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‘100% carrots’: Arab states, EU unveil plan to entice Israel, PA to sign peace deal

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Sep 19, 2023, 12:54:59 PM9/19/23


‘100% carrots’: Arab states, EU unveil plan to entice Israel, PA to sign
peace deal
Initiative’s European architect highlights effort to show parties what
will be available to them if they reach a deal; Arab participants use
event to blast Israeli policies

18 September 2023, 10:23 pm 20

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Egyptian Foreign
Minister Sameh Shoukry, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Faisal bin
Farhan, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, and EU foreign policy
chief Joseph Borrell at an event on the sidelines of the UN General
Assembly aimed at reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process on
September 18, 2023. (Egypt Foreign Ministry/ Twitter)

Nearly 30 foreign ministers from countries in Europe and the Middle East
met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Monday to
unveil a new initiative aimed at reviving the long-dormant
Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The “Peace Day Effort” was driven by the European Union, Saudi Arabia,
the Arab League, Egypt, and Jordan, who agreed at the event to produce a
“Peace Supporting Package” in the coming months that will maximize
dividends for Israelis and Palestinians, once they reach a peace agreement.

Participants agreed to form three working groups that will be tasked
with producing the components of the package. One working group will
outline potential post-peace regional, political, and security
cooperation mechanisms. A second working group will develop proposals
for economic cooperation in areas such as trade, investment, innovation,
transportation, natural resources, and the environment. A third working
group will develop proposals for cooperation in humanitarian,
inter-cultural, and human security issues.

Participating countries also agreed to assess the initiative’s progress
every three months before presenting the finalized Peace Supporting
Package by September 2024.

The main architect of the initiative, EU Special Representative for the
Middle East Peace Process Sven Koopmans, told The Times of Israel in a
Sunday interview that the plan’s contributors are “envisaging… what
regionally and globally everybody would contribute the moment that there
is an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.”

He clarified that those behind the Peace Day Effort are not trying to
negotiate an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, since only the parties
themselves can do this. “What we are now starting to do is to say, ‘If
you reach that agreement… this is what we would contribute as your
neighbors, as your friends and potential future friends to your peace.'”

Sven Koopmans (Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal / Wikipedia)
The EU envoy said the package would also include incentives for the
Syrian and Lebanese governments to make peace with Israel, without
elaborating further.

With a hardline, anti-two-state solution government currently in power
in Jerusalem and an ever-weakening Palestinian leadership clinging to
power in Ramallah, Koopmans admitted that peace talks are not likely any
time soon.

“There is still a lot that their friends and potential friends can do
themselves to prepare the ground,” he maintained.

The senior EU official said Brussels continues to advance a policy
opposing Israel’s presence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. However,
the initiative unveiled Monday is focused on offering incentives to the
parties, rather than continuing a more punitive approach.

“This particular effort is 100 percent carrots. But that doesn’t mean
that everything in EU policy is just that,” Koopmans said.

The Peace Day Effort is also building on a 2013 offer by the EU to
present an “unprecedented package of political, security and economic
support” to both of the conflict’s parties once they reach a peace deal.
The terms of such an offer were never fleshed out and the formation of
the working groups will provide the sides an opportunity to do so,
Koopmans said.

He went on to express his hope that the Peace Day Effort would spark a
debate in Israel over how it wants to end the conflict. “With this
effort, we hope to make a contribution to that debate.”

While Koopmans sought to frame the initiative as a more friendly gesture
to the conflict’s parties, many of the speakers at Monday’s event used
the opportunity to largely criticize Israeli policies toward the

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Jordanian Foreign Minister
Ayman Safadi stressed the need for Israel to cease “unilateral actions”
beyond the Green Line, such as settlement construction, demolition of
Palestinian homes, evictions of Palestinian families, and violations of
the status quo at Jerusalem holy sites.

Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan said afterward that Riyadh
chose to hold the event due to continued violence taking place on the
ground and the fact that the people are beginning to lose hope that a
two-state solution is possible. Accordingly, Monday’s initiative is
meant to “restore hope” for the Palestinians that a just peace is
possible, the Saudi foreign minister said, adding that the event took
place in coordination with the Palestinian leadership.

Speakers, including Farhan, stressed their support for the Arab Peace
Initiative (API), exposing the apparent contradiction of Riyadh’s
approach, since it is currently engaging with the Biden administration
on a potential normalization agreement with Israel. The API only
envisions the Arab world normalizing ties with Israel, after the latter
has agreed to a two-state solution to the conflict and not before, as
Saudi Arabia is currently considering.

Still, the decision by Riyadh to co-lead the Peace Day Effort is the
latest in a series of steps to intensify engagement on the issue and
demonstrate that it still remains committed to the Palestinian cause,
even as it negotiates with the Biden administration.

Earlier this month, Riyadh hosted a PA delegation and assured its
participants that Riyadh “will not abandon” the Palestinian cause, even
as it discusses normalizing ties with Israel, a US and an Arab official
told The Times of Israel last week.

There will be follow-up conversations between US, Israeli, Palestinian
and Saudi officials on the UNGA sidelines about a potential
normalization deal, but Riyadh will likely need several months to study
the issue further before raising specific Palestinian-related demands in
its talks with the Biden administration, according to the two officials.

Saudi Ambassador Nayef Al-Sudairi (L) presents his credentials to
Palestinian Authority diplomatic adviser Majdi al-Khalidi at the
Palestinian embassy in Jordan on August 12, 2023. (Wafa)
Last month, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Jordan began serving as
Riyadh’s first-ever nonresident ambassador to the Palestinians, as well
as its first-ever nonresident consul-general to Jerusalem.

The US also sent a representative to Monday’s ministerial event but
sufficed with Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf,
instead of Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Washington is not particularly enthusiastic about the idea, according to
two sources familiar with the matter, who said that it clouds US efforts
to advance both a potential Israel-Saudi normalization agreement as well
as the Negev Forum that includes Israel and friendly Arab states, which
already features working groups aiming to advance regional cooperation
in many of the same fields discussed on Monday.

Leaf will also be meeting with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister
Mohammed Shtayyeh, a Palestinian official told The Times of Israel.

Netanyahu will have a one-on-one with US President Joe Biden on
Wednesday, and the administration is also considering a follow-up
meeting in the Oval Office in the future, according to a senior Israeli

While the administration has previously sought to couple such meetings
with similar sit-downs between Biden and PA President Mahmoud Abbas, no
such plans are currently being considered against the backdrop of the
Palestinian leader’s latest antisemitic remarks earlier this month.

Saudi King Salman, right, receives Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas after he arrives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on December 20,
2017. (Al-Ekhbariya via AP, File)
Also addressing Monday’s event were Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed
Aboul Gheit, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, and UN deputy chief
Rosemary DiCarlo, who stood in for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Neither Israeli nor Palestinian officials were invited to Monday’s
event, as it was focused on engaging the contributors to the Peace
Supporting Package. However, the initiative’s backers are speaking with
both parties to hear what they would like included in the package,
Koopmans said.

The initiative will feature prominently in meetings Borrell will hold on
the UNGA sidelines with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and PA
Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki, Koopmans said.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to respond to a
query regarding Jerusalem’s stance on the Peace Day Effort. Palestinian
Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour did not respond to repeated requests
for comment.

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