Netanyahu: ‘General idea’ of Arab Peace Initiative is good

During a media briefing yesterday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his support for a two-state solution and backed the overall principle behind the regional Arab Peace Initiative.

Speaking to a selection of political and diplomatic correspondents in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu addressed a wide range of issues. He reiterated his support for a two-state solution, saying, “My position remains a demilitarised Palestinian state that recognises the Jewish state,” although he emphasised that Israel’s security concerns must be addressed, adding that borders themselves are less important than “the nature of the regime on the other side.” Last week, Netanyahu publicly declared his support for “the vision of two states for two peoples” during a press conference alongside European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini. Earlier this month, Netanyahu’s new government announced that it would “strive to reach a peace agreement” as part of its agreed policy guidelines and Interior Minister Silvan Shalom has since been appointed to head any future talks.

During yesterday’s briefing, Netanyahu also addressed the Arab Peace Initiative. The 2002 Arab League proposal suggested full Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for a series of conditions, including the return of Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel. In 2013, the Arab League softened its demands by accepting the principle of land swaps on pre-1967 borders. Israel has never officially responded to the initiative, although it has been a matter for public debate. Netanyahu commented yesterday that, “There are positive aspects and negative aspects to it [the Arab Peace Initiative]” and that clearly “the situation in the Middle East has changed since it was first proposed.” Nonetheless, he summarised, “the general idea — to try and reach understandings with leading Arab countries — is a good idea.”

On several occasions in recent months, including during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly last year, Netanyahu has said that a wider rapprochement with the Arab world could lead to Israeli-Palestinian peace.

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