Israel eyeing new Arab initiative

Arab initiative comes after Olmert all but buries his realignment plan.

mubarak and saudi king 2 (photo credit: AP)
mubarak and saudi king 2
(photo credit: AP)
Israel will be watching a meeting of the foreign ministers of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia scheduled for Tuesday in Cairo with "interest, but little expectation," senior diplomatic officials said Monday. The meeting, which is also likely to include the PLO's foreign minister Farouk Kaddoumi, is expected to discuss an Arab League peace initiative that will likely be presented at the UN later this month. UN Secretary of State Kofi Annan said in Damascus Friday that the Arab League has called on the UN Security Council to formally recognize "the need to reactivate the Middle Eastern peace process and establish a mechanism for us to proceed on all tracks." The details of the plan are sketchy, but it is believed that it will be based on the Saudi initiative from 2002, involve the UN Security Council, and call for an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict based on the principle of land for peace. The Saudi initiative, adopted at the Arab Summit in Beirut in March 2002, calls on Arab states to "normalize relations" with Israel in return for the establishment of a Palestinian state following an Israeli withdrawal to the Green Line, and a solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees in accordance with UN Resolution 194. This resolution called on Israel to allow the return of Palestinian refugees and compensate those who don't want to do so. Israel rejected the initiative, which has since been welcomed by UN Security Council resolution 1397 and mentioned in the road map. The new Arab initiative comes as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert all but buried his diplomatic initiative, the realignment plan, in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday, saying that the plan "is no longer relevant." Senior government sources said Monday that Israel's position on how to move the diplomatic process further - an issue that is coming back to center stage following the war in Lebanon - continues to rest on two pillars: the road map and the Palestinian Authority accepting the international community's three conditions for legitimacy - recognizing Israel, forswearing terrorism and accepting previous agreements. The Palestinian issue is expected to be one of the focuses of discussion at the end of the week when British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Italian Foreign Minister Massimo d'Alema arrive for talks. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, meanwhile, is expected to go to Washington next week for talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Livni met Monday with a delegation from the US House Intelligence Committee and told representatives Ray LaHood (R-IL), Charles Boustany (R-LA) and Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) that Israel would not make any gestures toward Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. According to officials in Livni's office, the three congressmen came to Israel after meeting Saniora in Lebanon with a message that the blockade should be lifted for humanitarian reasons. LaHood is a distant relative of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud. Livni's reply was that Israel's "pockets were empty" of gestures until UN Security Council Resolution 1701 is implemented. She said that if Saniora wanted to improve the situation, he should do everything within his power to work for the release of kidnapped IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev and enforce the arms embargo against Hizbullah.