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Monday, December 11, 2006

Peretz: Saudi initiative must serve as basis for talks with Palestinians

Last update - 03:28 11/12/2006

Peretz: Saudi initiative must serve as basis for talks with
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent

The Saudi peace initiative, which calls for a two-state solution
along the 1967 borders, must be used as a basis for negotiations
between Israel and the Palestinians, Defense Minister Amir Peretz
said on Sunday.

Israel has thus far avoided official consideration - at least
publicly - of the 2002 initiative which calls on Israel to
withdraw to the 1967 borders in return for a comprehensive peace
agreement with the Palestinians and other Arab states.

The proposal also calls for an "agreed and just solution" to the
Palestinian refugee issue, in accordance with UN Resolution 194.
Resolution 194 says, among other things, that "refugees wishing
to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors
should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date."

Speaking to delegates from the Israel Business Conference, Peretz
said Israel must present a "real political horizon" to
Palestinian leaders if it intends to enter successful
negotiations. Israel "must deal with the Saudi initiative as a
basis for negotiations," Peretz added.

Peretz made a similar comment in October in an address to an
academic conference at Tel Aviv University, when he said "We
could see the Saudi initiative as the basis for negotiation,"
adding, "this does not mean that we are adopting the Saudi
initiative, but it can serve as a basis."

Former Shin Bet chief, MK Ami Ayalon, made a similar statement in
support of the initiative on Sunday in an address to a closed
session of the Saban Forum in Washington, which he attended
alongside Minister Avigdor Lieberman

"The war in Lebanon created an opportunity that obligates Israel
to motivate a new political process on the basis of the road map
and the Saudi initiative, which recognizes Israel's right to
exist," Ayalon said.

Labor MK Ophir Pines-Paz told U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman in
Washington that Israel must consider the initiative under certain
conditions, especially given the fact that the Hamas-led
Palestinian government is refusing to accept the international
conditions for the resumption of negotiations, leading to a dead
end in the relations with the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert alluded to a change in Israel's policy
two weeks ago in an address at Kibbutz Sde Boker. "The voices
emanating from those [Arab] states regarding the need for
recognition and normalization of relations with the State of
Israel - including, for example, some parts in the Saudi peace
initiative - are positive," he said, adding, "I intend to invest
efforts in order to advance the connection with those states and
strengthen their support of direct bilateral negotiations between
us and the Palestinians."

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