the proposal be diluted so it suits Israel.