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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace



New context for peace

Rafi Dajani and Daniel Levy

Jewish Advocate

May 9, 2007

Israel just marked its 59th birthday and like a typical baby boomer, she tends to vent her frustration at dreams not realized.

Yet a core Israeli dream -- to not only establish a state but to have that state accepted in the Middle East and live at peace with its neighbors -- is within reach. If only Israel -- having finally gotten to yes with the Arab world -- would recognize it.
Amidst all the Middle East doom and gloom, there are at least three reasons for real hope: Israeli, Palestinian and regional.

On the Israeli side there is a belated realization that the absence of an agreed border, the ongoing occupation and unfettered settlement activity have all been costly in security, financial and moral terms. Israelis are increasingly cognizant that application of the country's military force delivers partial solutions and are keen to find a negotiated way forward. They are distrustful of the Palestinians' intentions and capacity to deliver, but view the Arab world as a more reliable and robust partner.
On the Palestinian side, and contrary to conventional wisdom in the U.S., the Mecca Unity Government deal between Fatah and Hamas in many ways represents a broadening Palestinian consensus around the inevitability of a two-state solution and acceptance of Israel as a reality. According to the Unity Government platform, President Abbas is authorized to negotiate with Israel, with any agreement requiring approval by referendum or PLO vote, the legitimacy of which all parties would accept. Arab states' involvement helped lock in this deal and would presumably be required to back-up a Palestinian sign-off on a permanent status peace deal with Israel.
That is why the third element -- the regional role -- is so important and why renewed peace efforts could take the Saudi-Arab initiative as a point of departure.
While the clauses of the re-launched Arab Peace Initiative are essentially the same as those of the original 2002 initiative, the current context is very different.
The person who launched the 2002 initiative, then crown-prince Abdullah, is now king of a Saudi Arabia that has assumed the mantle of leadership in the Arab world, brokering the new Palestinian coalition government, mediating between the factions in Lebanon and formulating regional strategy over Iran.

The Saudi and Egyptian foreign ministers have stressed that Israel should accept the initiative "in principle" and as "a framework" after which all issues were open for negotiations. The borders clause says that they should "be based" on the 1967 lines implying that the exact border lines would be negotiated.

An additional bonus is that influential non-Arab Muslim states have also signed up to the logic behind the initiative. It is no longer an act of wide-eyed naiveté to envisage an Israel at peace with its neighbors and accepted by the Arab and Muslim worlds. Israel did it; it got to yes -- now it's time to recognize it and act on it.

Rafi Dajani is executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine and Daniel Levy, who co-wrote this piece, was the principal Israeli negotiator of the Geneva Initiative and. They will speak on May 10 at Temple Beth Zion at 7:30 p.m.

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