Livni heads to Cairo to hold talks

The foreign minister will conduct Israel's first high-level discussion of the Arab Peace Initiative.

livni big head 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
livni big head 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will travel to Cairo on Thursday for the first high-level talks between Israel and the Arab world on the Arab Peace Initiative relaunched in Riyadh in March. Livni is scheduled to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, as well as hold a trilateral meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdelelah AlKhatib. Egypt and Jordan have been designated by the Arab League as its interlocutors with Israel concerning the Arab initiative, and are to form a working group to discuss the issue with Jerusalem. Israeli diplomatic officials said that Israel wants to flesh out a number of issues concerning the working groups, such as who will be in the group, what its parameters will be, and what authority it will have. Although both Livni and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have praised positive elements in the plan, they have also made clear that Israel would not accept its endorsement of the so-called Palestinian right of return, nor the initiative's "take-it-or-leave-it" attitude. The officials said that Israel also wanted a better understanding of the Arab League role in this matter and whether according to the Arab Peace Initiative the Arab League was to negotiate with Israel instead of the Palestinians. Israel's long-standing position is that bilateral negotiations with the Palestinians are preferable when dealing with the Palestinian issue. While Israel would like to see Saudi participation in the working group, something Jerusalem feels would grant important Arab legitimacy to Israel and would go a long way toward strengthening the moderates in the Palestinian camp, this is considered highly unlikely until there is tangible progress on the diplomatic track with the Palestinians. The Saudis, according diplomatic officials, to are unlikely to take a significant public step toward Israel without getting something equally significant in return. The Saudis are also believed to be unlikely to take such a farreaching step at a time of considerable political uncertainty in Israel. This will be Livni's first trip abroad since the publication of the Winograd Committee's interim report last week, and the ensuing political crisis and uncertainty caused by her public call for Olmert to resign. Officials in the Prime Minister's Office said that her trip to Cairo did come up during a meeting the two held on Sunday. The Arab Peace Initiative is also expected to be one of the foci of talks scheduled for Tuesday in Petra between Olmert and Jordanian King Abdullah II on the sidelines of an annual meeting of Nobel laureates. In other security and diplomatic developments, the security cabinet was briefed Wednesday on the classified sections of the Winograd Committee's interim report, a day before Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and former chief of General Staff Lt.Gen. (res.) Dan Halutz's testimonies before the committee are expected to be published. Wednesday's meeting was the first of what was expected to be a series of security cabinet meetings dealing with the Winograd Report and implementation of the report's findings. Among the issues that the classified sections of the report reportedly dealt with were the status of the emergency IDF storehouse during the Second Lebanon War and the manner in which orders were passed down the IDF's chain of command.