Influential Israelis offer peace proposal

By Matti Friedman
Associated Press / April 6, 2011

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JERUSALEM — A group of former security chiefs and other prominent Israelis have prepared a new informal peace proposal, saying yesterday that they hoped the move would prod Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into breaking the ongoing deadlock in talks with the Palestinians.

The formula they suggest has been offered before in formal and informal frameworks but has not produced a peace accord. It includes a Palestinian state in almost all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip with border adjustments to allow Israel to keep key settlements, with a division of Jerusalem and most Palestinian refugees resettling in their state and not in Israel.

The Israeli group includes former heads of the Shin Bet and Mossad security services and the military, as well as one of Israel’s wealthiest businessmen, shipping tycoon Idan Ofer.

Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, a former military chief of staff, said he and the other signatories felt the Israeli government needed to be prodded into action. “We felt we have to wake everyone up. Time is passing, and it’s not working in our favor,’’ he said.

The new initiative’s chances for moving public opinion of the government may depend on its proponents’ ability to draw in new figures — because the ones named yesterday as jumping on board are already known to favor sought-after concessions to the Palestinians in exchange for peace.

The initiative, summarized in a two-page document, offered few new ideas. Instead, it essentially endorsed peace plans offered by previous governments in an apparent effort to prod the current one into doing the same.

Past versions of this formula include a detailed but unofficial Israeli-Palestinian agreement in 2003 known as the Geneva Accord.

The new proposal closely resembles an offer submitted to the Palestinians in 2008 by Israel’s prime minister at the time, Ehud Olmert. The Palestinians deemed it insufficient, and the sides never worked out details on the more complex aspects, like the division of Jerusalem.

After he took office in 2009, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu grudgingly accepted the idea of a Palestinian state but took Olmert’s offer off the table.

The Palestinian Authority, the Western-backed government in the West Bank, has largely resisted speaking to Netanyahu’s hard-line government. Its officials say they won’t speak to Israel without a freeze of settlement construction, a demand Netanyahu rejects.

Some in Netanyahu’s government are calling on him to present an Israeli proposal, in part to ward off international pressure. Israel is bracing for an expected effort by the Palestinians at the United Nations in September to gain recognition for full statehood on all the lands they seek.

While a UN resolution would not change the situation on the ground, it could deepen Israel’s international isolation and essentially endorse the Palestinian position in negotiations.

One notion that has been floated would involve an Israeli offer of Palestinian statehood on only part of the West Bank and Gaza as part of an interim deal that would not require the Palestinians to forswear all further claims. Palestinians have consistently rejected that concept as well. top stories on Twitter

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