J'lem, Arab League split over delegation

Official doubts Egyptian, Jordanian FMs will arrive for Thursday meeting.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Significant differences have emerged between Jerusalem and the Arab League over the impending visit to Israel of the Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and his Jordanian counterpart, Abdul-Ilah al-Khatib. According to one senior Israeli source, it would be a surprise if the two arrive here this week, despite earlier reports that they were due on Thursday. The two foreign ministers were empowered by the Arab League to discuss with Israel the Arab peace plan of 2002 which was reaffirmed at the Arab League summit in Riyadh in March. Israeli officials have been playing up the historic nature of the first-ever visit by an Arab League delegation to Israel. But a senior Arab League official slammed Israel for trying to turn the visit into a public relations exercise. Arab League Assistant Secretary-General Muhammad Sobeih said: "The Arab League has no relations with Israel. It is not sending an Arab League delegation to Israel." Sobeih explained that the League tasked Egypt and Jordan to go to Israel because they do have relations with Israel, adding: "We will not give Israel the opportunity to use this as a public relations event because we want to get straight to the issue of peace." But Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mark Regev challenged Sobeih's comments. "This visit will be the first time the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan are coming not merely to represent their own countries," Regev said. "They are coming here to represent the larger Arab body politic." Regev noted that the Arab League officially authorized the visit and that was a very positive development. The Arab peace initiative offers normalization in return for a full withdrawal by Israel to the 1967 Green line. It calls for the creation of a Palestinian state and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Israel welcomed the plan in principle while criticizing certain elements, such as the clause calling for Israel to accept Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.