Saudi Arabia, EU launch new initiative for Israeli-Palestinian peace

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Saudi Arabia and the European Union launched a new initiative called “Peace Day Effort” to cull together a package of incentives for Israelis and Palestinians in hopes of jump-starting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process which has been frozen for the last decade.

Jordan, Egypt and the Arab League were also part of the initiative, the opening meeting of which was held on Monday on the sidelines of the high-level session of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly. 

“We know that the parties are not ready [at this stage]. They are not ready,” EU Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters in New York after the meeting that involved representatives from 60 UN member states.

“We cannot stay idle repeating the mantra of the Two-State Solutions without doing [all we can] to get it. 

“The result of the meeting is a stronger commitment by many people to engage more on this Two-State solution, which is the only viable solution.  

“There is not an alternative” to a two-state resolution to the conflict and “there is not a viable other solution.”

A PALESTINIAN protests outside Jerusalem. The international community and some Israelis and Palestinians are once again talking about the two-state solution. (credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

Calls for an independent Palestinian state

The initiative comes at a moment when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government does not support a Palestinian state. 

Saudi foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said in remarks to state TV on Monday that there will be no solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict without an independent Palestinian state.

“The two-state solution must return to the forefront,” he added.

The United States is pushing for a security pact with Riyadh that would include a normalization deal between Saudi Arabia and Washington, with Israeli gestures to the Palestinians.

Israel has pointed to this pending deal and other normalization agreements with Arab states as proof that Israel can advance its ties with the Arab world separate from the issue of Palestinian statehood. 

Borrell explained that while he welcomed “the agreements between the Arab countries and Israel… we have to work for the peace between Israel and Palestine, and on that everyone has to make a contribution – the Arabs, the Europeans, the United States, all around the world.” 

The EU said that three working groups had been established including on politics and security, economy and environment and the human dimension. Progress toward creating an incentive package by September 2024 will be assessed every three months. A mechanism was also created to allow for Israelis and Palestinians to interact separately with the initiative.

Those involved in the initiative support a two-state resolution to the conflict based on the pre-1967 lines with contiguous Palestinian territory, the EU said.  

UN Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo said it was important to “de-escalate tensions, end the cycle of violence, and re-establish a political horizon. Political leadership is required to this end,” she said.

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