Former Israeli Defense Chiefs Draft New Mideast Peace Plan

Group who created the plan, which includes ex-IDF chief Amnon Lipkin-Shahak and ex-general Amram Mitzna, hopes to use it to pressure Netanyahu to renew talks with the Palestinians.

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Former Israeli security chiefs have drafted a new peace plan they hope to use as a platform to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to renew deadlocked talks with the Palestinians.

A spokesman confirmed the outline of the plan on Tuesday, saying it was based on a 2002 Arab initiative which Israel has avoided adopting because of its call to repatriate refugees and fully withdraw from land captured in a 1967 war.

About 40 prominent Israelis backed the project, among them dovish former political leaders as well as former heads of the Mossad, Shin Bet and Israeli military, who say they will publicize their ideas fully on Wednesday.

The plan has been devised "in light of the dramatic events in the Middle East" -- an allusion to popular uprisings against autocratic rulers in the Arab world flaring since January -- and was meant to urge the government to "immediately renew peace talks," a statement issued by the group said.

The group includes ex-army chief Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, former Mossad head Danny Yatom and Shin Bet directors Yaakov Perry and Ami Ayalon, as well as ex-general and Labor Party chief Amram Mitzna, a prime ministerial candidate in the 2002 election.

A group spokesman, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, confirmed media reports that the plan urged Israel to agree to Palestinian statehood in Gaza and in nearly all the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

It proposes possible financial compensation for Palestinian refugees and dividing control over Jerusalem, with largely Palestinian neighborhoods being put under their control while Jewish areas would be governed by Israel.

Palestinian refugees could be offered compensation and a small number may be permitted to return to former homes in Israel, the spokesman added.

The Palestinians want a state covering all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip with Arab East Jerusalem as their capital and a settlement of the refugee issue. They have declined comment on the initiative, saying they want to see its text first.

The plan also calls for a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Golan Heights, land captured from Syria in the same 1967 Middle East war, in exchange for guarantees of regional security and economic projects, the spokesman said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been shown a copy of the plan but has made no public comment.

Ex-IDF general Amram MitznaCredit: Haggai Frid

The United States State Department, when shown the documents by Haaretz, said in response "We look forward to hearing more about the Israel Peace Initiative and believe it could make a positive contribution to the pursuit of peace."

Efforts to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have so far failed and the Palestinians are focusing their efforts on building international support for a unilateral declaration of independence via the United Nations in September.

Israeli leaders fear such a move could leave them isolated on the diplomatic stage. Some of Netanyahu's cabinet ministers have urged him to seize the initiative and present a new plan to break the deadlock.

"We think we are in the right, but many other countries in the world don't seem to see our point of view, which is devastating," said one minister, who declined to be named.

"We need to make a move and show our hand," he said, adding he was not sure if Netanyahu would do this.



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