Peres, Amr Moussa trade barbs in Petra

Arab League head inerrupts president to say Israel isn't serious about peace.

Peres speaks 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Peres speaks 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
A sharp verbal exchange between President Shimon Peres and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa disturbed the harmony of a Wednesday meeting in Petra of 29 Nobel Prize laureates, who had come together primarily to discuss the global food crisis and related issues. While Peres was speaking during the luncheon session of the gathering - at which Abdoulaye Wade, the president of Senegal, was also scheduled to speak - Moussa sprang to the dais and insisted on a right of response to Peres's remarks. He then charged that Israel was not serious in its intentions to negotiate peace with the Palestinians. Israel does not honor any of its obligations, he declared, nor does Israel demonstrate a serious approach. Israel is a champion in talking about peace, he said, but it expands its settlements daily, creating new realities on the ground that cause hardships to thousands of Arabs. "What sort of negotiations are you conducting when the territory changes from day to day?" he demanded. "We're not fools," he added. "The Arab League proposed a peace agreement to Israel with full normalization of relations with all the Arab states, but Israel never bothered to reply, and that proves that Israel is not serious in its intent." Peres, who had sat down during Moussa's tirade, rose to his feet and told the Arab League secretary that while he respected him, "I'm not prepared to listen to what you have to say. Israel evacuated many settlements in Gaza in a very difficult process, and what did we get for it? Why is Hamas firing rockets at Israel every day? "Israel wants peace, and Israel is willing to do a lot for the sake of peace," Peres went on. "That's the way it was with Egypt. That's the way it was with Jordan. I call on you members of the Arab League to come to Israel and to speak openly to the Knesset. Talk to the Israeli parliament openly and honestly, and answer our central question once and for all: What security guarantees will you give us? How can you ascertain that Hamas will stop firing rockets at us? You've never ever given us an answer to that!" During his visit to Petra, Peres updated Jordanian King Abdullah, Prime Minister Nader Dahabi and Foreign Minister Salaheddine Bashir on efforts to achieve a cease-fire with Hamas. They also discussed progress and impediments to the peace process. Abdullah warned that in view of the opportunities that had presented themselves, any further delay in creating an independent, sovereign, viable Palestinian state alongside a secure and recognized Israel would be a serious mistake.