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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid