Moving away from sticking to the pre-1967-war positions

Arab countries have collectively agreed to accept an arrangement that would allow Israelis and Palestinians to go ahead with land swaps to resolve differences, rather than strictly sticking to the pre-1967-war position.

Speaking on behalf of the 22-nation Arab League (AL), Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jasem Al Thani, appeared to concede land swaps following a meeting in Washington of Arab officials and John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The Washington initiative looked Mr. Kerry’s brainchild. “The Arab League delegation affirmed that agreement should be based on the two-state solution on the basis of the 4th of June 1967 line, with the [possibility] of comparable and mutual agreed minor swap of the land,” said Mr. Kerry after the meeting on Monday at Blair House, the U.S. President’s guest house.

The talks came after a “series of productive conversations by the Secretary to explore how we can best move regional peace efforts forward,” said acting Deputy spokesman of the State Department Patrick Ventrell.

The Israeli establishment seemed elated by the development. “This news is very positive,” Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni told Army radio. She added: “It also gives a message to Israeli citizens: it is no longer just us ... talking with the Palestinians, there is a group of Arab states who are saying: you reach an agreement with the Palestinians and we will make peace with you, we will have normalisation with you.”

PA approval

The perceptible shift in the Arab position seemed to have the approval of the Palestinian Authority (PA), whose Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki was present at the meeting. Foreign Ministers of Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan and Qatar also participated in the talks along with officials from Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Joe Biden, the U.S. Vice-President, also attended part of the meeting.

The Arab League’s proposal in its original form was pegged around a full Arab recognition of an Israeli state, in case it gave up land captured in the 1967 war, and accepted a “just solution” for Palestinian refugees. The Israelis had earlier rejected the plan, which was proposed in 2002 at the Arab League’s summit in Beirut.

Israel objects to the return to 1967 borders, the return of Palestinian refugees displaced in earlier wars, and the inclusion of East Jerusalem in a future Palestinian state.

More In: International | News | World