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Israeli Official: 'The Arab League Peace Plan In Its Present Form Is An Offer Israel Must Refuse'

Saudi Foreign Minister: 'Israel Must Accept Proposal As Is, Otherwise Israel Will Be Inviting Future War'

Labor MK Danny Yatom: 'The Best Solution For Israel Is To Explore Peace Negotiations With Syria'

MK Danny Yatom

A senior Israeli official has welcomed the Arab League's offer to make peace with Israel however it must be the starting point for negotiations. The official told IsraCast that Jerusalem could not agree to the Arab demand that the Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to Israel and that Israel must withdraw to the old 1967 lines including East Jerusalem. However, the Arab League declares  that it's a take-it-or-leave-it offer. In an interview with IsraCast, Labor MK Danny Yatom says the best option for Israel in light of the impasse on the Palestinian tract is to explore peace talks with Syria.

Israel officials from both the right, left and center have rejected Arab demands that Jerusalem must accept lock, stock and barrel the Saudi peace plan that is again being initiated in Riyadh. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni have expressed their willingness to explore the Arab League initiative but stipulate that it could only be a starting point for further negotiations and compromise by both sides. However, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal warned that it's a take-it-or-leave proposal - otherwise Israel would be inviting another future war.

Speaking before the Arab League meeting, one senior Israeli official told IsraCast: 'The Arabs must also be ready for give and take in negotiations otherwise this is an offer we can and must refuse'. The official added that Israel could never accept the Arab demand that millions of Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to Israel proper. Nor would the Jewish state agree to the old 1967 lines from where the massed Arab armies threatened to 'throw Israelis into the sea' in the Six-Day War. The official recalled that Abba Eban, Israel's foreign minister at the time, called them the 'Auschwitz lines'. While welcoming the Riyadh initiative's goal of making peace with Israel, it could not strip Israel of the right to self-defense in time of war. And the official added: 'We are not going to commit national suicide by accepting the return of millions of refugees.' He went on to say that the Riyadh plan as is negates U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, the cornerstone of Arab-Israeli peace-making and which stipulated 'defensible borders' and no condition of returning the refugees to Israel. 

At the same time, Israeli leaders are loath to reject a  peace offer from offer from the Arab world. The problem is that the Arab Peace Initiative comes dissed up as an unacceptable dictate. How should Jerusalem react? Labor Knesset Member Danny Yatom suggest opening peace talks with Syria whose President Bashar Assad says he's willing. Yatom told IsraCast that such a move could also achieve the Arab League's goal of drawing Syria away from Iran. Moreover, in light of U.S. Secretary Of State Condoleezza Rice's  recent failure to jump- start the Israeli-Palestinian tract, Damascus should the destination on a new Middle East Roadmap. 

David Essing

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