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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid