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Benzion Netanyahu, the Arab League, and Peace

The anniversary of Bibi’s father’s passing and an old peace initiative

Adam Chandler
April 30, 2013

One year ago today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vitally influential father Benzion Netanyahu passed away at age 102. This left many a pundit to wonder aloud whether the absence of Bibi’s father–a scholar on anti-Semitism and an opponent (to put it too mildly) of the peace process–would yield an opportunity for peace.

Unfortunately, the year that followed didn’t do much for the opportunities: sustained rocket fire from Gaza begot another Gaza war. The scapegoating and eventual departure of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad stripped the Palestinian leadership of its first technocrat and state-builder. Even as Prime Minister Netanyahu’s focus on Iran’s nuclear program came too strongly expense of openness on the peace front, the past year made clear that the path to peace isn’t (and has never been) solely squared on the shoulders of Benjamin Netanyahu or any Israeli leader. During President Obama’s groundbreaking visit to Israel last month, he made the too-rare acknowledgment that repeated Israeli peace efforts across the years had been rebuffed or ignored.

One notable exception is the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, which eleven years, three wars, an Arab Spring, and an Intifada later, is having something of a comeback this week. In fact, yesterday, the core principles of the proposal were reiterated during meetings between Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry and the Arab League yesterday.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Al Thani, speaking on behalf of the Arab League, said Monday during a visit to Washington that the Arab countries favor a peace deal based on the 1967 borders, but would agree to “comparable” and “minor” land swaps on which the two sides agree.

Today, Tzipi Livni and Shimon Peres praised the Arab League endorsement of peace. There are countless obstacles to consider, but I suppose if there’s a time to say the onus is on Netanyahu to respond to an overture for peace, this is it.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.