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Israel opens peace talks with Arab League

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 2 2015 2:31 a.m. MDT

JERUSALEM — Israel's chief peace negotiator on Tuesday welcomed the Arab League's decision to sweeten a decade-old initiative offering comprehensive peace with Israel, hoping the gesture would help get peace talks back on track after years of standstill.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni's comments revealed the beginnings of what could become a rift in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new government. Livni, a former foreign minister known to support broad concessions to the Palestinians, is eager to restart peace negotiations. Netanyahu says he wants to resume negotiations, but he has given no indication that he is prepared to make the concessions demanded by the Palestinians and the international community.

The original 2002 Arab peace initiative, first floated by Saudi Arabia, offered Israel peace with the entire Arab and Muslim world in exchange for a "complete withdrawal" from territories captured in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians claim the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, all seized by Israel in 1967, for their future state. Israel withdrew from Egypt's Sinai in 1982 and Gaza in 2005. It also holds the Golan Heights after failed peace talks with Syria.

Speaking on behalf of an Arab League delegation to Washington on Monday, Qatari Prime Minister Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Al Thani called for an agreement between Israel and a future Palestine based on those 1967 lines. But unlike in previous such offers, he cited the possibility of "comparable," mutually agreed and "minor" land swaps between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

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