Crisis Group Board Calls for Urgent New Commitment to Arab-Israeli Peace
Crisis Group Board Calls for Urgent New Commitment to Arab-Israeli Peace
Iran-Israel “Shadow War” Risks Spinning Out of Control
Iran-Israel “Shadow War” Risks Spinning Out of Control
Statement / Middle East & North Africa 2 minutes

Crisis Group Board Calls for Urgent New Commitment to Arab-Israeli Peace

The formation of a Palestinian national unity government and the renewed commitment by Arab League states to the Arab peace initiative create a genuine opportunity for progress toward Arab-Israeli peace which must not be missed.

The Board of Trustees of the International Crisis Group, meeting in Vancouver on the weekend, debated a report from a high-level Crisis Group delegation which earlier this month met in the region with senior officials from Israel, Syria and the Palestinian Authority (including both Fatah and Hamas). Members agreed that if an urgently needed breakthrough was to be achieved, leadership and movement were required on several different tracks.

Arab diplomatic engagement with Israel

Following the recently more positive response of Israeli leaders, and to increase the confidence of the Israeli public, we urge Arab leaders to agree at their Summit on Wednesday to embark on a major program of international visits, including to Israel, to explain the contents of the Arab peace initiative, and in particular how a two-state agreement would lead to normalisation of relations between Israel and the whole Arab world. The Palestinian national unity government should make clear its acceptance of the terms of the initiative as restated by next weekend’s summit.

Presentation by the Quartet (US, EU, Russia and UN Secretary-General) of a detailed outline of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Aided by the Arab initiative, and the renewed willingness of the U.S. Secretary of State to engage, there is currently greater consensus than ever on the need for an endgame-first approach, and on the necessary contours of a political settlement. But the international community needs to provide as much clarity and detail as possible upfront on what the contents of a final agreement might look like – including on the issues of boundaries (based on the 1967 line with appropriate territory swaps), refugees and the status of Jerusalem - in order to encourage the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships to make the necessary compromises.

Progressive lifting of the financial boycott of the Palestinian national unity government

Circumventing the Palestinian Authority has not reduced the volume of aid; rather, it has meant a less efficient, accountable and transparent process, and the undermining of painfully reconstructed institutions of Palestinian governance. Assistance should be provided through the Finance Ministry, now led by a minister universally respected by the international community.

Preparedness to engage politically with the Palestinian national unity government

Any attempt to boycott, undermine or marginalise the government will hamper efforts to reach a cease-fire and to promote a political settlement. In conversations with senior Hamas leaders, Crisis Group found important movement on issues critical for advancement of the peace process: commitment to a reciprocal, comprehensive cease-fire; agreement that establishing a state within the 1967 borders is the common Palestinian objective; acceptance of President Abbas as the sole, empowered negotiator with Israel; and a pledge to abide by any agreement that has been democratically ratified by proper Palestinian institutions. While there is need for further clarification of these commitments, this can only be obtained through dialogue with the government.

Restarting Israeli-Syrian talks

In discussions with Crisis Group, senior Syrian officials made clear their readiness to resume negotiations without any precondition. Settlement of the Israeli-Syrian conflict, and meeting continuing concerns about Syria’s role in Lebanon, are essential components of normalisation of relations between Israel and the Arab world.

The Crisis Group Board members said they were convinced there exists now a major opportunity to reach a comprehensive Arab-Israeli settlement. But it is not open-ended, and the alternative is not indefinite continuation of the status quo. If the current chance for a breakthrough is not grasped over the next few months - with the government of Israel and the US having the most critical role in this respect - there is a real possibility that support for a two-state solution among Palestinians and in the wider Arab world would disappear, with all the renewed tensions this is bound to generate.

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