'Arabs Revising Peace Plan to Win Israel Backing for 2 States'

Arab paper: Countries amending clause on 'right of return;' Yishai: Peace talks impossible until Gaza fighting ends.

Arab states are revising elements of a 2002 peace plan to encourage Israel to agree to the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state, the London-based paper Al-Quds al-Arabi reported Wednesday.

The countries are making the amendments at United States President Barack Obama's request, the paper said. Some of the changes deal with a controversial "right of return" for Palestinian refugees to Israel or a future state of Palestine.

The notion of a return to Israel proper by Palestinian refugees and their descendents has met with considerable opposition in Israel from across the political spectrum.

According to the pan-Arab paper, the amendments are also to the framing of a timetable for the normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab world, which the plan offers in exchange for Israel's withdrawal from territory conquered in the 1967 Six Day War.

Jordan's King Abdullah, who recently met with Obama in Washington, is managing the contacts held to revise the initiative. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will reportedly present the plan to Obama in a meeting in a number of weeks.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said last month he opposed the peace initiative, which was proposed by Saudi Arabia, because of the demand for a right of return. "This is a subject upon which there is wide agreement in the government and in the public as well," he told the cabinet.

Commenting on the possibility of a revised Arab peace initiative, Interior Minister Eli Yishai questioned the Arab world's ability to advance new peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Army Radio reported Wednesday.

"Just today three mortal shells landed in Israel. Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia cannot vouch for a settled-down Gaza Strip," Yishai said.

"No political initiative can materialize until all Gaza fighting will cease completely," he added.

Also on Wednesday, Israel Radio reported that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that the Palestinians fulfilled all of their obligations within the Road Map to peace to peace understandings, and that the ball was now on Israel's court.