JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The PLO took the unprecedented step of placing advertisements in Israeli newspapers on Thursday to promote a six-year-old Arab peace plan for the region.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestine Liberation Organization published the full-page notices in Hebrew in four major dailies. They described the Arab plan, which was first proposed in 2002 but has long found little interest from Israel.
“Fifty-seven Arab and Islamic countries will establish diplomatic ties and normal relations with Israel in return for a full peace agreement and an end to the occupation,” the text read, under Palestinian and Israel flags set side by side.
Senior Abbas aide Yasser Abed Rabbo said the campaign was meant to inform Israelis about the peace initiative, which until now has been “misinterpreted by the extreme Israeli right wing as an Arab conspiracy against Israel and its future.”
The Arab League proposal offers Israel peace and normal relations with all Arab countries in return for its withdrawal from all territory the Jewish state captured in the 1967 Middle East war — the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
The plan also calls for the sides to agree to a “just solution” for millions of Palestinians classed as refugees from homes and land taken by the new Israeli state in 1948.
The advertisement panel, bordered by the flags of dozens of Arab and other Muslim states, also ran in Arabic in three Palestinian papers.
Egypt and Jordan are the only two of 22 Arab League members to have peace accords with Israel. While some Muslim countries, like Turkey, have close relations, Israelis would like to trade with others, notably in Asia and the Gulf.
Previous Israeli governments have either ignored or rejected the Arab initiative, which would require Israel to dismantle settlements which house hundreds of thousands of Jews.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who could become prime minister after Israel’s election in February, has described the Arab initiative as an “opportunity” but said this month that peace needed to be hammered out in bilateral talks between Israel, the Palestinians and its Arab neighbours.
President Shimon Peres, whose position is largely ceremonial, said the Arab plan brought hope to the Middle East.