Mideast Peace Plan Revived?

Will the Arab League’s revised plan, including possible land swaps, be enough to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks? What will it take to bring peace?

Will this week’s Arab League announcement of a softened position on the future borders of Israel and Palestine actually move the two parties closer to peace?

The Jerusalem Post reported: “Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said Monday, following a meeting he and a delegation of Arab League foreign ministers had with US Secretary of State John Kerry, that any agreement ‘should be based on the two-state solution on the basis of the 4th of June 1967 line, with the possibility of comparable and mutual agreed minor swaps of the land.’ …

“Thani’s statement appeared to be a softening of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative which called for a two-state solution based on a complete Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines and making east Jerusalem the Palestinian capital, in return for ‘normal relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel.’

“The 2002 initiative also called for the ‘achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194.’ In the Arab world, that resolution is viewed as enshrining a Palestinian refugee ‘right of return’ to Israel.”

In the often hopeless world of Mideast diplomacy, even a small glimmer of possible negotiating room can be a cause for celebration. Opening the possibility of land swaps moves the Arab League position closer to the vision U.S. President Barack Obama has endorsed. But, as always, major differences and continuing conflict cloud the prospects for future peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Praise for progress

The British newspaper The Telegraph reported April 30:

“Tzipi Livni, the Israeli cabinet minister in charge of peace talks, described this as ‘very positive news.’ She told Army radio: ‘In the tumultuous world around, it could allow the Palestinians to enter the room and make the needed compromises and it sends a message to the Israeli public that this is not just about us and the Palestinians,’ she added. ‘There is a group of Arab states who are saying: you reach an agreement with the Palestinians and we will make peace with you, we will have normalisation with you.’”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was understandably pleased with the progress as well. Since taking office Feb. 1 he has put a high priority on restarting peace talks, making three trips to the Mideast in that short time.

AFP reported: “Kerry hailed Monday’s discussion as ‘very positive, very constructive.’ He praised the Arab League’s ‘very important role … in bringing about a peace in the Middle East, and specifically by reaffirming the Arab Peace Initiative.’”

And, according to The New York Times, “Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, praised the initiative for providing ‘a comprehensive regional solution’ and ‘full normalization’ for Israel, but he reiterated the Palestinians’ conditions for returning to negotiations—Israel’s acceptance of the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.”

Cautious and negative voices on both sides

UPI reported on varied Israeli reactions to the proposal, including some cautious ones. “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t over land but Israel’s right to exist, Israel Radio said Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stated at a meeting with Foreign Ministry officials Wednesday. …

“In an interview on Israel Radio, Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan said, while the development appears to be a positive one, Israel won’t accept the 1967 borders as a starting point for talks.”

The Jerusalem Post also reported on negative responses from the Palestinian side: “But while the PA leadership supported the land swap idea, the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine group condemned the proposal.

“The group accused the Arab foreign ministers of ‘begging’ the US to resume the peace process between the PA and Israel.

“‘The Palestinians don’t need anyone to make concessions on their behalf,’ the PFLP said in response to the land swap proposal.”

Perhaps to defuse such criticism, the Palestinian Authority negotiator claimed May 1 that nothing had really changed. According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Wednesday that recent comments by Arab League officials did not represent an opening for peace talks if Israel did not agree to a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.”

Continuing conflict

In spite of any diplomatic progress, violence between Palestinians and Israelis continues.

The Telegraph reported April 30: “Other events on Tuesday demonstrated the continuing toll of the conflict. An Israeli was killed in the West Bank for the first time since September 2011 when Eviatar Borovsky, a 30-year-old father of three, was stabbed to death at a bus stop by a Palestinian man. Borovsky lived at the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar near the Palestinian city of Nablus. …

“Borovsky’s attacker lunged at him with a knife, stabbing him several times before grabbing his gun and firing at Israeli border police manning a nearby checkpoint. The attacker, who was wounded by shots fired by Israeli soldiers, has been taken into custody.

“Hours later, the Israeli army confirmed it had killed a ‘key terror figure’ in the Gaza Strip. Hithem Ziad Ibrahim Masshal, a 24-year-old accused of organising rocket fire on the southern Israeli city of Eilat, was killed by an air strike.”

And so the violence continues unabated in this dangerous neighborhood.

What will it take for peace?

The deep-seated conflict in the Middle East has been the undoing of many world statesmen and peace negotiators. The status of Jerusalem, in particular, has seemed an impossible problem to solve, as the Israelis and Palestinians have mutually exclusive claims on the city.

God Himself warns, “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it” (Zechariah 12:2-3).

It is beyond human ability to negotiate or even impose a lasting peace in the Middle East. But there is a Peacemaker who can impose peace and make it truly last.

You need to understand the roots of the conflict and, even more, God’s promise that the Holy Land will someday—soon—have real peace, brought by the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. Make time to read these articles that examine the issues based on the sure Word of God:

About the Author

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett is editorial content manager for the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in the Dallas, Texas, area. He coordinates the Life, Hope & Truth website, Discern magazine, the Daily Bible Verse Blog and the Life, Hope & Truth Weekly Newsletter (including World Watch Weekly). He is also part of the Personal Correspondence team of ministers who have the privilege of answering questions sent to Life, Hope & Truth.

Read More