Arab Peace Initiative

This term refers to an initiative promoted by some Arab countries which proposes a normalization of Arab-Israeli relations in return for the establishment of a Palestinian state within the '67 borders.

Definition

The term "Arab Peace Initiative" refers to a document adopted at the Arab Summit in Beirut (3/28/02), and was based on ideas of Crown Prince Abdullah, according to which Arab states were to normalize relations with Israel in exchange for the establishment of a Palestinian state within June 4, 1967 borders.

The initiative does not constitute a detailed model for Permanent Status Agreement but rather delineates a general framework for Permanent Status.

Background

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah was quoted by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman (2/17/02) as agreeing to normalizing relations with Israel in exchange for a full Israeli withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 borders and the establishment of a Palestinian State.1 Abdullah made no reference to the issue of Palestinian Refugees. This interview later became known as the Saudi Peace Initiative,2 and was "welcomed" in UN Security Council Resolution 1397.3

Arab concerns led to a number of modifications during the five weeks between Abdullah's disclosure and the convening of the Arab leaders at the Beirut Summit. In the final version adopted by the summit, the term "normalizing relations" was changed to "normal relations" and provisions calling for a just solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194 and a return of the Golan Heights to Syria were added.

The next month Abdullah presented a modified plan to Bush that had not been approved by the other Arab leaders. This plan included the establishment of a Palestinian state based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which call for an Israeli withdrawal from territory seized in the 1967 War, in return for Arab recognition of Israel. This plan did not include a reference to the refugees or normalization.4

The Bush vision to the Middle East (6/02) did not mention the Saudi Initiative, though it did call for ending the occupation that began in 1967 in exchange for normalizing relations between Israel and the Arab countries. However, the Roadmap stated that UNSCR 242 and 338, along with UNSCR 1397 and the Arab Initiative, would lay the foundations for a future settlement to the conflict.6

The government of Israel accepted the Roadmap with 14 reservations, among them an insistence upon "the removal of references other than 242 and 338 (i.e. UNSCR 1397 and the Arab Initiative adopted in Beirut)."7


1 Friedman Tom, "An Intriguing Signal from the Saudi Crown Prince", NY Times, 2/17/02.

Crown Prince Abdullah: "...the idea I had in mind - full withdrawal from all the occupied territories, in accord with UN resolutions, including in Jerusalem, for full normalization of relations."

2 Israel responded cautiously to the proposal at first, though the government later voiced opposition to the initiative on the grounds that it called for a return of all the territories (3/3/02). The US on the other hand, publicly supported the ideas, though a trip by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the region failed to produce a halt to the Israeli-Palestinian violence and a consensus on how to proceed. See Podeh Elie, From Fahd to Abdullah, (Jerusalem: Truman Institute, 2003. pp. 24-26, 28-30).

3 For the full text of UNSCR 1397 click here.

4 Podeh Elie, Ibid, pp 26-31.

6 For the full text of the Roadmap, click here.

[7] For the full text of Israel's 14 Reservations to the Roadmap, click here.

More Sources

Elie Podeh, From Fahd to Abdullah, Jerusalem: Truman Institute in the Hebrew University, 2003.