By Aaron Klein
President-elect Barack Obama proclaimed himself “very impressed” with the Arab League’s peace initiative, which offers normalization of ties with the Jewish state in exchange for extreme Israeli concessions, Israeli President Shimon Peres said in an interview last week with the British media.
The claim adds weight to the growing accumulation of evidence – denied by Obama’s transition team – that Obama could support the Arab League’s initiative, which defenders of Israel warn would leave the Jewish state with truncated, difficult-to-defend borders and could threaten Israel’s Jewish character by compelling it to accept millions of foreign Arabs within its borders.
A London Sunday Times article claimed Obama would make the initiative a central part of his Mideast policy. One senior Obama adviser was quoted telling the Times that on a visit to the Middle East last July, Obama said privately to the Palestinian leadership it would be “crazy” for Israel to refuse the initiative, which Obama purportedly said could “give them peace with the Muslim world.” Senior Obama Mideast adviser Dennis Ross flatly denied the Times report.
The Arab League initiative states that Israel would receive “normal relations” with the Arab world in exchange for a full withdrawal from the entire Gaza Strip, West Bank, Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem, which includes the Temple Mount.
The West Bank contains important Jewish biblical sites and borders central Israeli population centers, while the Golan Heights looks down on Israeli civilian zones and was twice used by Syria to mount ground invasions into the Jewish state.
The Arab plan also demands the imposition of a non-binding UN resolution that calls for millions of so-called Palestinian refugees who wish to move inside Israel to be permitted to do so at the “earliest practicable date.” According to informed Arab sources, Arab countries are willing to come to an agreement whereby Israel absorbs about 500,000 “refugees” and reaches a compensation deal with the PA for the remaining millions of Palestinians.
The information comes as Obama last week phoned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and pledged to work to establish a Palestinian state as soon as possible, a senior PA negotiator told this column.
“Obama expressed his full support for a Palestinian state. He told the president [Abbas] he will continue to promote the peace process, which will end with a two-state solution,” said the PA’s second most senior negotiator, Saeb Erekat. “He said he’ll do everything in his power to help create a Palestinian state as soon as we can.”
Israel, PA Want Deal
Before Bush’s Term Expires
Despite media reports painting a dismal picture of negotiation prospects, Israel and the Palestinian Authority are still quietly working to conclude a major agreement before President Bush leaves office in January, informed Israeli and Palestinian sources told this column.
The sources, including a senior Palestinian negotiator, said the aim is to reach a series of understandings to be guaranteed by the U.S. that would result in an eventual Israeli withdrawal from the vast majority of the West Bank. The understandings would also grant the PA permission to open official institutions in Jerusalem but would postpone talks on the future status of the capital city until new Israeli and U.S. governments are installed next year.
The original plan, initiated at last November’s U.S.-sponsored Annapolis summit, was to create a Palestinian state, at least on paper, by January. But a final agreement has been hampered by several recent events here, most notably Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s decision to resign amid corruption charges, leading to general elections scheduled for February that will see a new prime minister elected.
Top Terrorist Warns Abbas
Any agreement signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will not be recognized by the vast majority of the Palestinian people and will not be respected by terrorist groups here, a senior terrorist leader claimed in an exclusive interview with this reporter.
Muhammad Abdel-Al, spokesman and a top leader of the Hamas-allied Popular Resistance Committees terror group in Gaza, also took the occasion of the interview to threaten PA President Mahmoud Abbas against attempting to stay in office after his term expires in January.
“We warn everyone of the consequences of any attempt to give Abbas legitimacy after January 9th, because it will have very bad consequences toward Abbas, who in six weeks will not have any authority over the Palestinian people,” he said. “We want the U.S. and the international community to know [Abbas] represents at the maximum himself and the people in the Muqata and not beyond the walls of the Muqata,” said Muhammad Abdel-Al.
The Muqata is the main headquarters of Abbas’s U.S.-backed Fatah party. It serves as a kind of Palestinian White House.
Abbas’s term in office expires Jan. 9, although he has said he will attempt to hold onto power longer. The rival Hamas terror group has announced it will not recognize Abbas’s status as PA president after that date.
The threats come as Olmert announced during a visit to the White House this week that he will seek to continue U.S.-backed negotiations initiated at last November’s Annapolis summit, which seek to create an Abbas-led Palestinian state.
Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief for WorldNetDaily.com. He appears throughout the week on leading U.S. radio programs and is the author of the book “Schmoozing with Terrorists.”