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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 February 2019

Former Israeli soldiers draw up plan for peace with Palestine

Retired generals and intelligence officers call for a combination of political and security initiatives together with delivering economic benefits to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem simultaneously.
The appointment of right-wing Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman as defence minister in May 2016 triggered accusations that the Israel's government had become extremist. Petros Karadjias / AP Photo / September 3, 2010
The appointment of right-wing Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman as defence minister in May 2016 triggered accusations that the Israel's government had become extremist. Petros Karadjias / AP Photo / September 3, 2010

JERUSALEM // A group of more than 200 Israeli military and intelligence officers have criticised the government for a lack of action in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, issuing a detailed plan they say can end the impasse.

The report’s publication follows the appointment of a defence minister who is an outspoken sceptic of peace efforts with the Palestinians.

With peace talks in a deep freeze, the plan by Commanders for Israel’s Security on Friday called to “preserve conditions” for negotiations with the Palestinians. It urges a combination of political and security initiatives together with delivering economic benefits to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem simultaneously.

It calls for a freeze on settlement building, the acceptance in principle of the Arab Peace Initiative and the recognition that east Jerusalem should be part of a future Palestinian state “when established as part of a future agreement”. The Israeli opposition and much of the international community have long argued for these proposals.

Commanders for Israel’s Security is made up of more than 200 retired military generals and intelligence officers who are seeking to resolve the conflict. War veterans are well-respected in Israel, and their input has previously shifted debate.

The group’s chairman, Amnon Reshef, a former commander of Israel’s armoured corps who is considered a war hero by Israelis, said the plan “refutes the fear mongers” who claim there is currently no Palestinian peace partner or that conditions are not right for negotiations. He said such an argument, which is common in Israel after years of conflict and failed talks, “should not serve as an excuse for passivity and inaction”.

Mr Reshef warned “the current status quo is an illusion” that endangers a two-state solution to the conflict.

The report widens a growing rift between the government and the country’s military leaders. The former defence minister Moshe Yaalon was forced out after backing the military in a series of disagreements with political hardliners. His ultranationalist successor, Avigdor Lieberman, is largely at odds with the military he now commands.

In March, military leaders criticised a soldier who was caught on video fatally shooting a wounded Palestinian in the head as he lay on the ground. The soldier is now on trial for manslaughter. While Mr Yaalon backed the military, Mr Lieberman went to the court to offer his support to the soldier.

France is preparing to host a conference next month aimed at restarting peace talks that collapsed in 2014. Meanwhile, the US-led quartet of international peace mediators is set to release a report shortly expected to be critical of Israel.

* Associated Press

Updated: May 28, 2016 04:00 AM

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