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The Arab Peace Initiative: Why Now?

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Gabrielle Rifkind
1 November 2008

This report, authored by Gabrielle Rifkind and with a foreword by HRH Prince Turki al Faisal, is based on an expert roundtable organised by Oxford Research Group on 15-17 October 2008 at Charney Manor, Oxfordshire, UK, to give the Arab Peace Initiative (API) a higher profile. Present at the roundtable were senior serving and former diplomats and officials who have influence in and access to their own governments in the Arab world, Israel, US and UK.

The formulation of the Arab Peace Initiative was motivated by the lack of incentives for Israel to make the concessions that Palestinians could accept and survive. The Palestinians have been unable to offer concrete gestures to Israelis. It was in this context that 22 Arab countries concluded that a durable peace would have to be comprehensive and involve all Arab states to ensure the security of both Israelis and Palestinians. When the API was offered to Israel in 2002, it was the height of the second Intifada. Such was the level of mistrust on both sides that the offer went unheard. It was reaffirmed by the Arab League in Riyadh in 2007 and in Damascus in 2008. 

There has been a recent interest in the API in Israel and this has coincided with the realisation that the Israel-Palestine conflict cannot be resolved without reference to its regional context. This is reflected in a shift from Israel's continued focus on bilateral Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian negotiations to a call for a regional peace, representing a marked departure in Israel's diplomatic strategy. This offers the opportunity to use the API to re-conceptualise the conflict not as an obstacle to peace and development in the Middle East but as a catalyst for transforming relations within the region. 

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