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Israeli academics back Arab peace plan

Study by Tel Aviv think tank says supporting the eight-year-old Arab Peace Initiative would improve Israel's international image, security and economy.

JERUSALEM // The eight-year-old Arab Peace Initiative has received a boost of support from an unlikely quarter: a top Israeli think tank.

A report by the Interdisciplinary Centre Herzliya says Israel's international image, security and economy would improve if Benjamin Netanyahu's government accepted the initiative, a comprehensive Middle East peace plan first proposed at the Beirut summit of the Arab League by King, then Crown Prince, Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

The initiative calls for normalisation of relations between Israel and the Arab world in exchange for a complete withdrawal from the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, and a "just settlement" of the Palestinian refugee crisis based on United Nations Resolution 194.

No Israeli government has taken an official position on the plan, let alone endorsed it. The authors of the Herzliya study say Mr Netanyahu should now do so in Israel's own interests.

"To counter the Iranian threat, there is common ground among the Gulf States, the Egyptians, the Palestinian Authority and Israel, and the basis for establishing this alliance is the Arab peace plan," said Professor Alex Mintz, the report's lead author.

Prof Mintz said he conducted the study to help to end the deadlock in Palestinian-Israeli negotiations caused by the refusal of the Israeli prime minister and his pro-settler cabinet to re-impose a freeze on construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank - a rebuff that threatens to scuttle the talks.

The Arab League has given the Obama administration until November 8 to pressure Israel into reinstituting the ban and avoid a Palestinian walk-out.

Mr Obama's secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, last month called the Arab Peace Initiative "more important than ever" for resolving the conflict.

For the study, Prof Mintz, Dean of the centre's Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy, and his fellow researchers used computer modelling to examine scenarios that Israel could pursue to further its strategic interests in the region.

Among the options considered were abandoning peace negotiations, and a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from most of its 120 settlements in the West Bank and concentrating solely on forging peace with Syria.

Published: October 27, 2010 04:00 AM

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