News / Middle East

Israelis, Palestinians React Cautiously to Arab League 'Land Swap' Stand

A protester waves a Palestinian flag in front of the Jewish settlement of Ofra during clashes near the West Bank village of Deir Jarir near Ramallah, April. 26, 2013.
A protester waves a Palestinian flag in front of the Jewish settlement of Ofra during clashes near the West Bank village of Deir Jarir near Ramallah, April. 26, 2013.
Scott Bobb
Reaction has been cautious in Israel and the Palestinian territories to the Arab League announcement that it supports the idea of using land swaps to negotiate future Israeli-Palestinian borders as part of a Middle East peace agreement.  Arab ministers announced the position after a meeting in Washington Tuesday. 
 
Israeli officials expressed mixed reactions to the Arab League announcement that it would accept what it called minor and comparable land swaps to encourage the stalled Mideast peace negotiations.
 
Israel's head negotiator for the talks, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, called it positive news that sent a message to the Israeli public.
 
She said they need to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible and they certainly welcome the message from the Arab League.  Israeli opposition leaders also expressed support for the proposal.
 
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's response was more reserved. He told senior officials Wednesday that the root of the conflict is not territory but rather the Palestinian unwillingness to recognize the state of Israel.
 
The Palestinians' chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said the Arab League announcement contained nothing new.
 
In a statement, he said it represented the official Palestinian position - as was summarized Tuesday by the head of the Arab League delegation, Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem al-Thani.
 
“Agreement should be based on the two-state solution on the basis of the 4th of June 1967 lines with the possibility of comparable and mutually agreed minor swaps of the land," he said. 
 
The statement underscores the position of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that any negotiations should begin from the borders that existed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
 
Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu says those borders are not defensible for his country.
 
The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been stalled for several years. The Palestinians say they could only resume if Israel stops construction of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories and releases all political prisoners.
 
The Israelis say the Palestinians should return to the negotiating table without preconditions.
 
A political analyst with the Al-Monitor website, Akiva Eldar, says nevertheless the Arab League statement gives hope for a new approach to the conflict.
 
“The statement of the Arab League by the Qatari prime minister is a clear indication that the Arab League is involved in the peace process and that there is a hope for a new American strategy that looks at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a kind of regional perspective," he said. 
 
The head of East Jerusalem's International Peace Cooperation Center, Rami Nasrallah, agreed, to a degree.
 
“This accepting a principle which was discussed before, it's been agreed now by the Arab countries, I think this is a good start if it's not a great hope," he said. 
 
Eldar explains a reason for Netanyahu's measured response.
 
“For [Netanyahu], the fact that the Arab League has agreed to a territorial swap doesn't mean anything because he doesn't see the '67 lines as the basis for this swap," he said. 
 
Eldar notes that nearly one-half million Israeli settlers now live in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. It would be difficult for any Israeli government to displace those living in the major settlements.
 
And he says that since the Israeli elections in January, parties representing Jewish settlers and others who oppose giving up the Palestinian territories have become important partners in Netanyahu's coalition government.
 
Analyst Nasrallah says the Arab League announcement could eventually help the peace process because it could give it legitimacy and allow the Arab world to be a part of any solution.
 
“Establishing normal diplomatic relations between Israel and the Arab states is something important which could build the trust after reaching a permanent status agreement," he said. 
 
Nevertheless, both experts agree that the main obstacles to resuming the peace talks are the positions of the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. And they say these will have to change before any real progress can be made.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More