Veteran Shas MK and former Deputy Minister Yitzchak Cohen said Sunday that he supported the latest plan by the Arab League to solve the Israel-Arab conflict. The plan would entail Israel giving up nearly all of Judea and Samaria and repatriating many descendants of Arabs who fled Israel in 1948.
In an interview with the Knesset Channel, Cohen said that Israel could have solved the conflict a long time ago, in 1972, had it accepted the peace plan presented by then-Secretary of State William Rogers. That plan, too, would have seen Israel give up nearly all of Judea and Samaria. Cohen added that Israel's rejection of the plan was a direct cause of the Yom Kippur War the following year, in which Israel lost thousands of soldiers.
“We now have a golden opportunity to solve the conflict, courtesy of the Arab League,” Cohen said. “This plan is different than previous plans, because it allows for exchange of territory, with the possibility that the settlements will remain in place.” The plan states that the League would agree, only with the consent of the Palestinian Authority, to "comparable" and "minor" land swaps. In a statement earlier this month, the Prime Minister's Office “welcomed the support given by the Arab league delegation and the U.S. secretary of state to the diplomatic process.”
With that, Cohen said that his was a personal, not a party stance. “I also supported the IDF's withdrawal from Lebanon” in 1999, Cohen said, “and that was not a Shas position, but my own. I believe we must turn over every stone” to effectively implement the Arab League plan, which he sees as a way to finally end the conflict, Cohen said.
Cohen denied that he had changed his position to be more in line with that of new Shas boss Aryeh Deri, emphasizing that his views were in line with the principles outlined by Shas spiritual leader and former Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. “Shas is a pragmatic party, and we desire to advance the peace process,” he added.