The phased implementation of the Arab Peace Initiative

A NON-PAPER

The Arab Peace Initiative was introduced at the Beirut Summit of the League of Arab States in 2002 laying out a framework to achieve the normalisation of relations between the entire Arab World and Israel. Since that date, not a single one of the 22 original signatory states have withdrawn their support. The Arab Peace Initiative envisages a final settlement in the form of two coexisting, self-sufficient, autonomous and sovereign states – Israel and Palestine. In today’s Middle East, we witness ongoing religious and political radicalisation, much of which is a product of violence and disenfranchisement. A settlement between Arab governments, including the Palestinians and the Government of Israel, is ever more vital as a means to tackle both regional and global conflict. In May 2015, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarked that although the Arab Peace Initiative was 13 years old and that “[t}he situation in the Middle East has changed since it was first proposed… the general idea — to try and reach understandings with leading Arab countries — is a good idea.”. This document aims to update the Initiative by dealing with the current political climate and serve as a springboard for a renewed effort to pursue the central goals of the original document.

The Arab Peace Initiative remains the most promising framework available to end the current deadlock and bring political stakeholders from all sides to the negotiating table. Comprehensive peace will require multilateral negotiations and agreement will need to be reached through mutual concessions. The Arab Peace Initiative has proved particularly daunting to those involved due to the fact that it suggests an approach whereby all sides agree to all required concessions once and for all. Therefore, in order to achieve the level of rapprochement envisioned in the Arab Peace Initiative, this version of the proposal suggests a phased, step-by-step implementation.

The following proposal aims to initiate and facilitate a dialogue leading to peace agreements between Israel and the Arab World profitable for all. The proposal envisages the resumption of negotiations between the governments of Israel, Palestine and other Arab governments where necessary over the final settlement of the main issues of concern. The central factor in the success of this proposal will be multilateral engagement from all parties. Outright rejections, failures to compromise and muted reactions have derailed the Peace Initiative in the past. Active contribution, discussion and problem solving are crucial if we are to move forward beyond the current deadlock.

The following proposal sets out recommendations as to how the Arab Peace Initiative might be implemented through seven phases. Particular concern has been made to ensure relative parity in regard to the concessions made by both sides at each stage. The concessions chosen in Phase I are the most straightforward to implement and do not require any of the parties involved to move away from their current position. This is designed to establish mutual trust between the parties involved in order to smooth the way for final status negotiations on more complex and demanding issues following in Phases II – VII. The implementation of the Arab Peace Initiative will finally be enshrined through the signing of a formal comprehensive peace agreement.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE PHASED IMPLEMENTATION OF THE ARAB PEACE INITIATIVE

 PHASE I

The recommended steps for implementation in this phase are selected because they are relatively straightforward and yet aim to build confidence.

  • Palestine to be declared an independent state by the United Nations Security Council and accepted as a full member of the UN with its borders undetermined. This follows the model by which Israel was accepted into the UN (in 1948 Israel declared independence without agreed borders, without a capital, and without a constitution).
  • The State of Israel to be fully recognised by the following countries participating in negotiations who have not already done so but that already accept the passports of citizens of the State of Israel: The Kingdom of Bahrain, the Union of the Comoros, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, the Kingdom of Morocco, and the State of Qatar (for the existing status of member states of the Arab League in regard to Israel see footnote)[1].
  • An international fund for Palestine to be created. This would commit the international community to economic and financial support for the Palestinian territories, especially the Gaza Strip, with the aim of establishing a self-sufficient government independent of external aid. This fund might be modelled on the International Fund for Ireland (IFI).

PHASE II

The recommended steps for implementation in this phase are selected because again they are again comparatively easy. Superficially it may seem there are more concessions by Israel, but these concessions are nothing to which Israel has not previously agreed.

  • Cessation of settlement construction by Israel in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
  • Handover of control of the land located in Area B to the Palestinian Authority. Area B is chiefly composed of an estimated 440 Palestinian villages and rural lands. It is currently under Palestinian civil control while Israel and the Palestinian Authority jointly handle security control. There are no increased security risks for Israel if it decides to leave security control of Area B to the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian territories would remain surrounded by territories over which Israel has exclusive security control.
  • Passports from the State of Israel to be fully recognised as acceptable by the following countries participating in negotiations and which have had a history of some de facto relationship with Israel, as a prerequisite to subsequent recognition: the Sultanate of Oman, and the Tunisian Republic.
  • Arab League member states to pledge to end anti-Semitic propaganda in the media.

PHASE III

The recommended steps for implementation in this phase are inevitably subject to negotiation. In the absence of negotiations the choices indicated below are the subjective preferences of the editors of this paper who contend that dealing with the Jerusalem issue at this comparatively early stage makes subsequent negotiations less daunting.

  • For purposes of municipal administration, Jerusalem to have separate administrative offices for West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem (the existing overarching municipal council remains).
  • Establishment of a joint committee consisting of Israeli, Palestinian and international (UN) representatives to advise on the administration of the city. Security arrangements for Jerusalem to be negotiated under the auspices of this committee (Israeli patrols/Palestinian patrols/joint patrols to be utilised where appropriate).
  • Special arrangements to be implemented in the Old City, ensuring that the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall will be administered by Israel. Similarly the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif to remain under a special arrangement, ensuring that the Moslem Waqf will administer Islamic holy places.
  • Once the joint committee decides that arrangements have been sufficiently implemented, the USA to consider both relocating their presence in Israel from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem and establishing an embassy in East Jerusalem, as a prerequisite to subsequent UN Security Council recognition of Jerusalem as the indivisible capital of Israel and Al Quds as the indivisible capital of Palestine[2] (any separation of local administration being at a mere de facto level and shared sovereignty being the de jure practice).
  • The Palestinian Authority may relocate its headquarters to East Jerusalem.
  • Passports from the State of Israel to be fully recognised by the following countries participating in negotiations as a prelude to subsequent recognition: People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, Republic of Djibouti, Iraq, the State of Kuwait, the State of Libya, the Federal Republic of Somalia, the Republic of Sudan, The United Arab Emirates and The Republic of Yemen.

PHASE IV

The refugee issue need not be contentious if dealt with in negotiation with care and consideration by all concerned. Again, it is recommended that it be dealt with at this stage rather than left as a stumbling block at the end. For similar reasons, the Sheba Farms issue is flagged up at this stage because by doing so the avenue to future negotiations is simplified and confidence is built.

  • All parties to agree that Jews have the right of return to the State of Israel and Palestinians have a corresponding right of return to the State of Palestine.
  • Israel to take into its territory several tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees (a number not to exceed 100,000 and to be agreed by negotiation – the vulnerable, i.e. the very young and the very old, to be given priority), all of whom have family members living inside Israel.
  • Those Palestinian refugees who have not been granted third country citizenship to be offered either compensation or nationality and resettlement through a committee under the auspices of Canada[3].
  • Israel to withdraw from the occupied lands known as the Shebaa Farms and their environs.
  • The State of Israel to be fully recognised by the following countries participating in negotiations who have not already done so: the Sultanate of Oman, and the Tunisian Republic.

PHASE V

The recommended steps for implementation in this phase involve land swaps and necessitate complex negotiations. However with both the Jerusalem and Refugee issues at least in part resolved, this phase should be less contentious than it might otherwise have been.

  • The largest settlements in Area C[4] to be exchanged on a 1:1 basis, taking into account both quality and size of the land in question. Land swaps cannot exceed 7% of the West Bank.[5]
  • A safe corridor administered by the PA to be established connecting the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.[6] Land located in Israel used by the corridor would feature in land swap agreements.
  • The burial site of the biblical Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron would, subject to negotiation, be under shared control and subject to the oversight of an international
  • Pledge to resume peace talks between Syria and Israel on a final status agreement on the issue of the Golan Heights when possible in the future.
  • The State of Israel to be fully recognised by the following countries participating in negotiations that have not already done so: People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, Republic of Djibouti, Iraq, the State of Kuwait, the State of Libya, the Federal Republic of Somalia, the Republic of Sudan, The United Arab Emirates and The Republic of Yemen.

PHASE VI

The recommended steps for implementation in this phase involve concessions by Israel. However they should be regarded as a precursor to the full recognition is phase VII. Furthermore the trade concession commended for this stage would of itself be a major and radical step on the part of the Arab World.

  • Opening of the existing port in Gaza for trade[7] and agreement by all parties to the construction of the new Gaza seaport.
  • The full reestablishment of goods movement in and out of Gaza through available crossings (i.e. Rafah and Karni) subject to checks carried out by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in co-ordination with the Palestinian Authority.
  • Gaza to be allowed to build an airport to connect it to the West Bank by air.
  • Exchange programs to be set up for students between universities and schools in the region to promote understanding and peace.
  • Free trade to be established between Israel and Palestine and between Israel and the Arab States as a whole, allowing for international investment and development in the region.
  • Israeli prisons within West Bank to be dismantled.

PHASE VII

This phase completes the implementation of the Arab Plan.

  • An agreement to be reached with regard to the Golan, possibly along the lines of that envisioned in previous discussions which included a national park under Syrian Sovereignty in a demilitarised zone with free access from Israel.[8]
  • Jerusalem to be officially recognised by the UN Security Council as the capital of Israel “Yerushalaim” and of Palestine “Al-Quds”.
  • The State of Israel to be fully recognised by the following countries participating in negotiations that have not already done so: the Lebanese Republic, the Syrian Arab Republic and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
  • The State of Israel to be fully and formally recognised by the League of Arab States.

/ Ends

APPENDIX

  1. The Arab Peace Initiative: Official translation of the full-text of the Arab Peace Initiative adopted by the Arab summit in Beirut)

The Council of Arab States at the Summit Level at its 14th Ordinary Session,

Reaffirming the resolution taken in June 1996 at the Cairo Extra-Ordinary Arab Summit that a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East is the strategic option of the Arab countries, to be achieved in accordance with international legality, and which would require a comparable commitment on the part of the Israeli government,

Having listened to the statement made by his royal highness Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, crown prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in which his highness presented his initiative calling for full Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab territories occupied since June 1967, in implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, reaffirmed by the Madrid Conference of 1991 and the land-for-peace principle, and Israel’s acceptance of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, in return for the establishment of normal relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel,

Emanating from the conviction of the Arab countries that a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties, the council:

  1. Requests Israel to reconsider its policies and declare that a just peace is its strategic option as well.
  2. Further calls upon Israel to affirm:

I- Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.

II- Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.

III- The acceptance of the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

  1. Consequently, the Arab countries affirm the following:

I- Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region.

II- Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.

  1. Assures the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries.
  2. Calls upon the government of Israel and all Israelis to accept this initiative in order to safeguard the prospects for peace and stop the further shedding of blood, enabling the Arab countries and Israel to live in peace and good neighbourliness and provide future generations with security, stability and prosperity.
  3. Invites the international community and all countries and organisations to support this initiative.
  4. Requests the chairman of the summit to form a special committee composed of some of its concerned member states and the secretary general of the League of Arab States to pursue the necessary contacts to gain support for this initiative at all levels, particularly from the United Nations, the Security Council, the United States of America, the Russian Federation, the Muslim states and the European Union.

[1] The degree of recognition given to the state of Israel by Arab league states is by no means clear cut and in some instances quite complex. For example Kurdish Iraq recognises Israeli passports whereas the Iraq Central Government does not; the United Arab Emirates recognises Israeli passports for transit passengers but otherwise does not; Oman used to have a close relationship with Israel but no longer does so, and so forth. The following list is therefore in some respects arbitrary and subjective:

  1. Arab League member states that recognise Israel: Palestine, Egypt, Jordan.
  2. Arab League states that recognise Israeli passports: Bahrain, Comoros, Mauretania, Morocco, and Qatar.
  3. Arab League States with some measure of de facto recognition: Oman, Tunisia.
  4. Arab League States with zero recognition: Algeria, Djibouti, Iraq (i.e. non KDP Iraq), Kuwait, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, UAE, Yemen.
  5. Arab League States for which recognition would be regarded as impossible in the absence of a comprehensive peace: Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia.

[2] At present UNSCR resolutions 181 and 194 apply which define Jerusalem as a corpus separatum.

[3] Canada is responsible for the refugee issue under the former Madrid process (i.e. Canada chairs the Refugee Working Group of the Middle East Multilateral Peace Process).

[4] Four of the largest Israeli settlements in the West Bank are all close to Jerusalem and difficult for Israel to surrender: Modi’in Illit (population: 60,046, area: 6 km2), Giv’at Ze’ev (population: 14,349, area: 4.8 km2), Ma’ale Adumim (population: 37,138, area: 49.18 km2), Betar Illit (population: 44,972, area: 4.3 km2). On the other hand the other large settlement, Ariel (population: 18,089, area: 30 km2), is further to the north and more isolated within the West Bank and its future might be negotiable.

[5] Israeli settlements not included in land swap agreements may be able to request a lease for the land from the Palestinian Authority (necessitates clarification of Palestinian local land laws).

[6] The RAND report ‘The Arc: A Formal Structure for a Palestinian State’ proposes that a railway be built linking the main cities of the West Bank and Gaza. This journey would take just over 90 minutes. It would not only provide economic benefits to the new Palestinian State but RAND estimate that it would employ 100,000 to 160,000 Palestinians over the five years they expect it would take to build.

[7] Possibly utilising the Nabil Shaath plan for a shadow port facility in Cyprus to handle goods clearance for Gaza.

[8] As per the secret second track negotiations in Switzerland between 2004 and 2006, including an arrangement (possibly a multimillion dollar long term lease) under the terms of which Israel would retain Mitzpe Shlagim (“Snow Lookout”). Furthermore there would be a four to one ratio for demilitarised territory in the demilitarised zone in Israel’s favour.

Footnotes:

[1] The degree of recognition given to the state of Israel by Arab league states is by no means clear cut and in some instances quite complex. For example Kurdish Iraq recognises Israeli passports whereas the Iraq Central Government does not; the United Arab Emirates recognises Israeli passports for transit passengers but otherwise does not; Oman used to have a close relationship with Israel but no longer does so, and so forth. The following list is therefore in some respects arbitrary and subjective:

  1. Arab League member states that recognise Israel: Palestine, Egypt, Jordan.
  2. Arab League states that recognise Israeli passports: Bahrain, Comoros, Mauretania, Morocco, and Qatar.
  3. Arab League States with some measure of de facto recognition: Oman, Tunisia.
  4. Arab League States with zero recognition: Algeria, Djibouti, Iraq (i.e. non KDP Iraq), Kuwait, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, UAE, Yemen.
  5. Arab League States for which recognition would be regarded as impossible in the absence of a comprehensive peace: Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia.

[1] At present UNSCR resolutions 181 and 194 apply which define Jerusalem as a corpus separatum.

[1] Canada is responsible for the refugee issue under the former Madrid process (i.e. Canada chairs the Refugee Working Group of the Middle East Multilateral Peace Process).

[1] Four of the largest Israeli settlements in the West Bank are all close to Jerusalem and difficult for Israel to surrender: Modi’in Illit (population: 60,046, area: 6 km2), Giv’at Ze’ev (population: 14,349, area: 4.8 km2), Ma’ale Adumim (population: 37,138, area: 49.18 km2), Betar Illit (population: 44,972, area: 4.3 km2). On the other hand the other large settlement, Ariel (population: 18,089, area: 30 km2), is further to the north and more isolated within the West Bank and its future might be negotiable.

[1] Israeli settlements not included in land swap agreements may be able to request a lease for the land from the Palestinian Authority (necessitates clarification of Palestinian local land laws).

[1] The RAND report ‘The Arc: A Formal Structure for a Palestinian State’ proposes that a railway be built linking the main cities of the West Bank and Gaza. This journey would take just over 90 minutes. It would not only provide economic benefits to the new Palestinian State but RAND estimate that it would employ 100,000 to 160,000 Palestinians over the five years they expect it would take to build.

[1] Possibly utilising the Nabil Shaath plan for a shadow port facility in Cyprus to handle goods clearance for Gaza.

[1] As per the secret second track negotiations in Switzerland between 2004 and 2006, including an arrangement (possibly a multimillion dollar long term lease) under the terms of which Israel would retain Mitzpe Shlagim (“Snow Lookout”). Furthermore there would be a four to one ratio for demilitarised territory in the demilitarised zone in Israel’s favour.

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