Israel considers reviving Saudi peace plan to resolve conflict
Israeli leaders are considering reviving a 2002 peace plan that offered the Jewish nation a comprehensive end to its conflict with the Arab world, Israel's defence minister, Ehud Barak, said yesterday.
Talks with the Palestinians and Syrians have yielded little in almost a year so it may be time to consider the Saudi plan which offers Israel normal relations with all 22 Arab countries in exchange for a Palestinian state, Barak said. "We have a mutual interest with moderate Arab elements on the issues of Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas," Barak told Israeli radio.
He added that he had discussed the plan with Israel's prime minister elect, Tzipi Livni, who has also indicated a willingness to resuscitate the plan.
But Livni has struggled to form a new coalition government to replace Ehud Olmert, who resigned his leadership this year amid a fraud investigation.
For the past month she has been talking to opposition parties and yesterday she asked the president, Shimon Peres, for extra time.
Livni has secured the support of Barak's Labour party, but now she is seeking the support of Shas, a religious party, that is holding out for bigger family support payments.
Barak is the third Israeli leader over the past month that has publicly touted a peace deal akin to the Saudi plan which would require Israel to withdraw from land it captured in 1967 and has occupied ever since including east Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights.
Shas insists that Israel must not surrender east Jerusalem but still Barak said "there is room in the Israeli coalition for the Saudi initiative".
Barak said he fully supported Peres, who last month proposed combining Israel's various peace talks to produce a regional agreement and urged the Saudis to press on with their plan. Barak added that Livni agreed with revisiting the Saudi proposal.