Livni, Mubarak agree Arab League delegation to visit Israel on Saudi plan
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak agreed during a meeting Thursday in Cairo that a team of Arab League representatives will visit Israel in the coming weeks for talks on the details of the Arab peace initiative, first drafted by Saudi Arabia in 2002, and reaffirmed by the Arab League in March.
Mubarak stressed that despite the political situation in Israel, the Arab League team would not postpone the visit. The diplomatic team includes Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdelelah al-Khatib and his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
During the two-hour session, Livni and Mubarak discussed the security situation in the Gaza Strip, arms smuggling from Sinai into Gaza through the Rafah crossing, the firing of Qassam rockets and the strengthening of Hamas.
According to Livni, "the present situation in Gaza is unacceptable," and emphasized that Israel expects the Arab world to support and legitimize the moderate sides of the Palestinian Authority, so that these moderates will have more political flexibility.
She called the meeting an historic first between Israel and representatives of the Arab League, and said that the Arab world had a major role to play in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"I do believe that the Arab world when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is important. It can support the process, it can give Israel a political horizon and it can help the Palestinians make further progress when it comes to future agreements between Israel and the Palestinians," she said.
She did not mention the territorial demands of Syria and Lebanon or the question of Palestinian refugees, which the Arab states want solved as part of their peace package.
An Arab League spokesman drew a distinction between contacts with the ministers and direct contact with the League.
"We have made clear that there are conditions for us sending a delegation to meet the Israelis," said spokesman Alaa Roushdy.
The Egyptian minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said: "We do not intend to negotiate with Israel on behalf of the parties. The parties concerned are the ones who will negotiate with Israel, whether Palestinians, or Syria or Lebanon."
"But the Arab League, by giving this group a mandate, is working to set the stage, preparing the right climate.... [and] then pushing the peace process forward," he added.
Livni and Mubarak also discussed the Iranian matter as well as the diplomatic ties between Israel and Egypt. Livni said that Israel is interested in expanding and deepening the relationship between the two countries, which could be made possible by more mutual visits.
Mubarak said in response that he would encourage Egyptian ministers and officials to visit Israel.
Following her session with Mubarak, Livni met the Jordanian and Egyptian Foreign Ministers in preparation for their visit.