BICOM Briefing: The ‘Israeli Peace Initiative’

Key Points

  • The Israeli Peace Initiative is an Israeli response to the Arab Peace Initiative, proposed by a group of public figures in Israel, including former senior security officials.
  • It includes a framework for peace with the Palestinians, Syria, Lebanon and the broader Arab world, based on Israeli territorial withdrawal in return for peace and normalisation.
  • Though the proposals are not particularly new, it is interesting to note the array of former senior security officials and other public figures who are supporting it.
  • The proposers are keen to see the current deadlock in the peace process broken, perceiving it to be damaging for Israel.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is believed to be developing his own ideas to try and break the deadlock in the peace process, based on a proposal for an interim solution.

What is the ‘Israeli Peace Initiative’?

  • The Israeli Peace Initiative is a peace proposal launched by a group of public figures in Israel, including former generals and others.
  • It presents itself as an Israeli response to the Arab Peace Initiative promoted by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and endorsed by the Arab League in 2002.
  • It outlines the terms for final status agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, Syria, Lebanon, and the normalisation of relations between Israel and the rest of the Arab world.
  • The principles for peace in the document include:

o A Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank based on 1967 borders with 1:1 land swaps not exceeding 7% of the West Bank.

o Jerusalem shared as the capital of two states with special arrangements for shared sovereignty in the Old City.

o Refugees to receive financial compensation from the international community and Israel with the right of return only to a Palestinian state but with ‘with mutually agreed-upon symbolic exceptions.’

o Peace with Syria to be based on a staged Israeli withdrawal from the Golan and agreed security arrangements.

o Peace with Lebanon based on existing borders and Lebanon exercising ‘full sovereignty over its territory through the Lebanese army.’

o Regional security arrangements and economic cooperation based on the creation of a ‘Middle East Economic Development Bloc’.

o The gradual normalisation of relations between Israel and Arab and Islamic states that would commence at the start of negotiations.

Who is behind it?

  • The initiative was launched by a group of public figures in Israel, who perceive the current deadlock in the peace process to be damaging for Israel. They include:

o Yaakov Peri – Former Shin Ben (Israeli internal security) chief

o Amram Mitzna – Retired IDF general and former leader of Israeli Labour party

o Danny Yatom – Former head of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service

o Amnon Lipkin Shahak – Former IDF Chief of Staff and former Knesset member

o Yuval and Dalia Rabin – Children of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin

o Adina Bar Shalom – Daughter of Shas Rabbi and spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef

o Professor Aliza Shenhar – President of Emek Yezreel College

o Idan Ofer – Israeli business mogul

How does this compare to Arab Peace Initiative?

  • The Israeli Peace Initiative appears designed to address some Israeli concerns with the Arab Peace Initiative.
  • From an Israeli perspective the Arab Peace Initiative appeared to be presented as a ‘take it or leave’ it proposal, with no room for negotiation. The Israeli Peace Initiative, by contrast, presents itself as a framework for a negotiated solution.
  • The Arab Peace Initiative appeared to offer normalisation of relations between Israel and the Arab world only after Israel’s acceptance of the initiative. The Israeli Peace Initiative proposes that the process of normalisation would happen in stages that would begin at the onset of negotiations. This reflects an Israeli concern that the benefits that Israel stands to gain from the process, i.e. normalisation and acceptance in the region, should not all be held back to the end of the process.

How does it compare to previous peace proposals?

  • The outline of the peace proposal in the Israeli Peace Initiative falls within broad parameters of what most people expect to constitute the shape of a final peace agreement. The parameters of the peace agreement with the Palestinians are similar to the proposals made by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as part of the Annapolis process in 2008.
  • It is also comparable to the Clinton Parameters accepted by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000.
  • The proposals also bear similarity to the unofficial Geneva Initiative agreed by former Israeli and Palestinian officials in 2003.
  • The terms are also similar to those proposed by former Israeli Defence Minister, and senior Kadima party MK Shaul Mofaz, in his own plan launched in 2009, though Mofaz proposed a Palestinian state in interim borders as an interim step.

What is the position of the Israeli government?

  • The Israeli Prime Minister’s office responded warmly to the initiative. Ophir Gendelman, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said: ‘This initiative reflects the true yearning of the Israeli people for peace. This initiative, like the Israeli government’s policy, is based upon the need to go back to direct negotiations between the two sides.’
  • The Prime Minister has repeatedly called for immediate direct talks with the Palestinians to negotiate a two state solution. However, he has been unwilling to spell out his positions on the final status issues in public. Because of the Palestinian refusal to enter negotiations without a prior Israeli settlement freeze, Netanyahu is now believed to be considering an interim proposal to move the process forward.

Further Reading