Jordan offers up bold peace proposal

/ Source: The Associated Press

King Abdullah II of Jordan has proposed a new peace strategy that drops traditional Arab demands that Israel give up all land seized in the 1967 war and offers the Jewish state normalized relations with Arab countries, according to a text of the proposal seen Friday by The Associated Press.

The proposal did not appear to have enough support to be adopted at an Arab League summit starting Monday in the Algerian capital. But even placing such a far-reaching change in strategy on the agenda would have been unthinkable in past league gatherings, suggesting new thinking in the peace process with Israel.

The Jordanian proposal does not mention specific U.N. resolutions and usual Arab demands for an Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 borders and for the right of return of refugees, according to a text of about a dozen lines seen by the AP.

Abdullah pushes Arab peers
The omission suggests Abdullah, whose country signed a peace deal with Israel in 1994, wants the Arabs to accept geographical changes Israel has made in the territories and to start normalization even before a full peace is reached.

The text of Abdullah’s proposal calls on Arab states to declare their “preparedness to end the Arab-Israeli conflict and establish normal relations between the Arab countries and Israel through just, comprehensive and lasting peace.”

The proposal calls for any settlement to be based on “international resolutions, the principal of land for peace and the (1991) Madrid peace conference.”

Arab leaders have always demanded full peace with Israel — meaning a return of all occupied lands — in return for normalization.

The Jordanian proposal is meant to amend a Saudi peace initiative adopted at the 2002 Arab summit held in Beirut, which offered Israel peace with all Arab nations on condition it returns all land seized in the six-day war of 1967 — including East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Syria’s Golan Heights — in line with U.N. resolutions 242 and 338. It also calls for the creation of a Palestinian state and a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue.

Proposal lacks support
Arab League officials said the proposal had little support among Arab nations. Syria has always staunchly opposed any normalization.

Palestinian delegates to the summit’s preparatory discussions said the Jordanian proposal “was not acceptable” because it ignores the “fundamental basis for a just and comprehensive settlement.”

When asked about the proposal by journalists, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa ruled out any change to the Saudi-proposed initiative, which he described as “the Arab term of reference” for peace with Israel.

“What is on the summit agenda is to revive the Arab peace initiative on the international level to represent the joint Arab position, especially with regard to Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 borders,” he said Thursday. “It is not expected to come down from this ceiling.”

Jordanian officials have refused to comment or give details on the proposal by Abdullah, who met this week in Washington with President Bush.

Arab diplomats told The Associated Press that Jordan’s envoy to the Arab League, Omar al-Rifaei, officially presented Abdullah’s proposal for discussion on Wednesday. Al-Rifaei refused to comment.

Algerian envoy Abdel Gader Hajar said Abdullah’s proposal is on the summit’s agenda for further discussion.