Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to call on Arab leaders to reaffirm their commitment to the Arab peace initiative, as well as to ask world leaders to view the proposal as the best plan for ending the conflict with Israel.
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According to senior Palestinian officials, the call by Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership to activate the 2002 Arab League peace plan, and to put it back on the agenda of the league’s summit in Kuwait later this week, is aimed at deflecting U.S. pressure on the PA not to withdraw from the negotiations with Israel. The plan calls for pan-Arab normalization of relations with Israel in return for an end to Israel’s occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights, along with its recognition of Palestinian refugees’ right of return or of compensation.
A senior Palestinian source told Haaretz that Abbas does not have high expectations from the summit, but does expect the Arab foreign ministers to adopt the Palestinian position regarding the talks with Israel, including a rejection of the Israeli demand for recognition as a Jewish state.
Abbas hopes that by reviving the 12-year-old Arab peace initiative, he will send a clear message to both Israel and the United States that this option will not remain on the table forever. “The Arab states, with Palestinian support, presented a fair package deal that could bring an end to the conflict, but so far no one has expressed serious interest in the product, instead treating it as though it were rotten; therefore we are returning the offer to the agenda specifically at this time, when the Americans are trying to advance the peace process,” said a senior PA official involved in the summit’s organization.
At the same time, Palestinian and other Arab figures do not dismiss the possibility that one of the participating states might propose taking the Arab plan off the table in the event it does not win broad support.
Abbas has other things to worry about as well, starting with Israel’s scheduled release, at the end of the month, of 30 Palestinian prisoners: PA officials reject any attempt to link the release with their continued participation in the negotiations with Israel, saying they made their position very clear in the recent visit to Washington.
“After nine months we’ve received thousands more homes in the settlements, the demolition of hundreds of homes and more dead Palestinians, so we’re asking what will happen if we agree to extend the talks, where will it lead?” said Fatah official Mohammed Shtayyeh.