Arab foreign ministers met in Cairo over the weekend and demanded that Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon stick to the land-for-peace script laid out in UN resolutions and the Madrid and Oslo peace talks or else.
At the end of a two-day conference of foreign ministers from eight Arab League member states and the PLO, Egyptâ€™s top diplomat Amr Moussa said, "There have been efforts and progress in the last 10 years and we cannot go back to zero each time there is a change of government in Israel." He added a warning, â€œIf there are those who propose going back to zero, then it will be a return to square one for everyone.â€
The final statement released after the summit said only that the ministers considered exchanging land for peace and relevant UN resolutions as basic requirements for continuing the peace process. Moussa declined to elaborate, but said the outcome of the ministers' deliberations will be the basis of a summit of Arab heads of state to be held in Jordan on March 26-27.
In the meantime, he said, Arabs will "wait and see" which peace policy will be adopted by the hawkish Sharon, who won a landslide victory in last Tuesday's election. There are "terms of reference," or principles to the peace process that "cannot be tampered with," said Moussa, who led the meetings attended by his peers from Syria, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Palestinian and Lebanese delegates also attended.
Sharon has said he is not bound by concessions his predecessor, Ehud Barak, suggested to the Palestinians. Barak had proposed setting up a Palestinian state in almost all of Judea/Samaria and the Gaza Strip, sharing Jerusalem and dismantling many Jewish settlements. Both Barak and new US President George W. Bush have declared these and other offers are no longer on the table.
The Hebrew daily YEDIOT AHARONOT responded in an editorial that, "The Palestinians can be angry only at themselves" that Israel and the US no longer consider the bridging proposals offered by former US President Bill Clinton viable. The paper recalls that the Palestinian leadership heaped criticism on the Clinton proposals and adopted an increasingly â€œanti-American toneâ€ towards him as his term drew to a close. Thus, it is strange the Palestinians are suddenly longing for "what was considered only yesterday as 'a plot by the Jewish-Zionist White House'â€¦ The Palestinian Authority chairman [Yasser Arafat] and leadership contributed to Barak's defeat and Clinton's humiliation. Now they will have to deal with new political realities in both Israel and the US, realities which are much less friendly to them."
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.