Gheit: Israel must make gestures to PA

Netanyahu to meet Mubarak next week, discuss Iran, captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit and Palestinians.

mubarak netanyahu 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
mubarak netanyahu 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Tuesday the Arab world may normalize ties with Israel, but only if Israel freezes construction in West Bank settlements and renews negotiations with the Palestinians. "Is normalization possible as long as the building in settlements continues? The answer is no, of course," Gheit was quoted by AFP as saying in a joint press conference with his Spanish counterpart, Miguel Angel Moratinos in Cairo last week. On Tuesday, Gheit spoke again to reporters after the Prime Minister's Office said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. "If Israel takes a big step towards the Palestinians, a step which will reflect its honesty and willingness for serious negotiations, only then will Arab countries take their own steps and be ready to accept normalization," he said. Earlier Tuesday the Prime Minister's Office confirmed that Netanyahu will be meeting Mubarak on Sunday in the presidential palace in Cairo. According to a report in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida, the two leaders will discuss Iran, captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit and negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as recent comments made by Arab League General Secretary Amr Moussa, who called on the Arab world to reject normalization with the Jewish state. The meeting was apparently planned in advance, but in contrast to other diplomatic meeting conducted by Netanyahu recently, reporters were neither informed of it ahead of time nor invited to join. Word of the meeting comes after the premier "disappeared" for a period of ten hours on Monday. According to an official statement, Netanyahu had visited a sensitive military installation during that time. However, some speculated that the visit was with an unnamed Arab leader. Over the weekend, senior Hamas officials, including Damascus-based leader Khaled Mashaal, met in Egypt to discuss developments regarding a prisoner swap for Schalit, as well as the possibility of relaunching reconciliation talks with Fatah and other Palestinian factions. Although progress in negotiations for the release of Schalit has been reported, Mashaal insisted on Saturday that a prisoner exchange was not imminent.