Israeli military, political figures propose new Mideastpeace plan

08:37, April 07, 2011      

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by Susana Mendoza

Some 40 senior Israeli political and military figures, including former army and internal security agency chiefs, on Wednesday unveiled a new Middle East peace initiative that includes land swaps and a division of Jerusalem between Israel and the Palestinians.

Former Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin- Shahak, past Shin Bet chiefs Ya'akov Perry and Amy Ayalon, and former Mossad director Danny Yatom, are backing the plan, an offshoot of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. As well, a coterie of prominent left-of-center political and intellectual figures also participated in drafting the plan.

"I know this is not the best peace plan, but we wanted to do something about the impasse in the negotiations," Lipkin-Shahak told Xinhua in laying out the plan's tenets.

The current stalemate in the Israeli-Arab peace talks is the impetus that prompted the authors to try their hands at framing out a peace initiative for a two-state solution, the Ynet news site reported.

"We also know that these are not new ideas," Lipkin-Shahak admitted, but stressed that "we have to continue pressuring the leadership, or there will never be any changes. Reality depends on the governments."

Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian National Authority (PNA) President Mahmoud Abbas have received copies of the plan, but neither have responded so far, according to Lipkin- Shahak.

The plan suggests the partition of Jerusalem, which has always been a sticking point in talks between the sides, and controversial land swaps between Israeli and Palestinian territories that were discarded in previous peace plans. Under this agreement Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem would remain under Israeli sovereignty and the Arab neighborhoods would be part of the new Palestinian capital.

"Even though it is true we are not proposing new ideas, and the other plans were rejected," Lipkin-Shahak said, "the truth is that the governments and agendas change and we are expecting that both governments will see that now it is the time for peace."

The document implicitly marks the importance of attaining an agreement in light of the current turmoil in the Middle East, and the necessity for stability for both parties. Lipkin-Shahak, however, said the group had already been lining out the plan well before the current violence in some Arab countries.

"We started writing it two months ago, before all the protests, so we did not have that in mind," Lipkin-Shahak said, "I don't think that these events will affect the negotiations."

Large settlement communities like Ma'ale Adumim, and the Gush Etzion bloc near Jerusalem, and Ariel in northern the West Bank are also a key sticking point in any potential peace bid. Israel has insisted that major settlement blocs will remain within Israel in any future scenario.

To break the impasse, the proposal suggests that Israel annex portions of land in the West Bank, in exchange for equal amounts of land to be ceded to the Palestinians.

The Palestinian "right of return" is another core issue addressed in the statement. It suggests financial compensation for Palestinians living outside of the West Bank, and allows for their return to the future state of Palestine, and not Israel, except for "symbolic exceptions."

Source: Xinhua
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