Mideast: Kerry-Arab League plan could be a ray of hope

Livni and Peres overjoyed, but skepticism remains

30 April, 19:28

    (by Aldo Baquis) (ANSAmed) - TEL AVIV, APRIL 30 - After shuttling three times between Israelis and Palestinians and several visits to the Middle East later, US Secretary of State John Kerry's determination to restart the peace process might be bearing its first fruit. The Saudi-brokered 2002 peace initiative remains viable following yesterday's meeting with an Arab League delegation, which agreed for Israel and the Palestinians to trade land rather than conform exactly to their 1967 borders. This amounts to a grudging acceptance of Israel's actions in the West Bank so far, and with it Israel's possible annexation of territories already occupied by Jewish settlers, in exchange for identical territories somewhere else. A land corridor between the West Bank and Gaza, which would be vital to a future Palestinian state, may also be in the cards, US sources said overnight.

    ''This is really wonderful news...how strange it should come while there is turbulence in the region. We now learn that the 2002 Saudi peace plan is still alive. This is an important message for Israelis and Palestinians alike'', Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is also the new Israeli government's coordinator for peace negotiations, commented almost euphorically early this morning. The real enemy, the minister said, is skepticism and the pervasive feeling that nothing will ever work. President Shimon Peres echoed her positivity from Rome, where he is on a visit to meet with local leaders.

    But the true political axis of the Netanyahu administration lies elsewhere, and much further to the right: in the suture between Israel-Beitenu and Jewish Hearth.

    Pressing questions remain, for the West Bank has been without a government for the past two weeks: how the Palestinian National Authority will overcome this political crisis remains unclear. In Gaza, extremists are trying to drag Hamas into another armed confrontation with Israel, while Jewish settlers are up in arms following today's killing of one of their own in the Occupied Territories.

    The role of Qatar in the fledgling Kerry-brokered accord is another major question mark. ''We are not aware that Qatar has been given authorization to decide the fate of the 1967 border'', a Palestinian National Authority source coldly told reporters today.

    In Israel, Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau (Likud-Beitenu) pointed out that until just months ago, Qatar was a financial and political supporter of Hamas. ''How does all this fit in with alleged peace initiatives?'' the minister queried. (ANSAmed).

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