JERUSALEM -- Saudi Arabia has renewed an initiative calling for a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Arab world, the Palestinian foreign minister said yesterday.
Nabil Shaath said the proposal would call for Israel to withdraw from the lands captured in the 1967 Mideast war and agree to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital in return for peace with the Arab world.
Saudi officials declined to confirm the report. But one Saudi official said "there's a need to renew interest in the peace process." Speaking on condition of anonymity, he cited "Israel's unilateral actions and the lack of the US interest."
Shaath, speaking from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said the Palestinians, Egypt, and Jordan are helping draft the latest plan. They hope to present the proposal to the Arab League Summit in Tunisia in March and eventually bring it to the United Nations Security Council, he said.
The initiative amounts to an extension of a Saudi plan endorsed by the Arab League in March 2002, which called on Israel to withdraw from occupied land in return for normalized relations with the Arab world.
Days later, Israel launched a massive invasion in the West Bank in response to a wave of suicide bombings, and the plan never received a formal response. But Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel opposes a total pullout from the areas won in 1967.
Shaath said the new Saudi plan initially would call for a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians and a halt to Israel's construction of a separation barrier in the West Bank. While Israel says the barrier is meant to protect against suicide bombers, Palestinians say the barrier is a land grab.
The steps in the Saudi plan would lead to a political process "by which the Arabs will be ready for total reconciliation and readiness to recognize the state of Israel," Shaath said.
The hope, apparently, is that an Arab call for a cease-fire would put pressure on militant groups to halt attacks on Israel, which could push Israel to fulfill its obligations under the US backed "road map" to peace.
The road map, which envisions an independent Palestinian state by next year, calls on the Palestinians to dismantle militant groups and Israel to freeze settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, among other steps.
Neither side has fulfilled its obligations, and Sharon has threatened to unilaterally impose a new boundary on the Palestinians if progress is not made in the next few months. Amid the deadlock, the United States has scaled back its involvement in promoting the plan.
In new violence, meanwhile, a Palestinian accused of collaborating with Israel was killed in the West Bank city of Nablus. The Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militant group, claimed responsibility.