Israel-Palestine Peace: New Talks Are a Test For the Netanyahu Government

On March 15, a new coalition government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took control in Israel. At that time, I wrote that this new government would face both domestic and foreign policy challenges. Until this week, it looked like the first challenge would be a budget that cuts spending and raises taxes, surely a major domestic issue. Now, the Arab League has called on Netanyahu to prove he is serious about peace.

As part of the new government, Netanyahu named former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni as justice minister and lead negotiator to the Palestinians. Livni is trusted by the Palestinians and is one of the more liberal members of the government.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry are trying to restart the peace process and persuade Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to return to the table. Part of this effort has involved trying to get Arab leaders to support American efforts. Was the Arab League proposal presented this week a result of the vice president’s and secretary of state’s efforts, Tzipi Livni's, or both?

We don’t know. What we do know is that the Arab League has modified its 2002 plan. Rather than steadfastly hold to the requirement that any peace must be based on the 1967 boundaries, the league is willing to allow mutually acceptable land swaps.

This proposal is meant to forge a lasting peace not just between Israel and Palestine, but between Israel and the entire Arab world. The proposal has been called a major breakthrough by the vice president, secretary of state, and Livni, the Israeli's chief negotiator. The prime minister has not issued a statement.

Netanyahu has stated he wants a lasting peace — one that will allow Israel and all the countries in the Middle East to live without threat of war. His response to this new proposal will tell us whether he means it.