Peres Ramadan dinner 224.
(photo credit: GPO)
"The Israeli flag will fly in the capitals of 57 Arab [and Muslim] states - something that the fathers of Zionism did not dare to dream of," Sheikh Abdallah Nimr Darwish, the iconic founder of the Islamic Movement, said Tuesday night at an Iftar dinner hosted by President Shimon Peres at Beit Hanassi.
Iftar refers to the evening meal for breaking the daily fast during Ramadan.
President Moshe Katsav introduced the tradition of hosting the religious and political leaders of the Muslim community as well as Muslim diplomats at an Iftar meal. The tradition is being continued by Peres, who added Arab sporting personalities to the guest list.
Darwish proved to be on the same page as Peres when he analyzed the effects of the dire economic situation in the Gaza Strip.
The ability to make an income created a sense of responsibility, which in turn would lead to a process of mutual understanding even if it did not lead to complete peace, Darwish said.
He reminded the Jewish minority in the reception hall that in November 1967, after the Six Day War, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 242 calling for Israel to withdraw from territories conquered. Then, said Darwish, both sides accepted the resolution, "and we're still waiting for the implementation of a two-state solution."
He also said 57 Muslim states had accepted the Saudi peace initiative. Today, the Arab world was willing to recognize Israel as an independent, sovereign state and to enter into normal relations with the Israeli flag flying in the capitals of all 57 Muslim states, but that could only come with the end of the occupation, he said.
Peres said that to invite the leaders of 57 Muslim countries, he would first have to expand Beit Hanassi. "But that wouldn't be a real problem," he said. Peres asked that Arabs and Jews pray together that peace does not elude them.
Darwish said he would accept minor land swaps between Israel and the Palestinians to provide both states with territorial contiguity.
Normalization was not impossible, he said, citing Israel's diplomatic relations with Egypt and Jordan. "If they have established diplomatic relations, there's no reason for other Arab nations not to do likewise."
Darwish exuded optimism about prospects for peace and urged that the opportunity now presenting itself not be wasted.
Referring to the 1947 General Assembly and 1967 Security Assembly resolutions as "the first division" and "the second division," respectively, he said that what the Arabs were most afraid of was a unilateral third division - specifically the security barrier.
When Israel talked of a two-state solution, he said, the idea was to establish the Palestinian state "behind a wall - behind a separation wall."
No Arab or Muslim would accept such a solution, said Darwish. "Even Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mamoud Abbas] the great Palestinian dove is not prepared to accept it."
Science, Culture and Sport Minister Ghaleb Majadle told the assembled guests that Arabs and Jews alike looked to Peres to strengthen Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's resolve in advancing the peace process.
He also said that many people were waiting for Peres to close the social gap in Israel. Everyone already knows that there will eventually be a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said, but putting that aside, "there is no excuse for 50 percent of the Arab community to have to live in abject poverty."
Nor, he said, should the haredi community have to live in poverty.
Shawki Khatib, chairman of the Committee of Arab Local Authorities, called on Peres to intervene in the budget battles between the Interior Ministry and Arab mayors. "It is untenable that elected representatives of the people are sent home without receiving anything [from the government,]" he said. "This is an SOS."