The Arab League modified it Peace Initiative of 2002, allowing the principle of land swap between Israel and the Palestinians under a comprehensive peace agreement sponsored by the United States. The U.S. welcomed the decision and considered it a step forward. U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, welcomed the modified initiative, and stated that this is an essential step that would help boost the efforts to resume the stalled direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Kerry told the France Press news agency that, unlike the original initiative that only referred to the Palestinian territories Israel occupied in 1967, and the full Israeli withdrawal in exchange for Arab normalization with Israel, the modified version suggests and agreed upon land swap.

Chief Palestinian negotiator, Dr. Saeb Erekat, stated that the Arab League’s decision is not new, and that it reflects the official Palestinian stance.

Erekat added that Israel must officially recognize and accept the two state solution, leading to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and occupied East Jerusalem, and that the State of Palestine, can consider minor modifications on borders based on the principle of land swap without harming the Palestinian interests.

Israeli Justice Minister, Tzipi Livni, in charge of the negotiations file with the Palestinians, stated that the Arab League’s declaration is an important step, and added “Israel is willing to conduct the needed arrangements as long as the Palestinians return to the negotiations table with the intention of accepting certain concessions”.

She added that the statement of the Arab League sends a message to the Israelis, telling them “make peace and will be normalize with Israel”.

On Monday, Kerry held a meeting with the Ministerial Committee of the Arab League, headed by Qatari Prime Minister, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem Al-Thani, and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Al-Arabi.

Following the meeting, Kerry told reporters that the U.S. values the role of the Arab League in the efforts to achieve comprehensive peace in the Middle East, and welcomes its new initiative to modify the Arab Peace Initiative that was adopted during the Arab Summit in Beirut in 2002.

On his part, Bin Jassem stated that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is a “strategic choice of the Arab world”, and added that the two-state solution must be based on the borders of June 1967, so that the Palestinians can establish their independent state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.

He also welcomed the statements of U.S. President, Barack Obama, regarding a limited and agreed upon land swap between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 offered Israel comprehensive normalization with all Arab states in return for its full withdrawal from the Palestinian and Arab territories it occupied in 1967, and calls for a fair solution to the issue of the displaced Palestinian refugees based on General Assembly resolution number 194.

Back then, the initiative did not include any land swap; Israel rejected it although it acknowledged its positive aspects, and said that it opposes the articles regarding the internationally guaranteed Right of Return of the Palestinian refugees.

The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) had to quit direct peace talks with Israel due to Israel’s ongoing violations that include the ongoing invasions and assaults, Israel’s illegal settlement construction and expansion activities, and Israel’s refusal to hold talks on vital issues such as borders, refugees, and natural resources.