TEL AVIV, Israel – The Obama administration has decided to base its approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on an Arab “peace” initiative, according to a source in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
Defenders of Israel warn the so-called “Arab Peace Initiative” in its full form would leave the Jewish state with truncated, difficult-to-defend borders and could threaten Israel’s Jewish character by compelling it to accept millions of foreign Arabs.
Earlier today, Netanyahu held a meeting with Obama’s envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, to outline the prime minister’s approach to Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu reportedly told Mitchell he would condition future talks with the Palestinians on Palestinian leaders’ first recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, a step that would be difficult should Hamas join a unity government.
The Israeli Ynetnews website quoted Netanyahu telling Mitchell of fears that any Israeli withdrawal from strategic territory would leave a terrorist hornet’s nest in its wake.
“Israel must make sure that the political process does not result in the creation of a second ‘Hamastan’ (in the West Bank) that would threaten Jerusalem and the coastline,” Netanyahu reportedly said.
Regarding Syria, Netanyahu told Mitchell he is willing to approach talks with Damascus if the country would curb its alliance with Iran and backing of Palestinian terrorism, according to a source in the Netanyahu government speaking to WND.
The source said Mitchell conveyed to Netanyahu that Obama seeks to create a Palestinian state in hopes of normalizing relations between Israel and the Arab world in line with the “Arab Peace Initiative.” The source told WND Mitchell relayed that Obama’s Mideast strategy would be based on the concept of the “Initiative” but with security guarantees for Israel.
Following scores of denials he would trumpet the plan, Obama in January hailed the Arab initiative, which offers normalization of ties with the Jewish state in exchange for extreme Israeli concessions. In an interview with an Arab television network – his first formal interview as president – Obama stated:
“Well, here’s what I think is important. Look at the proposal that was put forth by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. … I might not agree with every aspect of the proposal, but it took great courage to put forward something that is as significant as that. I think that there are ideas across the region of how we might pursue peace. I do think that it is impossible for us to think only in terms of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and not think in terms of what’s happening with Syria or Iran or Lebanon or Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
The Arab Initiative, originally proposed by King Abdullah in 2002 and later adopted by the Arab League, states that Israel would receive “normal relations” with the Arab world in exchange for a full withdrawal from the entire Gaza Strip, West Bank, Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem, which includes the Temple Mount.
The West Bank contains important Jewish biblical sites and borders central Israeli population centers, while the Golan Heights looks down on Israeli civilian zones and was twice used by Syria to mount ground invasions into the Jewish state.
The Arab plan also demands the imposition of a non-binding U.N. resolution that calls for so-called Palestinian refugees who wish to move inside Israel to be permitted to do so at the “earliest practicable date.”
Palestinians have long demanded the “right of return” for millions of “refugees,” a formula Israeli officials across the political spectrum warn is code for Israel’s destruction by flooding the Jewish state with millions of Arabs, thereby changing its demographics.
When Arab countries attacked the Jewish state after its creation in 1948, some 725,000 Arabs living within Israel’s borders fled or were expelled from the area that became Israel. Also at that time, about 820,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries or fled following rampant persecution.
While most Jewish refugees were absorbed by Israel and other countries, the majority of Palestinian Arabs have been maintained in 59 U.N.-run camps that do not seek to settle the Arabs elsewhere. There are currently about 4 million Arabs who claim Palestinian refugee status with the U.N., including children and grandchildren of the original fleeing Arabs, Arabs living full-time in Jordan, and Arabs who long ago emigrated throughout the Middle East and to the West.
U.S. stresses Palestinian state
In public comments today, Mitchell stated Obama remained committed to creating a Palestinian state, in contrast to comments by some Israeli politicians that Israel was not bound by the two-state solution but would instead stress the U.S. Road Map, which calls for the Palestinians to dismantle terrorism before talks to create a state.
“The U.S. policy favors a two-state solution, which would have a Palestinian state living in peace alongside the Jewish state of Israel,” said Mitchell after a meeting with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
“We had a good, full and candid discussion covering both the history of the peace process, going back to the 1990s, and continuing to the present, and also looking into the future on what can be done to achieve our common objectives,” Mitchell said.
Lieberman’s office had earlier released a statement that the politician told Mitchell that “thus far, the traditional approach has not brought any results or solutions.”
Lieberman reportedly explained to Mitchell that the Jewish state has previously agreed to “far-reaching concessions” but that “the diplomatic process is at [a] dead end.”