Israel's Peretz unveils new roadmap initiative

Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Monday presented the left-wing Labor Party with a new diplomatic initiative, which calls for final status negotiations with the Palestinians within six months, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported.

During a Labor Party faction meeting, Peretz said that as political stalemate has set in, Israel needed a new roadmap that will combine the Saudi initiative with the current roadmap's guidelines regarding the Palestinian problem.

The proposed draft, which Peretz termed as "the new roadmap," includes three stages: formulation of a new security and economic policy, negotiations on final status principles and expansion of Palestinian sovereignty, and finally negotiations on details of a final status agreement.

The defense minister presented to his faction members the new diplomatic initiative, which is based on a commitment to providing the Palestinian public with a realistic diplomatic horizon, in order to strengthen the moderate camp within the Palestinians.

"Any stalemate will embolden the extremists," Peretz said. He also said that he supported the launching of peace negotiations with Syria. "The price tag (for peace) is known," he said.

The proposal was also signed by Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh and welcomed by some Labor ministers.

Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon praised Peretz's three-phase plan, saying that he is glad about any policy that is based on dialogue with Israel's neighbors.

Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog said that "we always said we wanted to strengthen the moderates ... This plan will serve as a basis for negotiation within the Labor Party."

Peretz's comments came one day after former Prime Minister Ehud Barak announced his candidacy for Labor Party chairmanship.

The new peace initiative, however, was rejected by some of Peretz's party colleagues. Knesset (parliament) member Ami Ayalon from Labor spoke in the meeting against the proposal, saying that "such an approach of working in phases will fail."

The Saudi initiative calls for Israel's full withdrawal from the occupied Arab lands in exchange for normalization of Arab- Israeli relations, while the internationally-backed roadmap peace plan envisages the establishment of a Palestinian state on the final stage.

Source: Xinhua



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